Every month, Women’s Republic will write a letter to its female readers, aiming to empower women by having honest conversations about how we subconsciously put men on a pedestal. The series will help women to de-center themselves from the men in their lives, unlock their ‘shakti’ (power) and re-focus their energies on enhancing their own mental and physical wellbeing. Please reach out to us if you want something covered or have a question you’d like us to answer.
You may have heard of the term dependence or dependent, but have you heard of the term codependency? Well, look no further, because this is what we’ll be discussing in this month’s letter.
Codependency is defined as an ‘excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner.’ Psychologically, it is defined as a behavioral condition in where one person enables another person’s ‘addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement.’
At first glance, it may seem as if the concept isn’t so relevant, since we don’t all have partners with addictions/conditions.
Whilst that’s true, I want you to know that patterns of codependency can be common in a lot of relationships – and can go unnoticed if it is not spotted sooner.
Have you ever gone out of your way for someone, only to feel deeply hurt that the same effort couldn’t be returned? Have you ever tried to take care of someone and their problems, burning yourself out in the process? Along with these experiences, any feelings of fear, anxiety, paranoia, and loneliness?
I’m sure there must have been at least one person that came to mind, or maybe even several. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but were you thinking of a man?
If you were, you’re not the only one.
Women’s Republic conducted a poll asking its readers to identify the different ways in which they’ve experienced codependency in relationships with men.
Of the four options that were listed, ‘being quick to say yes’ and ‘giving more/getting less’ were the most popular choices. Let me further clarify what it means to experience the two in our interactions with men;
- ‘Being quick to say yes’ – The freedom to say no has always been and still continues to be snatched away from women – leaving us afraid to make the choices we actually want to make. Being the first to ‘say yes,’ stems from the ways in which women have been conditioned to please men, be it in romantic relationships and even in our family/friendship circles.
- Giving more/getting less’ – Women are characterized continuously as more emotional than men. This has proved problematic for women and men alike; women often bear the pressures of displaying love and affection in relationships while men who are more emotionally in-tune with themselves, are mocked for being feminine. From romantic movies to novels, the reputation of women as ‘love-sick’ does nothing to support them in real life.
Women have always been taught to depend on men – and it’s shown covertly. When girls watch or read fairy-tales and princess stories, the main takeaway is to wait for our Prince Charming to rescue us from the monotony of life. Instead, girls end up becoming dependent and hell-bent on rescuing said, Prince Charming.
So how do we un-learn to be dependent?
It won’t happen, over-night. After all, we’re talking about years of being conditioned to behave in a certain way. So please do not feel guilty for repeating some of the patterns we’ve discussed. But we can change if we learn to view ourselves as completely separate entities to the men around us.
- Learn to be selfish – I use the word ‘selfish‘ deliberately as I know women are often made to feel guilty for thinking about themselves. See giving/receiving as a recipe for baking; too much of one thing will affect the end result. And remember, I’m talking about ourselves as the end result, not our relationships – we are the cake we are working on, not the men in our lives!
- Don’t put men (or any human being) on a pedestal – We’re taught to do exactly this, which is where most of our problems stem from. Inputting others on a pedestal, we are devaluing ourselves. Understand that every person has strengths and weaknesses, even our loved ones. And accept that we can’t always fix others.
- Match your affection – Love is a beautiful thing. But it’s not limited to loving others. When you show affection to your father, brother, friend, or partner – double the amount of affection you show yourself. In taking care of men, women forget to take care of themselves. No one will ever truly be able to love us the way we can love ourselves.
DISCLAIMER: There is a thin line between abuse and the obnoxious behavior that men are prone to. Be aware of this. Practicing detachment from male relationships/interactions will allow you to prioritize your physical and mental well being, without wearing yourself out by ‘loving in excess.’
I’m going to leave a quote here by feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, for you to ponder over.
‘Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage, I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support, but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage, but we don’t teach boys the same?We Should All Be Feminists
Recognize your Shakti (power) ladies. Once you do, I can assure you that you won’t need much else.
Until next time,