At least once a week in my psychotherapy practice someone claims to either have “codependency problems” or have a partner who is codependent. Today I am writing to debunk the myth of codependency.
The great psychologist Sue Johnson says “there is no such thing as codependency, there is only effective and ineffective dependency.” This statement resounds with the truth that
we are dependent on each other
whether we like it or not.
If you, like me, were brought up in a western society that values autonomy, such as the U.S., dependency may be a dirty word for you.
You probably think you should be fine without a partner and that you should be able to handle whatever life throws at you by yourself.
Please understand this:
We are not wired to be alone.
We do need each other, and this need is not codependency. It is an innate, wired-in biological need. Simply stated,
we would die without each other.
So stop questioning yourself when you start to feel attached to someone.
You are not weak or codependent, you are human.
To attach safely to another and to be effectively dependent is one of the most healthy things we can do.
If you’re not effectively dependent on your partner, you are ineffectively dependent on each other. Your relationship may be insecure or unstable. You may question whether it will last.
As a result of such instability, you may act in away that embodies ineffective dependency, but that you or your partner may label as “codependent” behavior. For example, you may feel excessively clingy or “needy.”
If someone I meet with is exhibiting such behavior, it is clear to me that their needs are simply not getting met.
Maybe because of a history of trauma, or a lifetime of not having a safe someone to connect to (which is traumatic in itself), their level of “neediness” is higher than others, but this does not make them co-dependent. It means they needs aren’t getting met. Perhaps they don’t have a template of how to be effectively dependent on another.
We’re all dependent.
In fact, to not attach to another and to be chronically lonely is more of a health hazard than obesity or even smoking cigarettes.
Mayor Bloomberg in NYC is all about banning super sized soft drinks. How about focusing on educational opportunities on healthy relationships and how to be effectively dependent on each other?
If you’re getting your real biological needs met by having a healthy relationship, you probably won’t be as apt to drown yourself in in crappy foods or drinks like gazillion ounce sodas anyway. (And by biological needs, I don’t mean sex, but your sex life will definitely improve with a healthy effectively dependent relationship as well.)
So let’s call a moratorium on the word “co-dependent” and accept the fact that we cannot outsmart our biological needs. At the end of the day, we are all animals.
We happen to be animals who are stronger and better when connected to each other.
Cheers to effective dependency and how it can help you create your best relationship,