The majority of the romantic relationships we enter will someday come to an end. People grow apart – this is simply a part of life. Fortunately, dating the “wrong” people will ultimately lead us to the “right” person; every romantic involvement will help us decide what is truly important in a partner. When a relationship comes to an end, we will typically grieve, heal, and grow. Breaking up is never easy, seeing as we tend to form deep emotional bonds with the individuals we date. Even if we logically understand that our present partner is not “the one”, it can exceptionally hard to walk away. The grieving process can take months (or longer), depending on how deeply attached we became to our partner. Our timelines will vary, but the vast majority of emotionally healthy adults will experience symptoms of grief for a period of time, begin the healing process, and come out the other side stronger, wiser, and more self-assured.
How Codependents Function in Relationships
For those struggling with codependency, however, it may prove nearly impossible to walk away from a relationship – even a relationship that has become extremely toxic. While most individuals will recognize toxicity and do what they can to make necessary changes, the codependent will struggle even harder to let go. The threat of an ending relationship will trigger underlying issues, such as unresolved grief, and deep-seated feelings of guilt, shame, and low self-esteem. In most instances, the shame associated with codependency stems from childhood – more specifically, from dysfunctional parenting. Even if parents do not mean to come across as shaming, young children may interpret their behavior that way (for example, if a parent struggles with addiction, prioritizes work, or simply isn’t present). The child may begin to feel inadequate, unworthy, and undeserving of love.
Insecure attachment often breeds codependency, and those struggling with codependency in adulthood tend to gravitate towards partners that confirm their long-standing, subconscious beliefs. They will do everything in their power to save a failing relationship; functioning within a relationship often gives codependent individualsa sense of purpose and self-esteem. It is also likely that the codependent distanced him or herself from friends, family, personal interests and hobbies once the relationship began. Because all of his or her energy was focused on the relationship, the codependent will not know what to do – how to behave – when the relationship comes to an end. Rather than take time to process and reflect, the codependent will desperately attempt to maintain contact (even negative attention is better than no attention at all). If this doesn’t work, he or she may simply jump straight into another toxic relationship – typically with another narcissistic personality-type. The cycle of abandonment will continue, and the codependent individual will bounce from relationship to relationship, desperately searching for a sense of fulfillment that they will never find – not in anything external.
Healing from Codependency
A healthy romantic relationship can add quite a lot to our lives – having a partner to share experiences with can be a truly beautiful thing. However, it is crucial to understand that happiness does not stem from relationships. Authentic happiness comes from within – we must learn to be right within ourselves before we can offer anything of substance to anyone else. Once we learn to accept and appreciate who we are as individuals, going through a breakup will become far easier. It will never be easy, of course… saying goodbye to an intimate relationship is always difficult, and is almost always accompanied by grief. But rather than completely fall apart at the seams, we will undergo a standard recovery process – one bolstered by the support of friends, increased self-care, and and a deeply rooted understanding that everything will be okay. If you or someone you love is struggling with codependency, recovery is possible. Working through past trauma is a great place to start. For more information on our program of trauma recovery, please contact us today.