Therapist in Los Angeles
Darren Haber MFT

Co-Dependence

Darren Haber, MFT

While the word "co-dependent" is often used very casually (as in, "my mother is so co-dependent" or "I hate to be co-dependent, but do you like this outfit?"), the truth is that we are all a little co-dependent; who doesn't want to be well regarded, praised, etc? We live within a social fabric and are vulnerable to others' perceptions and feelings about us.

But what does the term mean in a deeper, psychological sense? The problem itself, because it involves human relationships, is a little harder to define than an addiction to drugs or alcohol. There are, however, tell-tale patterns:

  • Difficulty in asking for what you want or need in your relationships.
  • Repeated attraction to self-centered, emotionally unavailable or abusive partners.
  • A hunch or certainty that someone close to you is mistreating you, though you're not sure you could live without them.
  • A strong need for validation or approval from others, to the point where you feel you betray yourself in some way.
  • Feeling guilty when you say no or express difficult feelings to another.

Some of us have been following these patterns for so long that we don't even realize we're doing it. Then, one day, something particularly painful happens: a break-up, the loss of a job, the discovery of a partner's addiction. This can plunge us into crisis and a sense of emotional apocalypse. We are normally organized and in control. But now we're thrown for a loop, and the feeling is terrifying.

Or perhaps we don't understand why we want so badly to connect with people who blow hot and cold, loving us one day and avoiding us the next. Maybe we "freeze up" whenever someone asks our input or opinion at work. Perhaps we seem to be attracted to emotionally "unavailable" partners, or even abusive partners, and can't understand why.

These snafus can be very demeaning. So many of my clients - all intelligent, talented people - tell me that they observe these patterns but can't stop, and can't figure out why, which makes them feel, in one client's words, "really stupid." You'd be amazed at the number of successful people who suffer from this problem.

I have experience helping many people find relief from these mental and emotional roadblocks. There is a way to lift these obstacles, to understand better, and start finding some answers. You are not stupid: in fact, if you're reading this right now, looking for help, it's a testament to how intelligent you really are. And talking to a professional who "gets" it will bring relief right off the bat. Feel free to call with any questions or comments on anything you've just read.