When we talk about getting your needs met and relying on others, we are often met with the cry, “But isn’t that being codependent?” The very opposite is true.
Codependency means being at the mercy of someone’s addictive or dysfunctional behavior and not challenging it. Basing a relationship around healthy needs prevents codependency and also allows interdependency.
Interdependency is your natural state. It is a state in which you can rely on others to meet your needs and you don’t have to battle the world alone. You are supported in every aspect of your life to be the person you want to be and to accomplish what you want to accomplish. You are empowered because you draw on the power of others who, at the very least, care for you and respect you, and at the very best, share your hopes, dreams, concerns, and goals.
When you change the basis of your relationships, you break the cycle of codependency and offer other people the opportunity to heal. You invite them into a functional interdependence.
Both Marty’s and Stan’s dysfunctional behaviors had played into and exacerbated their unhealthy codependency. Marty’s refusal to back down seemed to have a therapeutic effect on Stan as well. His brain had perceived Marty as his mother, whom his father heavily criticized and shouted at. He became his father when he acted similarly toward Marty. When Marty stopped accepting such behavior, she ceased to play the role of his mother. His brain was forced to create a different relationship template for this new woman in his life—his wife.
An even greater shake-up occurred when Marty asked Stan to tell her what he needed of her. This was much harder for him to do than even meeting her needs.
He countered with many of the typical objections including: “But she should know what I want! If I have to ask, where’s the romance, the spontaneity, what’s the point?”
When someone keeps you guessing about what he needs or wants, it’s a form of control. Driven by an unconscious fear of abandonment, you may well try harder to please him, but he can simply move the goalposts and ensure that you always fall short. The ongoing sense of failure can cause your self-esteem to plummet, your program to take over, and the relationship to rapidly head south.
Have you ever asked someone—your spouse or your mother-in-law, for example—what she wanted for her birthday and been answered with, “Oh, nothing much”? If you did as she asked, perhaps an anguished “You should have known I didn’t mean it!” or pained silence was the result. Wouldn’t it have been better to receive a straightforward, specific request?
Having a clear map of what the other person needs and expects can be a great relief. Once you have honestly given each other your clear and functional needs and reached a satisfactory agreement regarding what each of you will and won’t do, the relationship can’t fail. (We use the term “to give” someone your needs because it is a gift—the basis for a functional, lasting relationship with you.) You don’t need to fear being left if you are meeting the other person’s needs.
You don’t need to worry about doing the wrong thing or feeling guilty, as long as you are doing what you’ve agreed to do. You don’t need to fight or argue, as long as you stick to the accord. Guilt, fear, or arguments may have been part of your childhood and helped form your program. Once these things are removed, your dysfunctional program will lose its power.
Even Stan came to see the benefits of the needs process. “When Stan started giving me needs, I realized I’d been critical in my own, rather underhanded ways,” admits Marty.
“Now he tells me when he feels put down and we talk about it. What’s even more amazing is that he’s followed my lead and begun setting boundaries with his own family. It turned out he didn’t want to be controlled by them either; he’d just gotten caught in his program!”
Marty’s relationship and depression turnaround were due to a simple but revolutionary six-part process. We’ll guide you through it over the following posts.
Source Credits: Creating Optimism: A Proven, 7-Step Program for Overcoming Depression, Based on the popular Uplift program, written by Bob Murray Ph. D., and Alicia Fortinberry, published by Mcgraw-Hill