Let me start by saying I am a huge Coldplay fan. I love their soothing ballads. The song with the above title, “Fix You,” is no exception. However, in pondering the message (and many songs like it), I shouldn’t be surprised by the epidemic of codependency I see in the world.
At it’s core, codependency says, “my happiness is directly dependent on the happiness of another.” More so, a codependent person will go to great lengths to “fix,” please and ultimately enable the object of their codependency. We mistakenly convince ourselves that if we love someone enough, they’ll get better. Much like the aforementioned song implies. What’s worse, is when the other party doesn’t change, we blame ourselves.
So why all this talk of codependency? Well, first of all, I don’t think it’s talked about in a realistic light enough. Secondly, I see attributes of codependency romanticized in television and social media. For one who has lived through the horrors of it, that is infuriating!! Losing yourself in someone else’s addiction, abuse or insanity is NOT attractive. Yet our society would have us believe it is admirable.
If you are attracted to a person that is a hot mess and your primary focus is to “fix” them or “help” them, you are heading down a very messy, unfulfilling and possibly dangerous road. If the relationship is satisfying your own need to feel needed, it cannot end well.
I only speak from a perspective of one who has been there! One who has confused pity for love. One who had an inexplicable need to find the most “tattered orphan on the side of the road” and nurse them back to health. In my least healthy state, I would jokingly say I was a professional turd polisher.
The most ironic part is when we seek to help someone who is so broken, damaged or tortured by means of a romantic relationship, there can only be one of two outcomes: 1) They never get better. Your helping actually becomes a crutch and enables them to continue their insanity [addiction, abuse, self-destruction]. 2) They do find recovery. You play a vital role in their healing and they become a better person. And as much as they appreciate your help, they move on.
The first outcome is the most frequent one I see (and experienced). It’s a long and “bloody” road. The codependent party blames themselves for the lack of progress and loses themselves in the “project.” Somewhere along the way it becomes all about the other person and their problems.
If you are romantically involved with someone who (regardless of how deep your love and attraction) is a tortured soul and your world revolves around making them better, please see me on the side of the road holding a BIG sign saying, “Danger, Will Robbins!!!”
The second outcome is perhaps more painful. You feel like things are going well. They’re getting the help they need. Their relapses are becoming less and less. The relationship and your partner are moving in a positive direction. And then… BAM! They can’t explain exactly why, but they’re just not feeling it anymore. Maybe it feels to them like you’re growing apart. The sad truth is you played a vital role in their recovery, but now that your purpose has been served, the relationship fizzles. You’re left feeling used and abandoned. All the time you invested into helping that person heal will only benefit someone else.
How do you avoid either of these impossibly disheartening outcomes? Don’t get romantically involved with them in the first place. Completely remove yourself from the situation. Recognize the person for who they truly are and where they are in life!! Take a realistic assessment of their emotional IQ and ability to be in a mutually beneficial relationship.
This step has eluded me many times! It’s so easy to get swept up in the emotions of it all. The desire to feel needed and wanted blinds us to common sense. I implore you to stop. Take a step back. Analyze the situation. Take the blinders off and look for any unhealthy habits or situations. Does he drink more than you are comfortable with? Is he defensive when you bring it up? Did she recently leave an abusive relationship? Is she looking to you to “rescue” her? Does he push your boundaries? Are you allowed to say “no” without retaliation?
Don’t justify. Don’t excuse. And please don’t ignore your intuition or wise friends’ counsel. It’s hard to hear your best friend ask you the night before your wedding if you’re sure this is what you really want because she’s pretty sure you’ll regret this [yes, that really happened]. But don’t ignore it! The subtle (or glaringly obvious) signs are difficult to recognize when you’re involved with someone. It’s complicated. There are feelings involved. But for your own sanity, be realistic about what you’re potentially signing up for. Save yourself the heartache!
And before you tell me you’re not supposed to judge, that’s crap. Matthew 7:20 says, “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” And that’s in red. Jesus himself actually said, “Judge people. Look at their life. Look at their choices.”
Trust me, I was the queen of turning a blind eye. I thought, “Who am I to judge?! I’m no unblemished lamb. So he drinks too much. He’s not hurting anyone but his own liver…” Or here’s my favorite: “He says he only hit his ex-wife once. But he suspected she was cheating, so it was justified… And he’d never hit me… Right?” We who are prone to codependency can justify bad behaviors 6 ways ’til Sunday. But it doesn’t make bad behavior good. And most importantly, you deserve to be honest with yourself. Love yourself enough to wait for a relationship worthy of your heart.
It may seem glamorous to be a knight in shining armor or Florence Nightingale. But you’re not the Savior. You CAN’T fix people. There is only One who can. And as much as you want to help, you’ll only muck it up. So stop. Let the unhealthy person get well on their own, without you. As painful as it is to walk away, it’s far more painful to invest yourself into someone who is incapable of reciprocating the level of love and commitment you are extending.
In a healthy relationship there should be mutual benefit. Both people growing, changing together and spurring each other toward success. There should be abundant positivity and mutual respect. Perhaps seasons of give and take. But always an outcome of equal levels of investment, care, respect and positivity. Put simply, the good should heavily outweigh the bad. We always talk about finding a person who is an intellectual or spiritual equal, but what about emotional equality? You’re looking for a companion in life, not a humanitarian project to keep you busy for the next who knows how long!
For more info about the effects of codependency, go to: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/co-dependency