Codependents love to give. It is what they do, continually. As I have mentioned in previous posts, this giving comes with an element of return… giving for codependents means having control and they try to keep that status quo. However, despite these attempts, it sometimes goes wrong and a decision needs to be made… a decision that some find easier to make than others.
For a codependent, letting go of the object of their desires is more than a just decision about the relationship. It is also about being alone and potentially starting again. These factors are usually the very things that keep them from finding the strength to end something that is not working for them. Ultimately, the decision is often taken out of their hands and they are left, leaving them feeling rejected and worthless, blaming themselves and feeling guilty. The reaction is to try even harder to hold onto what is lost rather than move on. Moving on seems impossible. They have in their eyes, suffered the greatest loss of all. In effect, they have lost a place to constantly focus on giving, sacrificing and martyring, and they feel lost without it. This often drives them to depression or the quick search for the next relationship.
This is a very confusing time for a codependent. After giving so much, how could anyone leave me? What could I have done differently? Will I ever love again? Just some of the thoughts I have heard in therapy with codependents. They often fail to realize that the breakup was inevitable due to the partner they chose. A partner who may have taken all he or she needed to that point. However, codependents like to think they can change people and continue to try long after it is clear that this will not happen. They throw all they have at this and more and are destined for disappointment. Often, the remedy is to face the very things they fear the most… being alone. This does not mean forever but for long enough to work on themselves looking at the root cause of their codependency and reframing it. Learning to improve self-esteem and tools such as boundary settings.
Codependents are easier to work with in therapy because they have an attitude of self-blame. They blame themselves and take responsibility for others… too much. Once they can be taught that they have a separate identity to their “object” which needs love and protection, they can recover. It is sometimes just the case that giving needs to be turned inward when the right conditions exist.