My mother mentioned co-dependency to me before I started wondering if I too was living in a codependent relationship with my four year long boyfriend. She was getting divorced again, and finding helpful guidance from therapy and something I had never heard before, CoDa, which is a free meeting place for people to develop healthy relationships.
The more my mother would talk about her counseling sessions, as well as her CoDa meetings, the more I became interested in seeing if I was codependent. Something was holding me back from opening up with her regarding my own codependency. Part of me didn’t want my family to know that I had “problems” with my boyfriend and part of me didn’t want to label myself codependent as easily as she did. Since I didn’t want to speak up, I went straight to Google like any normal human these days.
What I found on the internet regarding my mental health was almost as alarming as googling my medical symptoms to Siri. But I was determined to see what CoDa had to say about my relationship so I followed the checklist of patterns in the form of a self-evaluation.
CoDa, or Co-Dependents Anonymous, does not have a specific definition of a codependent person. There are certain patterns that people with codependency follow in their relationships that can help identify if you have a co-dependent relationship, whether it’s with your significant other, a family member, a friend, or maybe even a few relationships that you have in your life. Within each of these patterns that people have, you may follow one pattern or you may follow a few patterns.
The Denial Patterns
The first pattern, which may be the hardest for anyone, is the denial pattern. Ding ding ding, a little light started going off in my head. I didn’t even want to talk about my feelings of being codependent from my fear having one more thing to label myself as. Going through these patterns online wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought.
One of the denial patterns that stuck out to me was masking my pain in various ways in anger, humor, and isolation. Sometimes I will lash out my anger to my boyfriend when we disagree on a minor problem, usually a communication blunder. Or I will laugh about the idea of marriage and kids when people ask as I don’t confidently know the path of our future even after a few years of living together.
But some of the denial patterns that are mentioned did not fit my actions or ways of thinking at all. In fact, there were more patterns that I disagreed with than I felt fit my relationship. Lack of empathy towards others? Label others with my negative traits? Minimize or alter how I am feelings? Not today, thank you. I needed to remember that I may not fit into each of these patterns so I continued on to the next step.
The Self-Esteem Patterns
The low self-esteem patterns of a codependent person are a long list of traits that anyone can feel. They usually have difficulty making decisions and are sometimes unable to identify what they need and want. They often have difficulty admitting to a mistake and sometimes lie to appear to be right in the eyes of others. One of the patterns that screamed out to me is that I constantly judge my actions and everything that I think, say, or do, in a harsh manner. It’s that I don’t feel good enough, and when something good does happen, I am extremely embarrassed to receive the happy recognition.
The Compliance Patterns
I checked off a few patterns in the self-esteem section so I went on to the compliance patterns next. Sure enough, some of my actions fit into the compliance patterns category of codependency as well. Although I’m not afraid to express my beliefs or opinions when they differ from my friends or family, my anxiety causes me to overthink my thoughts and ideas as soon as I leave the conversations. Sometimes I get these feelings when I am still talking to someone, I can feel my body start to get uncomfortable and my mind starts to race a million miles an hour. I also change what I want to do in order to do what others want to do – but is that a bad thing?
There were a few patterns that I didn’t see myself doing, like accepting sexual attention when I want love, or making decisions without regard to the consequences, so I moved on to the next step in my self-evaluation.
The Control Patterns
The control patterns hit me like a ton of bricks. I have a couple of traits in this category and I started to realize that doing this worksheet and going through the number of ways I can be codependent was making me upset. Yes, I believe people are incapable of taking care of themselves because, hello, no one is truly independent in this society. Do I attempt to convince others what to think or do? Well, yes, isn’t that how you show people your side of the story? And oh gosh, I definitely offer advice to others when they haven’t asked, and I get mad at those people if they don’t take my advice! I also love to give lavish gifts to people, as one of my languages of love is through gifts, and sure enough, I use my charm and charisma to convince my boyfriend to love me more.
The Avoidance Patterns
My mind was racing and instead of reading more traits from the control category, I quickly moved on to the next and last section, the avoidance category. Uh oh, I was already avoiding parts of this evaluation because I am scared of the outcome and now it’s plain as day in my face.
The avoidance patterns of a codependent person is something I think everyone deals with at some point in their life. Many people are scared to express their emotions. They have a fear of communicating with people who may be close to them and for me personally, I know I judge my boyfriend and family as harshly as I judge myself. I have avoided physical and sexual intimacy with my boyfriend and sure enough, I have allowed my addiction to Netflix and Instagram distract me from dealing with, well, anything I don’t want to deal with. I like to zone out off the stuff I don’t want to do, which leaves me stressed or in a situation of failure.
Out of all 55 traits that CoDa lists as a characteristic of a codependent person, my self-evaluation form leaned towards the side of being codependent. Through a little bit of frustration, I felt like a cynic that I was pawning off this new label of codependency. It almost reminds me of reading a horoscope that could fit every personality into one reading. You are bound to find something in the patterns that you can relate to as they are general and broad.
The CoDa form didn’t make me feel better about my life or codependency in general. In fact, it made me feel worse and start to question myself even more. So I’m back to square one.