Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 18, 2004
Co-dependence imprisons both
In the multi-layered film, The Hours, Richard (played by Ed Harris) and Clarissa (Meryl Streep) were portrayed to have a co-dependent relationship.
Richard, a person with AIDS, lost the reason to continue living. But Clarissa did not want him to die although her desire was unspoken. Taking care of Richard gave meaning to Clarissa's life. Because of his illness, he became dependent on her. Clarissa was also dependent on Richard because his condition created an occasion for Clarissa to be needed by someone.
A co-dependent relationship is not healthy. I know because I nurtured two friendships that turned out to be co-dependent.
This kind of relationship is sneaky. When it begins, you are not aware that a monster has engulfed your life.
The sneaky part is that you don't know you are in such a relationship even when others tell you. You don't pay attention until it comes to a point of destruction.
In my first co-dependent relationship, my good feelings about myself depended on being liked by my friend and on getting approval from her.
Her struggles affected my serenity and my mental attention focused on solving her problems or relieving her pain and protecting her.
I was seldom aware of how I felt and mainly focused on her feelings. My fears of her rejection and her anger strongly shaped the things I said and did.
In the second relationship, my hobbies and interests were put aside as I spent time sharing his hobbies and interests. I felt as if he was a reflection of me. I was seldom aware of what I wanted but always asked or assumed what he wanted.
I used giving as a key way of feeling safe in our friendship. There was always a nameless fear lurking around me that one day he would be out of my life.
Why are they co-dependent when it seemed I was the only one doing and assuming things?
Neither of them ever called me on what I had been doing. They never complained about how I made them feel and how my life was determined by how I had put them on a pedestal.
They always showed and expressed appreciation for everything even when my gestures caused inconvenience in their lives. They never complained how I showered them with excessive affection.
But doing things for other people simply because you have become obsessed by losing them from your life can become tiring. And somewhere along the line, you will realize that person was never in your life.
Friendships, I came to realize, depend not so much on doing but on being - being a friend.
Like other experiences in my adult life, I never regretted having these friendships. That is because I learned something about myself by getting into these relationships and getting out of them. A lot of pain was involved but there was also much to gain.
As Christians we are called to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. Many have said, "It's not easy."
It is really difficult to love others if we don't appreciate and love ourselves first. By what standard are we going to love others if we don't genuinely love ourselves?
To love oneself is not un-Christian. In fact, loving oneself is one human standard that God has set before we get ourselves involved in the enterprise of loving our neighbours.
And did I say, loving our neighbours is an external manifestation of loving God?
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