Fighting Cinderella | Recognizing Codependency in Relationships
Have you heard the stories of Snow White, Cinderella, Tiana? They’re all very strong female characters. Each of them is beautiful, skilled, and somehow capable of talking to animals in the woods about love and life. They inspire an image of an ideal life, but below the surface, there is a darkness among their songs. What do they have in common, you ask? Snow White can’t breathe, Cinderella can’t prosper, and Tiana can’t run her business. The kiss, wealth, or clout of a man is a determining factor in the progression of their lives and self worth. They are all engaged in codependent relationships. Of course, these particular women are imaginary, but they portray a negative, societal standard for those of us who were raised on such tales. Often, women in today’s day and age seem to wait for an imagined hero to make themselves whole. Well, we need a break from the storybook and a dose of the truth about codependent behavior in relationships.
Codependency is described by Greg E. Dear and Clare M. Roberts in the book Sex Roles as an overly strict adherence and enforcement of the gender characteristics assigned to women. Women are more prone than men to exhibit some characteristics of codependency, such as putting others before the self and nurturing, in part because of societal conditioning. The prevalence of codependent behavior can stem from trauma, family addiction, or living in an environment where one’s emotional health is neglected. It’s important to recognize codependency and diligently work to grow as interdependent individuals. At an extreme, codependency within relationships can become dangerous. It can lead to mental, physical, and emotional turmoil for those involved as well as lead to the fracturing of a relationship.
Has your relationship withstood a traumatic event?
Maybe you have recently survived something tragic or emotionally painful in your relationship. Your partner might be the only one who understands that trauma, but beware; hiding, clinging, and ruminating can lead to codependency.
Are you smothering your significant other?
Someone who is codependent might find herself constantly trying to patch up or please her mate. That doesn’t sound dangerous at all. Except, she will do it at the expense of her own comfort. A need to please could also be just that. Remember that society supports the image of women who like to sit still and look pretty. Take heed if your life is significantly affected by an inability to communicate your emotional needs and wants to others.
Do you have low self-esteem?
The demands of being a full-time people pleaser are enough to cause low self esteem all on their own. If you are constantly patching up your partners personal problems, you might literally forget to take care of yourself. You might not eat, sleep, or socialize because your sense of self is connected to the actions and pronouncements of another. There are signs of low self esteem that you can look out for like such as poor self-care, poor self perception, and reclusion.
Are you constantly disenchanted by your reality?
Codependency can keep you from feeling happiness in a relationship. Neither you nor your partner will be able to proportionately validate your accomplishments. This contributes to low-self esteem and poor self-care. Complaining obsessively or crying over slayed dragons are signs that you’re not happy in your reality. Even when that reality is positive by all other accounts.
People pleasing, low self-esteem, and discontentment with reality are serious symptoms that result in poor interpersonal communication in romantic relationships. It’s important that you recognize the symptoms of codependency and begin to fight them. Whether that means disconnecting yourself from the relationship or seeking therapy to overcome past trauma or abuse. Become aware of the problem first and then slowly take the steps towards recovery.
Usually when people mention the word “awareness” they mean meditation. Meditation can be instrumental in helping you to focus your energy on the problem. From there, you can focus on an awareness of yourself, that is, that you need to envision yourself participating in some of the above-mentioned positive behavior. It might seem difficult or embarrassing at first to bring your attention inward and meditate, but you know what they say, practice makes perfect. Try to pinpoint where codependency affects your life so you can keep better track of it for the future.
Spend some time alone and rediscover yourself. Pull out old journals, pictures, and accomplishments. If you can’t find anything old to revive your sense of self, then start something new. You could join a book club, take a class, or build a business. Just do whatever makes you feel your best consistently.
Build A Support System
You don’t have to heal from codependency alone. Individual and/or couples therapy can aid your independent and interdependent growth. It’s all about preference and finding the right doctor for you.
A codependent relationship is unhealthy for both parties involved. Long-term codependent behavior can lead to poor health choices, depression and even loss of the relationship entirely. Take some time to evaluate the way you and your partner behave towards one another. Are you accomplishing goals and spending time away from one another? Or fighting and clinging obsessively to the relationship? The ladder could mean that it’s time to banish Cinderella from your list of trusted advisors (at least when it comes to relationship matters).