I realised that we often let ourselves be defined by the negative events in our lives. It forms such bad behaviour patterns and relationships that often tend to be co dependent. We often hear people talking about how they are doing the "right" thing, or doing what they "need" to do, but often what they are doing is more harmful and in fact feeding their bad patterns. For myself I can look back at the years that my son was in school (while having his drug problem) all the way through until he was asked to left home. There were things I did for years (however, I may have thought I was changing tactics, I was still doing the same thing) that did us all more harm than good. At the time however, I believed I was doing what a mother should do and that what I was doing was the right thing.
All the years I tried to be good, I was only feeding his control over me and our family. There are too many examples to think of! The one that is obvious is always doing things that I thought would create less stress and tension at home. I thought that spending the majority of my morning/day trying to wake him up for school or appointments was surely what I was suppose to do as a mother. Even though, in the end it only ended up with him not making it on time or at all and creating so much stress and shouting and anger in the house that my daughter's received the fallout of it. All the times I waited later and later to make dinner, knowing that my son was not awake or would not be coherent enough, so I allowed him to subtly call the shots while I was in essence going against what I should be doing for my other children, because I wanted my main focus of my mothering to be "helping" him, "catering" to him and so on.
One of the signs of a co dependent relationship (and remember a relationship does not have to be with a partner, it can be with your children, parents, friends etc) is giving support to that person at the cost of your own mental, emotional and physical health. I was definitely guilty of that!
I think that the emotionally unhealthy relationship between my ex husband and I (which did often revolve around his drinking) as well as the emotionally abusive and emotionally absent relationship our children had with their father created a very dysfunctional family unit. We were all learning very unhealthy ways of coping and behaving, and of course the children were also forming their beliefs about themselves as well as the world. This dysfunctional family could not help but foster co dependent relationships.
It is by no mistake that codependent relationships were first used to explain a relationship with a person suffering from an addiction. Now it is used to explain relationships with deep underlying emotional issues that leads people and keeps people behaving in codependent ways.
Here is some very good information on co dependency:
I still do not think the extreme version of "tough love" would have helped my son any more than falling into such an unhealthy relationship, but I suppose I could have somehow kept the love and understanding and support with also having clearer boundaries and harsher consequences! Hindsight is great, but it does not change what has already happened!
Look at these characteristics of co-dependent people: (taken from the above article)
Characteristics of Co-dependent People Are:
- An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
- A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
- A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time
- A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
- An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment
- An extreme need for approval and recognition
- A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
- A compelling need to control others
- Lack of trust in self and/or others
- Fear of being abandoned or alone
- Difficulty identifying feelings
- Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
- Problems with intimacy/boundaries
- Chronic anger
- Poor communications
- Difficulty making decisions
I have to admit I see myself in some of those characteristic as well as in my son. Unfortunately a few of those might be characteristics of some other people I care about! It is very easy to become co-dependent, especially when addiction is involved and even if the addiction was in the past (a feeling of obligation to stay).
I highly recommend reading the link, it has so much useful information!
It is painful to reflect and look at our own behaviour and even harder to recognise our own destructive patterns. Hopefully in doing so, we can learn and grow and find the confidence and insight to move forward toward healthier behaviours and relationships and therefore more happiness.