Friday, October 30, 2009

Caretaker... Victim... Persecutor... Round and Round We Go!!

What is co-dependency? How does it create the feelings we experience? What can we do to overcome the cycle of interaction it perpetuates in our daily lives?

It is a fact that we interact with others in our relationships in virtually the same pattern time after time. Some of these are learned behaviors from experiences we had during our childhoods. Some of these are due to events which occurred during our adult years. Either way, we seem to follow a specific pattern of interaction.

If we are behaving co-dependently in our relationships we may have been busy caretaking our partner. We are doing for them what they can and should be doing for themselves. This amounts to rescuing them from the natural consequences that might occur if we allowed the universe to unfold naturally rather than attempting to control outcomes. After a time we have taught our partner that they can rely upon us to rescue them from their missteps, forgotten chores, irresponsibility, laziness or just carelessness. At first we may feel empowered in our role as problem solver. But over time as we pick up more and more of the slack we begin to feel resentful.

As our resentment builds we begin to view ourselves a victims of our partners bad habits. The fact that we co-created these habits within the relationship escapes our attention. We are focused instead upon our partners failings, not on how we co-created them. We feel used, victimized, unappreciated and unhappy. We express our dissatisfaction to our partner in the form of complaints, nagging, emotional distance and withdrawal. Our partner is understandably confused at our apparent change of heart. Initially in our caretaking role we seemed happy to do the extra work in the relationship. Now, suddenly, we are upset and discontent. We are giving mixed messages to our partner and are unaware of it.

Finally we come to a point where we are angry. We have had enough of being used and had all our extra efforts go unappreciated. We explode in rage at our partner accusing them of taking us for granted and not appreciating all we do for them. When our partner counters with the statement that they never asked us to do any of this extra work for them, we are shocked. Can't they see how nice we have been? Don't they understand that this is how we are expressing our love for them? When our partner tells us that they resent being treated like an inept child we are stunned. How can they be so blind to all our caring efforts? We storm out.

We take time to mull over what has happened. How can this be? As we cool down we begin to feel guilty about all the accusations we have hurled in anger. We wonder if our partner is still upset by our outburst. We approach and apologize for our words. Our partner accepts our apology and we feel better. We resume our posture of caretaking and the cycle begins again.

In essence our partner has expressed the core of the problem. They did not ask us to undertake our caretaking behaviors. We did this on our own. They resent being treated as an inept child who cannot do for themselves. They would rather not have to deal with our anger, resentment, emotional ups and downs and mixed messages. We have created this situation with our co-dependency.

Co-dependency may look like help... but help is the sunny side of control. We are not helping because we have altruistic desires to aid our partner, we are trying to control outcomes. This sets up a peculiar energy that others can feel. Our partner may not be able to put words to what they sense, but they sense something is amiss. It is this pattern that causes dysfunction within our relationship and eventually leads us into recovery.

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