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The Codependent Gene

Hi. I’m Toni. I’m codependent. I’m working on it, but only if it’s okay with you? If it makes you upset that I’m becoming less codependent then I will stop – but if you approve – then I will continue. Are we okay? I’m sorry for even bringing this up. 

Codependence can mean a few things, but one of the main elements is feeling responsible for the feelings of others – at least, that’s how it manifests in me most. Being an empathetic person, I can usually sense the vibes of others. When I intuit someone’s feelings I feel like their feelings are my fault, or my duty to solve.

That’s the main difference between a compassionate person and a codependent. A compassionate person can say, “Wow, I see that you’re suffering and that you are going through something disturbing. I can hold the space for you and energetically witness you’re processes of processing, but I will not take your problems as my own problem.” Where my tendency is to say, “Wow, you have an issue? Well don’t you worry anymore because now your issue is MY issue and I will take it on fully and solve all your problems for you!!!”

A drawback from being codependent is that I am an enabler. I facilitate all sorts of negative behavior patterns in others. I can be so desperate for approval that I lay myself down at the altar of their toxicity to sacrifice us both in my unceasing spiral of need to circumvent conflict. I contort my being into the origami expectations of others to fold my identity into a pleasing crane flying into the abyss of needing to be liked. I know. It’s exhausting. 

Codependence is my instinct! If we were sitting in a field together enjoying the sunshine and you happened to get stung by a bee, my initial reaction would be, “it’s my fault.” If we were at a party together and I was having a great time and you weren’t enjoying yourself I would feel like we had to leave. Your being happy is crucial to my being happy because I can’t be happy if you’re not happy so it really doesn’t even matter at all if what we’re doing is making me happy if you’re not happy so we might as well just do whatever makes you happy so we can both be happy because now you’re happy. Get it!? 

I always thought my codependent ways of operating in the world came from my conditioning and familial programming. I was the peacemaker in my household, and the youngest child, so it was my role in the dynamic to not cause friction or problems. As such, when I became a parent I wanted to create a different paradigm for The Munch. In fact, the past 9-years of being a mom has been the best training for me to work on these issues. I can’t be a codependent parent because then my kid would be an absolute asshole. If I took on all The Munch’s problems and allowed my codependent reflexes to be my default reaction, then imagine what a dick hole she would be! 

Creating boundaries with my kid has been my healing because it has taught me the value of boundaries with all people. Kids thrive when they have clear boundaries, and my parenting journey has revealed that true unconditional love actually NEEDS boundaries to make it a sustainable relationship. If I allow a person to treat me as their emotional punching bag eventually I will hit a breaking point and knock them out of my life. But if I have boundaries and express them openly, that’s actually the most loving thing I can do!

The more I communicate my needs and feelings the greater potential for genuine depth in the relationship. It’s only through my sharing my thoughts that you can realize how your behavior is hurting me and therefor address it. If I keep everything inside and refuse to talk about my actual emotions because I’m too afraid that you will be sad that I am sad, then I’m actually creating distance. The more I fear your feelings about my feelings the greater the chasm, so in order to build the necessary bridge I have to fight my codependence and feel okay if my feeling bad momentarily makes you feel bad.

In my effort to socialize my kid differently than I was socialized, I have made many attempts to be an example of a compassion, but not codependence. I have tried to model my ideals in my dealings with The Munch. She is having a very different childhood than I had for a variety of reasons, and as such, I made the assumption that codependence would not be her cross to bear. 

I WAS FUCKING WRONG! 

The Munch is just like her mom. JUST LIKE ME! She refuses to talk to her friends about ANYTHING that bothers her about them. She will weep to me about how she’s treated, hysterical in her sadness, but will not address it directly with them.

Toni: Munchee, why don’t you just talk to your little friend and tell her how you feel?

The Munch: I CAN’T DO THAT MAMA! IT WILL MAKE HER MAD AT ME!

Toni: Dude, but your feelings are just as important as her feelings. It’s totally okay and reasonable to explain to her that her behavior hurts your feelings when you’re not being treated like a priority. 

The Munch: BUT I CAN’T TELL HER THAT BECAUSE THEN SHE WILL CRY AND BE UPSET! 

Toni: That’s fine if she cries and gets upset. That has nothing to do with you. What’s most important is that you practice sharing your feelings and talking openly about how her behavior impacts you. 

The Munch. I CAN’T DO THAT MAMA! MY BODY WON’T LET ME!               

My BODY won’t let me! HOLY MOTHER OF GAIA! My BODY won’t let me! Ummmm… did I pass down the co-dependent gene to my kid!? Was co-dependence so melded into my DNA that she has doubled down on this helix of emotional hell? I REALLY TRIED!!! 

Look at the existential angst on her face!! I GET IT MUNCH!! I GET IT!