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The dangers of codependency


People will do funny things for the ones that they love.

Love certainly has its benefits, but beware of the pitfalls of being codependent writes columnist Catherine Lafferty.Wikimedia commons photo

Catherine Lafferty is a published author and an Indigenous Law Student who grew up in Yellowknife.
Catherine Lafferty is a published author and an Indigenous Law Student who grew up in Yellowknife.

They will do things to impress. For instance, I recently embarrassed myself in one of my Zoom classroom lectures when I thought that the sticky on my computer camera was hiding the fact that I wasn't paying attention, I was too busy taking selfies to send to my boyfriend.

The entire class saw and now I'm happy that I don't have to see them in person for a while. Hopefully by the time Covid is over and we are back in the classroom I will have gotten over my humility.

With Valentine's Day in our rearview mirror, I wanted to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about love and the importance of not losing yourself in something that you think might be love.

I will admit I have had my fair share of dating. Tinder was no place for me living in a small town where the majority of males are my cousins but here down south is no better.
I knew I had to be careful with online dating and the dangers that come with it. Needless to say, the dating world is not easy. I have met all types of people but always found that I couldn't see myself with them for one reason or another and didn't stick around long enough to find out that I was right.

There was a time when I would have stayed in a relationship that I knew wasn't right for me though. I would settle despite seeing red flags all over the place. The same person would always show up in my life.

The one that had issues with their mother, or drank too much, or didn't return my phone calls. It took me a while, but now I've learned that the same type of person will show up in your life until you have learned a lesson. My lesson was to learn how to respect myself first and walk away from anyone that didn't.

However, there are those that will stay in a relationship even if it is unhealthy because it is what they are used to, maybe having seen this through their parents' relationship. They will stay even though they know the relationship is unhealthy or that they are not a right fit for that person. This is often because they are codependent.

Codependency is the exact opposite of independent. It is the expectation that one person exercises over another person. It is a deep need to have a void filled. Most of the time it's a happiness void that someone feels that they need others to fill, other times it's a fear of being stuck financially. Who's going to get the house, the truck, the boat? You see those couples that stay together for the kids but just fight in front of them all the time. What is that teaching them?

In the end of a codependent relationship, you might find yourself in a scary place, having to start over alone with nothing because you have relied on your partner for so long to do everything for you. You might have not even followed your own dreams and one day you wake up alone years later thinking that it's too late to fulfill the dreams you once had.

Codependency can also show up in friendships. I had a friend once who would get mad at me if I didn't meet her at a certain time or place, or if I was too busy to talk to her on the phone. The constant sense of control that she was trying to put me under didn't make for a healthy two-way friendship and I stopped talking to her. She depended on me to fill her feelings of loneliness and when I didn't show up for her she lashed out at me. This is codependency. It's where feelings of resentment, jealousy, and dishonesty find a home.

What I've learned is that it's best to not depend on anyone for anything otherwise you will most often be let down. It's better to be surprised by loving gestures than to demand someone love you in the way that you want it or demand someone to do things for you.

For both partners to show up in a relationship independent of needs and expectations is the best way to ensure that each person doesn't lose themselves. It's easy to get carried away by that new feeling of love, but if the foundations of respect, kindness and honesty are not there, those feelings of love can quickly turn to bitterness which is why one must always be careful not to end up doing more for the other person than you would for yourself. There was a time where I would go out of my way to please the person that I love and put my own needs aside but I realized that it just caused me to be sour when the other person didn't appreciate my efforts, like doing a backflip without an applause.

As humans, we grow and change and sometimes we even lose feelings for each other, and that is the risk of love isn't it? Wearing your heart on your sleeve and allowing the other person to have free will to either love you or leave you or giving yourself permission to walk away. Often it depends on how you treat a person that determines if they will stay or go. Communication is key, that and being able to laugh with one another and at each other and to forgive when forgiving is the right thing to do.

I don't have love figured out yet and probably never will but I do know that it is one of the only things that we have left that is pure and natural and should never be forced.
I strongly believe that if it's meant to be it will fall into place, it won't be riddled with feelings of unease, instead it will be full of hope, harmony and peace.