codependency – friend or foe?

(This post is not intended to assist or advise couples or individuals currently experiencing domestic violence and physical abuse.  If experiencing physical abuse now, dial 911).


In many clients who’ve expressed to me that their goal is to “get rid of” their codependency, I’ve observed a stage of their recovery in which they see codependency and all its patterns & characteristics as a disease that if avoided would put an end to their life’s problems.

For example, one  commonly agreed upon and well-known pattern of codependency is an “inability to leave relationships; stay in harmful situation too long.”  The aforementioned client will notice his/her codependent relationship feels impossible to leave and yet it frequently leaves them feeling in pain.  They might tell me something like, “I’ve already been in love with many men just like him – arrogant, talks too much, terrible listener, bad temper, charismatic at times, but selfish and a drinker.   Regardless of how in love I feel, I know that if I stay, it is the codependency talkin’!  I will take the road less traveled and I’ll end this relationship now.”

For some clients this stage of avoidance cannot be skipped, no matter how hard I try to point them to the heart of the matter.  They must experience for themselves that this isn’t the answer they were searching for either…. Avoiding one’s pain triggered by a partner may provide relief in the short-term, but virtually never leads to a feeling of deep personal fulfillment and completeness.

Codependency itself is not a disease, rather it is collection of symptoms of a disease.  Like a doctor carefully watches the symptoms of a bodily illness in order to determine the underlying disease, the recovering codependent also carefully observes her symptoms to discover the disease that plagues her.

The doctor would not avoid the symptoms and call that a cure.  To my codependent readers: don’t avoid the symptoms.  Deal with them head on.  The only way out is through.

That is not to say the only way to transcend codependency is to remain in a codependent relationship.  Certainly, many have successfully overcome codependency solo.  Still, I find the codependent relationship can be one of the best vehicles to discovering the root of your pain, often long-held beliefs about yourself that bred shame and fear in the heart of  its host (you), beliefs about yourself that were present in you long before you even met your partner.

Codependency has its place.  Most all relationships involve some degree of codependency, or dysfunction.  Consider that your relationship does not cause pain but rather triggers the pain that is already in you.  To quit relationships that trigger your symptoms of codependency, to bypass that experience and head straight into a relationship with someone with whom it is particularly easy to have a calm, balanced, dispassionate relationship is the answer for a rare few.



  1. Recommended reading: Dr. Harville Hendrix, “Getting the Love You Want”
  2. Recommended audio:  https://tinyurl.com/y8y2n3k6


*This post above is not intended for couples or individuals engaged in domestic violence or experiencing physical abuse.  If experiencing physical abuse call 911.

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