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June 4, 2011 3:53 PM   Subscribe

Hallelujah! I've just realized I am co-dependent!

After finding myself heading down a familiar spiral with a new partner, I did some reading, some thinking and some research and discovered that my mother was/is narcissitic and I learned to be co-dependent to her needs from a young age. This co-dependent nature has, I now realize, affected all the romantic and many professional attachments in my life.

I am now in a relationship I would like to keep however I don't want to be co-dependent in it.

Please give me books, on-line resources or personal accounts that will help me learn more about co-dependency and how to grow out of it. Thanks.
posted by the fish formerly known as sarcastic fringehead to Human Relations (11 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Congratulations on discovering this. I too was/am/whatever co-dependent and realizing that and understanding it has helped me tremendously.

The best book I know of is Codependent No More.

There's also CoDA which is a support group.

I'd definitely recommend therapy as well (of course, no AskMe is complete without a therapy recommendation...). It certainly helped me.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:01 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The first step is realizing it, the second is recognizing co-dependent behaviours in yourself. Once you can determine if something you are doing, be it a specific action or a series of actions, is codependent, you can analyze whether you truly wish to pursue it.
posted by hepta at 4:14 PM on June 4, 2011

Al-Anon has worked really well for me. (Didn't need to believe in God.)

A useful checklist in all kinds of circumstances where I may be codependent in word or deed:
- Honest
- Unselfish
- Loving
- Pure

Usually my codependent behavior is missing one of those four.
posted by krilli at 5:46 PM on June 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

The best book I know of is Codependent No More.

That was good, andBeyond Codependency was, for me, even better.
posted by Miko at 6:16 PM on June 4, 2011

I also liked Beyond Codependency better than Codependent No More. You should also read books about narcissists and narcissistic parents. (Sorry I don't have any good titles.) A good book about parents, how they screw you up and how to break those dynamics is Cutting Loose. One of the first self-help books that I read (and so had a big impact on me) was Escape from Intimacy. It had a section on how to have healthy relationships! This is what I had been looking for forever, without knowing that this is what I needed. Either way, once I started reading self-help books, I kept finding more books that I was interested in reading. I found that I was able to find what worked for me and what didn't.
posted by foxjacket at 6:57 PM on June 4, 2011

A person close to me was really helped by a 12 step type group specifically focused on co-dependency. However this person had previously had success with this model dealing with an addiction so familiarity with/faith in the model may have been a factor.
posted by nanojath at 9:13 PM on June 4, 2011

Interesting way to put it, I remember when I realized this myself...
I ended up reading a book called Facing Codependency, I think it's kind of old but it really helped me realize my behaviors and the impact it had on my life. Now as far as recovery I found that (pardon my language) but "growing some balls" and learning to say no to abuse and people who drained my energies physically and emotionally helped a lot. The more I stood up for myself the more I grew stronger and became more independent. I guess a lot of "tough love" was required. I went to talk therapy not to learn how to change my behavior but simply to have a professional to talk to about my recent self awareness. Psychologists are great at validating your feelings, something I believe co-dependents lacked a great deal in childhood.
I also went to a Coda meeting, and it was useful but I personally did not find that I should be meeting with people with behaviors that I was trying to change. I would recommend going at least once to see how they are like.

After these things I began to realize that although it was good to get in touch with these issues on a intellectual level, I had a reached a plateau and could no longer advance. It was then that I discovered Network Spinal Analysis on an online forum and began going twice a week, it really helped me deal with all the issues I knew I had on a physical/emotional level. My breathing got better, I could sleep easier and my emotional independence reached very satisfactory levels.

Honestly for me it was not easy, I had the usual two steps forward and one step back routine but the satisfaction I gained by sticking to it and not giving up is priceless...

I still practice Network spinal analysis today, and i'm still learning but I think i've come a long way.

Best of luck.
posted by Jofecopa at 11:52 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The best book I read was Diagnosing and Treating Co-Dependence: A Guide for Professionals Who Work with Chemical Dependents, Their Spouses, and Children. It's short and academic. This is one good thread on the topic.
posted by salvia at 12:38 AM on June 5, 2011

Response by poster: I'm putting this down for others who may come across this thread.

Interesting way to put it, I remember when I realized this myself...

It's been a revelation, truly. It's like I've found a de-coding template to put over my, um, imbalances, and voila! there's a reason for the so many questions I've been pondering about myself and my behaviour for fuckin' years!

This all came to light last week after reading, in tandem, The Gifts of Imperfection which talks a lot about shame, and Will I Ever Be Good Enough - Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers. Both of them engage with the form of codependency I seem to suffer from - putting others ahead of myself so they will love me - and the concurrent feelings of judgement, shame, lack of self-esteen and emotional confusion this dynamic creates.

The combined volume of Codependency No More / Beyond Codependency is on its way. I checked out the Coda site and found this list of codependence patterns and recovery which for me is like a list of lock-pickers' tools. Items in the codependence column are the locks, and the recovery column shows what the key looks like. Amazing. I am hoping Beyond Codependency can expand on these.

I've been happier and more productive in the past three days than I have been in months. My relationshp has improved as I am now able to not-babble, not-fish for conversation, not-please-and-appease for compliments or affection - all things I knew I was doing for no positive result, but didn't know how to address. Now with an understanding of my codependent dysfunction I am able to both censor my words and actions but uncensor my thoughts. Revelation: my stable, taciturn and emotionally reserved yet affectionate INFJ man will neither abandon me nor dissolve if I concentrate on my own needs instead of his in most day to day situations; moreover he's shown he prefers it that way by becoming more communicative himself.

It seems like such a 'duh' revelation, more like a statement of the obvious but for me it's like sacred knowledge; permission, nay an injunction to be more self aware, self-respectful, self-engaged, more self-ish in general. Like many children of narcisstic mothers, I have a few narcissistic traits of my own. Learning to harness those for the purpose of being more self-ish will be an engaging task of awareness and healthy indulgence.

Codependency has patterns. Reading these for me rang so many bells, a camapnologist convention could have been camping in my hippocampus. Frankly it hurt and made me cry and get all "woe is me, look how they broke me! wah!" for a few minutes but the opportunity this self-diagnosis gives in enourmous. I don't suck, I'm not broken, I just need to learn my triggers and responses and grow a proverbial pair of boundry markers.

Thanks eveyone for your input and I welcome more if you have it.
posted by the fish formerly known as sarcastic fringehead at 10:39 PM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

I read Codependent No More, years and years ago and I think it's a great book, it really changed the way I looked at most of my behavior in relationships. But, I think there's a next step that's really important so that you don't get caught up in the cycles mentioned above. Especially the cycle of staying in relationships that don't work for fear of leaving, fear of being alone, fear that you aren't whole without it, and failing to maintain the boundaries that allow you to find your own individual freedom and personal path.

David Richo's extended newer edition How to Be an Adult is a great guidebook for walking through this process and looking at why you're engaging in the dependent behaviors you are: How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving

The old edition is shorter and a good intro to the ideas if you want to start there.
posted by jardinier at 6:14 AM on June 6, 2011

Another excellent book is Mindful Loving by Henry Grayson. I have found it deeply spiritually fulfilling; another key to the puzzle of how to be loving in a healthy way.
posted by Clotilde at 6:47 PM on June 6, 2011

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