Working with a client the other day, we were discussing how she could know when she was struggling with co-dependency. She didn’t resonate with the typical list of symptoms, such as doing things for others to her own detriment, feeling responsible for others’ feelings, focusing more on others’ lives than on one’s own. Since these issues weren’t chiming for her, I tried another route.
“When you are away from your husband, do things seem rather flat?” “Yes!”, she replied. We talked about her perception of life outside of her husband feeling two-dimensional, unexciting, almost black-and-white. She became very excited as we talked about this and was able to identify how she experienced co-dependency. She noted she didn’t enjoy going out with friends, engaging in hobbies, doing things she formerly liked to do. Given this experience, it was no wonder all she wanted to do was be with and focused on her husband.
We talked about the risks of continuing in this fashion, including her mood being heavily influenced by her husband’s mood and behaviors. In addition, someone who functioned in this way would be far more at risk for complicated bereavement and depression upon the death of her husband. The client was able to acknowledge she was setting herself up for unhappiness and stress. Her willingness to make changes was, at that point, limited since avoidance tends to be a primary route co-dependent people take when facing difficulties. However, this session opened the door for future work on extricating herself from the cage of ce-dependency she locked herself into many years ago.
If you find yourself not really enjoying your life separate from a specific person, you might want to take a look at the co-dependency literature and see if this might be an avenue for you that needs some work. Here’s to supporting your efforts to change and grow!