Unhealthy Attachment? Codependency?
It was never the plan. I was as free as a bird and enjoying my new life after my nest emptied. Frequent travel, a budding writing career, and an empowering new church home occupied my time. That is until seven months ago. Something dramatically changed. It arrived in the form of six extra pounds that I carry around -- on the outside of my body. Of course I’m talking about my adorable dog Toto. He has positively impacted my life with unconditional love and laughter as well as 24/7 companionship. And I have changed his for the better as well. We have an incredible bond and it’s wonderful, but ...
Toto can’t survive without me! I’ve actually cancelled trips, skipped social activities, and still continue to make adjustments to my schedule to accommodate our beloved new family member. Recently a friend’s comment that I was no longer an empty nester caught my attention and got me thinking: “Does Toto have an unhealthy attachment to me and possibly vice versa? Has our relationship drifted into a codependency?” According to one definition, codependency is “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.” Excessive reliance? Indeed!
The problem is that I’m pretty sure Toto likes the situation just as it is. Counseling is also not an option -- there would likely be more barking than talking. I love Toto, but I need a better balance. I miss the freedom I had BT (Before Toto) -- weekend escapes, beach vacations, even day trips have now become a challenge. Toto needs to be empowered to become more independent and comfortable around others besides myself. In fact, I’m actually doing him a disservice by enabling this codependency. If something would happen to me, I’m sure it would result in yet another traumatic experience for my tiny rescue dog.
Codependency is a serious issue that can lead to strained relationships, underachievement, irresponsibility, immaturity, addiction, and health issues. One barrier to getting help is often naming and claiming it, because there is confusion surrounding this dysfunctional relationship characterization. “Popular definitions of codependence are so broad that Jesus would be classified as codependent,” according to Psychology Today’s contributing writer Shawn Burn.
So, I have decided to publicly name and claim my issue with Toto and am doing something about it. And as far as Jesus goes, I believe that He was not codependent but fully dependent on God for His power -- for life-giving purposes. He interacted with others, not in an unhealthy way but in an empowering, intentional way. And I seek to do the same -- with all of those in my life, even the furry ones.
Do you have any unhealthy attachments that are creeping into codependencies?
Cesar Millan to the rescue!