Sometimes relationships age like a fine wine…
Other times they sour early in the vintage. Some moments we dance in beautiful sync to music we and our partners adore. Other moments, it feels like someone drags us to the floor and compels us to dance to music we abhor.
What compels us to keep tasting wine long past its prime? What makes us daily dance to the tune of someone else’s music?
What makes so many relationships sour?
If tasting wine and dancing to music are metaphors for relationship styles, a typical answer to this question is codependency. In a codependent relationship one partner is unhealthily manipulated or pulled onto the dance floor seemingly by another.
In a broad sense, the person being pulled depends on the needs and the control of the puller. When we feel the pull to “fix it” or take care of someone else, we consistently ignore our own needs and easily dismiss our personal sense of control. It’s as if we cannot say, “No thanks, I’ll skip this dance” or “No thanks, I’ll pass on that wine.”
The way I see it, codependency is less about specific behavior and more about our inner need to accommodate someone else’s needs – at the expense of our own . Our relationships begin to sour when we lose the ability to speak up or stand up for what we need.
Examples of how we ignore our own needs:
- A wife with a long commute sacrifices her sleep each night in order to “manage” her husband’s nocturnal anxiety attacks, because he refuses to seek help.
- A 16 year old son gives up football and curtails his social life in order to “change” his father’s drinking or depression.
- An octogenarian exhausts her retirement account after years of compensating her adult daughter’s penchant for bad business deals.
Now we need to understand that isolated instances of waking up in the night, staying home from a date, or lending/giving money are not necessarily codependent behaviors. Codependency lurks in the inner pull which propels us onto the dance floor or compels us to act against our better interests.
How do we break the spell of that inner pull?
Maybe a first step is to become aware of ourselves and our needs. Maybe we learn to pay attention to the neglected dance partners – us. Maybe we begin to acknowledge the taste of wine we enjoy.
[Tweet “When our relationship dance is out of step, we don’t need a new partner.”]
What we really need is to change our response to the partner we already have.
Rather than give up wine, music and relationships, we need to learn a new way to relate to ourselves, and in the process, discover a healthier way to relate to others.
If you’re in Northern VA, and need help with a relationship problem, contact me. I’d love to help.
Wishing the best for your relationship,