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A hypothetical story about two fictional characters to help illustrate the dangers of codependent relationships.
Minnie – The Codependent
Alicia – Minnie’s girlfriend
Minnie and Alicia have been in a monogamous relationship for 3 years. They met at a nightclub and instantly hit it off. Alicia gave a sob story over a few beers that night about her recent woes. Alicia and Minnie both happened to be fresh out of relationships and didn’t intend on hooking up with anyone that night.
Minnie fought with her better judgment and immediately started dating Alicia. (1st Red Flag). She admitted that she really needed time to heal from her last relationship and truly didn’t want to be alone. (2nd Red Flag). Minnie never really gave herself space between relationships to lick her wounds or adjust to being single. (#3).
Alicia was a bit of a hot mess when she started dating Minnie. Her finances were a wreck, she had been kicked out by her last 2 roommates and her parents were tired of her drama. Minnie felt compelled to “rescue” Alicia and figured she could help her get back on her feet. She had always been the more “stable” person in her relationships and thought she would be a good influence on her.
Their relationship was great for the 1st year and Alicia found a steady job as a barista near their apartment. Oh, did I forget to mention that Alicia moved in 2 months after they met? (#4).
Nevertheless, they forged a strong relationship, met each other’s parents and hung out with Alicia’s friends almost every weekend. Little did Minnie know that Alicia was horrible with budgeting. She attempted to hide calls from loan companies and still owed her old roommates for utility bills.
Minnie was starting to bury her own secrets as well. As she was helping Alicia rebuild her credit (and her life), Minnie’s credit card bills weren’t being paid on time. She was afraid to say “no” whenever Alicia asked for a loan or asked to cover their check at dinner. (#5) Minnie had a laundry list of complaints that she never talked about with her girlfriend. Alicia would throw guilt trips if Minnie said “maybe” to anything and never showed appreciation for all the times that Minnie helped her out. Minnie secretly wished that Alicia would get a better paying job to help with their debt. Plus, Minnie felt taken advantage of at work because everyone dropped their projects on her desk.
Minnie had so many needs and wishes that no one asked about. She wanted to visit her family this Christmas, go to the beach over the summer, cut back on hosting functions at their apartment and spend more time doing self-care. It felt like Alicia was running her whole life. When she thought of the alternative, being alone, she shook off her resentment (Huge Red Flag) and tucked her feelings deeper into her soul.
Alicia commented one time that Minnie didn’t seem her old “happy” self and the only time she communicated with her was through anger. Minnie admitted that the only way she could be heard was if she yelled. She didn’t have anyone to talk to because most of Minnie’s friends were dealing with their own drama and wouldn’t bother to listen.
As a matter of fact, Minnie realized she couldn’t really lean on anyone because she was considered the “rock.” (Red Flag). Heaven forbid if Minnie had a problem! She was the one who saved everyone else! (That’s a red flag too but I lost count).
So why is this considered “dangerous?”
Anytime someone loses a sense of self or loses their voice, it can easily spiral to a mental health crisis or crappy coping skills (Drinking, drugs, excessive spending, unhealthy eating behaviors, risky sexual patterns, etc). Supporting someone means that you shouldn’t suffer financially, emotionally, spiritually, legally or physically. Minnie appeared to be dragged down and wasn’t speaking up to set limits with her partner.
Open communication and respect are essential in any relationship – intimate partners, parents and children, siblings, work relationships. Taking advantage of someone isn’t a sign of respect.
Personally, in my work with addicts I have had clients like Alicia who were shocked to realize how they manipulated their partners. When they learned about codependent traits they wondered if their partner was with them for love or for “necessity.” Codependent people tend to be addicted to others. They have trouble living alone, staying single and tend to attract needy people. Codependency is a desire to be accepted, at the cost of burying your own voice or needs. Click To Tweet
I don’t want you leaving this post thinking that this hypothetical relationship is doomed. In fact, if Minnie was open to detaching from “rescuing” people, could stick to her boundaries and honor her needs, she could have a healthier relationship. Alicia would have to learn to save herself and be willing to compromise with Minnie’s needs.
Minnie’s codependence doesn’t end by leaving a relationship. She will carry those traits and patterns into all of her relationships if she doesn’t realize how to detach, learn self-acceptance and be consistent with her boundaries.
What other help is there for people who have codependent traits?
Professional therapy, Codependent Anonymous (CoDa) groups, Al-Anon (if your partner or family member has substance dependence), Boundary training and books.
One of the best authors and best books on this subject is Melody Beattie’s Codependency No More. I swear by it, recommend it to almost all of my clients and have only heard praise for her teachings.
Codependency may seem like a harmless addiction because most codependent people can’t imagine saying NO to others. The argument I hear is, “What’s wrong with helping people?”
My answer to them is always met with silence.
“So who’s helping you?”
Focus on you, learn to say no and save yourself for once.