Last week, we looked at various forms of addiction. Addiction, we know, is the mind's effort to feel better, because misunderstandings are triggering the fight-or-flight response and causing the mind to feel unsafe. Conquering addiction requires more than just avoiding the substance. Those misunderstandings need to be redefined, so that the underlying issues will be resolved.
What is Co-Dependence?
So what happens when a relationship becomes an addiction? The result, according to Nasima Ali, who blogs at Leading to Love, is co-dependence. According to Nasima, "A co-dependent relationship can be recognized by the degree of helplessness and conflict displayed by both participants." Basically, in a co-dependent relationship, one participant thinks that they need the other, to the point that it becomes destructive.
What does this look like? According to Nasima, "In this couple, one is usually the 'chaser' and the other is the 'chasee'. Usually it is the woman in the relationship who fears being abandoned by her partner, so she makes constant demands on him to stay involved with her. She will even be unable to do things without him. She might be unable to drive, or to spend free time by herself. " The woman will most likely be believing that she can not survive on her own.
However, the dance of co-dependence requires two participants. A relationship can not become co-dependent without the other partner reacting in a certain way. Nasima states that, "The man, or the one who is avoiding, will go through a cycle of putting up with her demands, trying to get close and fulfil them, then getting tense, and finally exploding at her." While the "chaser" fears that they cannot survive without their partner, the "chasee" fears that they will be smothered.
Why People Stay in Co-Dependent Relationships
According to Nasima, "The explosions I mentioned...may be manifesting as outright physical, verbal, and/or other abuse. But when a woman first experiences the abuse, she might not leave." So why wouldn't someone leave such a destructive pattern? It is because the partners believe that they can change each other. The "chaser" will try everything in order to bring about this change. They will try to improve themselves, or make changes in their career, family, or lifestyle.
However, changing the other person is not going to happen, if the other person isn't willing to change. The first change that needs to happen is on the part of the chaser, who is allowing their fears to keep them in this pattern. Nasima states that, "Unless she somehow reduces her 'addiction' to being in love while still with him, she will need to get out, especially if there is abuse. The man is often feeling comfortable with the status quo, and only feels pain after it is clear the relationship is ending. So he has no incentive to change while still with her."
Changing the pattern, then, must come from the chaser being confident enough to be willing to leave. In some instances, this will lead the chasee to break the pattern as well, but often the only way to break the pattern is to end the relationship.
Navigating the Way Out of Co-Dependency
Nasima's interest in helping people find their way out of co-dependent relationships began with personal experience. She says, "I will admit that I was in a codependent relationship for 18 years." She found her way out with the help of many resources, but she says that, "...I would not be in recovery today without a counselor. Sometimes you do need that person who nudges you along, on a weekly basis, to whom you can tell your darkest thoughts."
According to Nasima, breaking free from the pattern of co-dependence requires "dealing with it head-on." She recommends reading some of the resources available on her website. She highly recommends Pia Mellody. Nasima explains, "She helped define the term, and has extensive analysis of the condition in her books 'Facing Love Addiction' and 'Facing Co-dependence'...Ms. Mellody has a workbook to actually guide you through the process of "Breaking Free" of codependency."
Nasima also recommends Melody Beattie and Susan Forward. As far as resources for relationships in general, "I have to say David Richo's "How to Be An Adult In Relationships" really brings together much of what is good in relationship advice, and presents it in a fresh and accessible way. "
Faith has also been an important aspect of Nasima's journey. She states that, "This type of over-involvement with the love partner is a spiritual deficit. As they say in Al-Anon and other Twelve-Step programs, you have taken another person as your 'Higher Power'. And you are trying to be their Higher Power. "
If a person has a religious faith when they fall into co-dependency this can be especially destructive. According to Nasima, "You are shortchanging your relationship with your God by being so dependent on another human being. When you come out this way of thinking, you feel your faith get stronger. You understand that God loves you, and you don't need another's love to the point of destroying yourself. Love from people is nice to have, but you first need to feel how much God's love is surrounding you and is in your life already."
First Steps on the Path to Recovery
If a person is ready to leave a co-dependent relationship, according to Nasima, they must first understand that the relationship can become more abusive at the time that they decide to leave. "That is why domestic violence websites have a list of things you should gather, in case you have to leave in a hurry. They also have many suggestions on how to leave. This advice is helpful to all who are experiencing abuse."
If the relationship is not abusive, it can be possible to break the patterns without leaving. According to Nasima, "Ms. Mellody does detail the process of pulling back from the old ways of interaction. Try to minimize conflict, while stating your need to change. Do not use anger or seduction to create drama, and do not respond to such behavior from your spouse."
Changing the emotions behind the pattern is a crucial part of the recover process. Nasima says, "As humans, we live our lives guided by our emotions… drive, passion, love, hate, and so on. When our emotions turn negative, it can disable us. The ensuing inner conflict is painful and paralyzing." We often try to suppress these emotions through addictions, which do not solve the underlying issue.
The answer lies in learning to redefine the thoughts behind the emotions. According to Nasima, "To change how your emotions are affecting you, it is important to go through the limiting beliefs that are behind the negative emotion you are feeling. "
Leading to Love: A Helpful Resource for Relationships
Nasima shares her knowledge and experience on her website, Leading to Love. Her website aims, "to educate people of faith on how to step away from codependency, and towards a healthier form of love. By improving in this way, we can improve our relationship with God, our family, and ourselves."
Nasima has found strength in her journey from her Islamic faith, but her website is designed for people of all faiths. According to Nasima, "I draw some material from Islamic sources (sources pertaining to Islam). But I supplement the few voices of Islamic speakers with the voices of many experts from the non-Islamic world, to create a comprehensive site for English-speaking Western-born Muslims and others who are looking to recover from broken hearts, abuse, etc., and who are looking to build a new world with no abuse, one family at a time."
Nasima offers an online magazine as well as a free self-help e-book, which is designed to help the reader to uncover and redefine limiting beliefs, which will help them to break free from any addiction and fear-based behavior. The information is easy to understand and very empowering.
From now until September 1, anyone who downloads the e-book and gets a subscription to Leading to Love will have the opportunity to purchase a session on this site, with double the time. Simply click on the link below, subscribe and download the e-book, which is available on the sidebar, then purchase the counseling session of your choice. When you check-out, write that you have downloaded the e-book in the "special instructions" area. After this information is verified, your session time will be doubled.