So I stayed 18 years with an abusive spouse. That’s 18 years of waking up every day to criticism and cut-downs. That’s 18 years of feeling scared, getting hit, sometimes calling the police, sometimes running away. That’s 18 years of getting mad, then doing “sabr” as I understood it.
Sabr, or patience with the Will of God, does not mean enduring abuse. After five years, I realized that I was being abused. It took 13 more years to understand that I did not have to take the abuse. Three years after divorce I first heard the word “codependent”.
What is this “Dependency”?
Codependency is an addiction to people and love. A person who has this is dependent on others, mentally. They don’t think they can survive without their spouse or parents. Sometimes we are dependent on other relatives, friends, or even colleagues.
Expert Pia Mellody defines codependency as a disease of immaturity. That means it began in childhood. When you were a child, it is likely that you felt abandoned, in one way or another. You developed the immature idea that you needed someone to be with you, to complete you, to make you safe in the world. You made this person your God, your Higher Power. The first people to be our gods were our parents.
Perhaps your parent(s) or guardians were typical immigrants like mine. They didn’t know about emotional intelligence or how to teach it. Such parents thought that working hard and keeping the kids healthy, clean and fed, was all that there was to parenting. We had very little emotional connection. Between themselves, they did not show affection, and in fact argued more often than not, sometimes with violence. As immigrants, they were also cut off from extended family and had no community to turn to. So I truly felt it was my job as the good eldest child to keep the family together and to bring happiness to my parents. Society and culture also taught me that as a woman, I must solely find success through relationships. My career was secondary.
Mellody’s workbook on codependency uses the 12 steps and helped me recall my childhood. In doing so, I was able to identify and think through many of my unexplored beliefs and feelings. All the beliefs that I shared in the last paragraph used to be unconscious. Plus, there were incidents that I saw differently as a child. What it did to me when my mother called me ugly. How my father was absent in many ways. God bless them, but sometimes parents and adults do things that children interpret as abandonment or engulfment.
Engulfment is the opposite of abandonment, and it can also produce codependency. Parents that overwhelm you with their emotional issues can turn you into a Love Avoidant, so you run at the first sign of intimacy. Typically, men become Avoidants, and women become Love Addicts who run after love in fear of abandonment.
It’s An Addiction. Act Accordingly.
When children feel neglected or engulfed, even if that was not the intention of the adult, children will develop immature ways to protect and save themselves. Those ideas we formed as children are the basis of “love addiction”. The world’s most successful addiction recovery method is called the 12 Step Program. It has been used for every addiction, but started out with Alcoholics Anonymous.
When applied to depending on others, the 12 Step Program starts with the idea that all humans who are in addiction have confused the issue of who is the Higher Power/God/Life Force. And part of recovery means changing what you believe about Him.
Do This Activity To Start
The first step is to come out of denial and admit that there was co-dependency in your life. You can do this as a writing exercise right now.
When you start to examine all your relationships, you begin to notice how you made the other person your Higher Power. Let’s say you think you depend on God, but do you really?? If you think that another person is your provider, your source of income and support, and you won’t survive on your own without them, then you have made that person your God. And that is a form of “shirk”, a form of disbelief in God.
So let’s list every codependent relationship in your life, starting from childhood and ending with the current one. For each person that you are listing, note how you did these things:
1. Thought of them as your Higher Power or god
2. Gave them too much time, value, and attention
3. Had unrealistic expectations that they would love you
4. Felt abandoned by an addiction of their own
Hopefully you will begin to see where you stopped valuing and caring for yourself, and where you stopped relying on the Higher Power that is eternal and Dependable.
Bringing your heart back to Him is the essence of the way to bring yourself out of co-dependence. Not all your love will go to Him nor can you forget all humans. But if you are loving others for His Sake, and loving yourself for His Sake, then you have started to walk on the right path to healthy relationships.
Are You Subscribed?
Don’t miss another issue of Leading To Love Magazine.
Receive MORE. In each issue, you will find quotes, more articles, and recommended books. Get on the path to a better future.
Jehan founded this magazine and site to help Muslim women and men learn to stay away from abusers, to strengthen their relationship with Allah SWT and to find better healthier relationships.