Some life lessons are learned all at once, but more often they are learned over time. For example, I was told during my hospitalization at the beginning of the school year that I had a codependency problem, but it wasn’t until the end of December that I truly grasped how pervasive the problem was. Through therapy, I’ve been able to start correcting my thought patterns and behaviors. Part of correcting these thought patterns is increasing my awareness. I think I’ve stumbled upon a culture of codependency.
The media glamorizes codependency. From a young age, we hear phrases such as “your better half,” “he completes me,” “I need you.” These are not healthy messages! I know I’m biased, but I think my parents did an excellent job raising me. However, I still felt less valuable when I was the girl without a boyfriend. I thought having someone to kiss you and text you goodnight meant that somehow you were worth more.
I believe relationships have their place in the happiness equation, but relationships do not equal happiness. Truthfully, I was too sick and unreliable for all of my past relationships. I do not regret them, but I know that things would have been better if I hadn’t been dependent on my significant other for happiness. I remember scaring the crap out of my sophomore boyfriend by telling him he was “my everything” when he kissed me goodbye one day. That’s a lot of pressure for a teenage boy! That’s too much pressure for anyone, really. Now there are knights in shining armor who claim they can handle it, but this creates a broken cycle of codependency.
Let me demonstrate with a metaphor my therapist at the hospital used:
When two healthy people are in a relationship, each person has their own friends, interests, and hobbies. One plus one equals two.
When two people are depending on each other for happiness, they are broken. They are halves. A half plus a half equals one. Not two.
I have been half a Milkbone for too long. After the hospitalization, I broke up with Chris so that I could repair myself and become whole. But I didn’t do that. I sought out other relationships because I was terrified of being alone. I didn’t value myself. I thought that I was only worth what a boyfriend would appreciate.
This year, I am fully committed to taking care of myself and developing healthy self-esteem. Right now, a boyfriend does not fit into that picture. My values are changing, and I no longer see having a significant other as being of the utmost importance. I know multiple powerful women who are successful, funny, and happy – without being in a relationship!
I hope that eventually our culture reflects the need for healthy relationship role models. I hope that relationships are seen as the synergy of two exciting individuals, not the fusion of two sick people that are grasping for meaning in each other. We need to spread messages of strength, self-worth, and independence to young people. I believe that by doing so, we will be promoting mental health and wellness. And in my book, that’s always a worthy cause.
Sisi, thanks for contributing the treats for this post.
This post is dedicated to my friend, Magalie. She was a powerful voice of reason this semester when I was going through boy troubles. I admire her honesty and appreciate her friendship.