The Myth of Codependency

Holding Hands South Lake Union TherapyThe Myth of Codependency

“Dependency is not a holdover from childhood; it is constitutive of desire for a real other person.” – Stephen Mitchell.  (Author of, “Can Love Last: The Fate of Romance Over Time.)

Codependency is a term originally coined decades ago to describe the enabling relationships between addicts and those close to them.  It is still a valuable concept within that context but, unfortunately, codependency has become the cultural buzzword used to describe troubled relationships in all their myriad forms.

As a result, we have come to believe that a healthy relationship is one in which each individual is a completely autonomous being who can take or leave the other and that at any given moment, we should be able to function in complete independence of our partner. The experience of emotional, monetary, and physical dependence is, more often than not, labeled codependent- as are trying “too” hard and caring “too” much.  What has been overlooked in these arguments is that codependency is a fact of human life, not a pathology.

Evolutionary science recognizes codependency as a necessary tool for the survival of the human species over time. We would not have made it this far operating individually whether as hunter-gatherers, farmers or industrialists.  Neurologists and biologists recognize that our physiological well-being is directly influenced by our partner.  We NEED one another.

“Numerous studies have shown that once we become attached to someone, the two of us form one physiological unit.  Our partner regulates our blood pressure, our heart rate, our breathing and the levels of hormones in our blood.  We are no longer separate entities.  The emphasis on differentiation that is held by most of today’s popular psychology approaches to adult relationships does not hold water from a biological perspective. Dependency is a fact; it is not a choice or preference.” -Amir Levine, MD and Rachel Heller MA. (Author of,  “Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment.”)

We have been taught to fear dependence on one another when it is really the INABILITY to depend on one another that often needs to be repaired in the majority of relationships.  We may find ourselves in familiar struggles again and again, wanting desperately to connect but not knowing how. This can cause feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression.  To add insult to injury, we are often made to feel guilty for this emotional dependence on others.  It is only when we accept codependency as a necessary and healthy part of life that we can work toward addressing the roadblocks that prevent us from effective, healthy, dependence on one another.

“To love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that our love will produce hope in the loved person.  Love is an act of faith, and who ever is of little faith is of little love.” Eric Fromm