Increasing your Capacity for Intimacy when Recovering from Co-Dependency

Most of us have felt embarrassment when a relationship didn’t work out the way we intended or if we got involved with someone that wasn’t “good” for us. When we suffer from addictions and other co-occurring disorders, we take it a step further and create a co-dependency with others. By definition, co-dependency is an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner.  This dependence in another person can create a feeling of shame that leads us to take control of our relationships.  This attempt to control others can distance us from others and ourselves.

Here is an example of the thought process from a person with Co-Dependency:

  • I can sense your discomfort (your anxiety, anger, judgement, fear, etc.)
  • I make your feelings about me and feel responsibility to save you from your discomfort.  This action is an attempt to relieve myself from my own discomfort or feelings.
  • I try to “fix” you or the situation to the extent of sacrificing my own needs.
  • I no longer see you as your true self but rather something I need to change.  You sense that you are being manipulated and react.  I become hurt feeling like a victim when you react negatively towards me when all I was doing was trying to help you.
  • I feel sorry for myself due to my situation or become angry, defensive or critical which leads back to the unconscious core belief that there is something wrong with me.
  • I can’t see this process because it is my new reality, like water I have been swimming in all of my life. I’m now in denial.
  • I re-double my efforts both consciously and unconsciously to change you and help you understand.
  • I believe 100% that I am right, and I can change you never realizing that true change happens beyond trying to change myself or others.

What was just described is a recipe for relational disaster! To experience relief from this vicious cycle, we will need to embark on a journey of a healthy relationship with oneself.Initially, this may sound very selfish and contrary to recovery from self-centeredness, which is at the core of all addictions.This process paradoxically leads to a lack of need for control, affection, attention and affirmation from others.As we heal and learn to nurture ourselves, we can start to open up our hearts up to others in a unique way, to love without demanding anything in return.

As we have increased our capacity for intimacy, we can support others without expecting anything in return. What a gift! Obviously, this takes time, patience and lots of practice but worth every ounce of effort.