I’ve always preferred being a “me” instead of a “we.”
I pride myself on being an independent person, and someone who actually enjoys being single and doesn’t need a relationship to be happy. I consider myself a hard worker and driven personality. I prefer not to get distracted by those pesky things called "feelings."
While all of these are qualities I like about myself, I began to question why my sense of independence felt jeopardized every time I found myself in a relationship.
To me, single means safety and relationship equals dangerous.
My whole life I trained myself to not get too attached and to keep people at a comfortable distance, even when I had feelings for them. Sometimes I do it in obvious ways, such as acting uninterested when, in fact, that is not the case. Other times it’s more subconscious, such as only choosing to date people I don’t see a real future with.
After all, it's much easier to mask our own commitment issues underneath someone else's. This way, if it doesn’t work out, it confirms my misguided belief that relationships are, in fact, dangerous. I am able to get out of it with a scratch, rather than a gaping wound.
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy; it’s my uncomfortable, comfort zone.
If you’re anything like me, you probably never even considered the possibility that you could, in any way, be codependent. How could someone who prefers to be alone simultaneously be someone who can’t be alone?
Turns out, there is another type of codependency that no one talks about: counter-dependency. Though manifested in different ways, both codependency and counter-dependency are products of fear. Here are some of the major differences:
1. Codependents have a crippling fear of being alone; counter-dependents have a crippling fear of rejection.
Because being alone seems more dangerous than being rejected, codependent people are more likely to chase. In other words, spending a Friday night alone is scarier than reaching out to someone you're interested in.
To me, however, a text message that even says, "Hey, what are you doing tonight?" to a guy I like will take me 10 minutes to craft, 10 minutes to actually send and several motivational speeches.
Mind you, I am a stand-up comic and routinely go on stage and bare my soul to complete strangers. One text message, though? Nope. TOO SCARY.
As soon as I know I will care about someone's response, the less likely I am to reach out. Friends argue, "Just text him; you've got nothing to lose! What's the worst that could happen? He doesn't answer?" Um... YEAH! And then I have to spend the rest of the night feeling vulnerable. No, thanks.
For the record, this is something I am actively working on.
The truth is the stakes are only as high as we create them to be in our minds. I have found that just like conquering any fear, the more you do it, the easier it gets. We can never make a true connection if we are too busy projecting our own rejection. That sentence is really fun to say out loud.
2. Codependents think they need others more than they actually do; counter-dependents think they need others less than they actually do.
Humans were designed to depend on each other, to an extent. People who are codependent operate under the mistaken notion that they need to be in a relationship to be feel good about themselves, essentially giving someone else control over their self-esteem and emotional wellbeing.
Counter-dependents, however, do not know how to accept that needing people in their lives is an essential part of a happy, fulfilled lifestyle. In other words, they are needy people who pretend not to need anyone.
3. Codependents see relationships as a safety net; counter-dependents see relationships as a source of danger.
You see this in people who are serial monogamists. A lot of the time they go from relationship to relationship not because they are just striking gold every time, but because they are using a relationship to escape whatever it is they are running from.
Counter-dependents appear to feel secure on their own, but on the inside, they feel weak and vulnerable.
4. When codependents feel insecure, they chase; when counter-dependents feel insecure, they run.
You either feel like a stage-five clinger or a robot void of the ability to feel human emotion. It is important to stress that codependents do not necessarily feel needier than counter-dependents. They simply react externally; whereas the latter reacts internally, bottling the feeling up rather than acting on it.
5. Codependents ignore red flags; counter-dependents create them.
Because codependents feel safer in relationships, they often do anything they can to stay in them, which sometimes means minimizing mistreatment, emotional abuse or ignoring major red flags.
If they were to admit this, they would have to stand up for themselves, which might mean risking the relationship. For fear of pushing the other person away, they often attempt to stick it out, change or fix their partner.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, counter-dependents often create red flags as a defense mechanism. For example, a counter-dependent may interpret his or her partner being busy as a sign of rejection. If a counter-dependent can identify a problem before someone gets too close, he or she can remain at a comfortable distance.
Counter-dependents have a tendency to prefer to do the abandoning before they can be abandoned, which they mistakenly see as inevitable. Codependents see the version of the relationship they want to see, while counter-dependents see the version of the relationship they are afraid of.
The challenge for both is to find a medium. Codependents must learn to be secure on their own before they can enter into a healthy relationship, and counter-dependents need to learn to be secure with someone so they can actually experience a healthy relationship.
Unfortunately this requires taking a harsh look at where our disproportionate fears come from. In other words, sometimes in life, you have to deal with your sh*t, and no person or relationship can do that for you. Sorry to break up your party of one.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It