Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Jan 16th 2010
Radio Show, "Stay Sane Now Show," with Claudine Struck
The term "Codependent" is repeatedly heard these days as a result of the addiction treatment contribution to psychotherapy. In terms of addictions, codependent refers to the fact that, in a relationship, the addict is helped to remain addicted by his or her partner. The non addicted partner unwittingly enables their lover to remain addicted in order to maintain the relationship.
In the larger context of relationships between intimate partners, codependency means that the enabling person will do almost anything to keep the their lover involved even when it is not good for either one of them. A good example would be the woman who is physically and verbally abused by their partner yet, suffers in silence out of fear of feeling rejected and becoming isolated.
You will hear me discuss codependency on a radio show I did on the Internet. It is important to state that this word, "codependent," is not in the DSM IV and therefore, is not a diagnostic term. As a result, the word remains very vague and open to interpretation.
It is my opinion that there is no difference between the word "codependent" and the term "love addiction." In my way of thinking, both terms refer to someone who will do tolerate any type of unacceptable behavior in order to keep their relationship alive. This includes staying with someone who gives little or not love or affection and never promises any kind of real commitment.
Certainly, codependent behaviors describe a person who is suffering from one of many possible personality disorders and low self esteem as well as depression. Their profile often includes a history of having witnessed and experienced abuse while going through childhood and adolescence.
After listening to the show, your comments, opinions and experiences are welcome and encouraged.
Claudine: You're listening to Stay Sane Now with your host, Claudine Struck. If you need some help getting through the week and feel that life isn't keeping you sane, send an email to the show, and we can address the issue right here. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, back to Claudine.
Welcome back to Stay Sane Now. This is Claudine Struck, your host. Today our show has been about codependency and love addiction. Are they the same? Are they separate? We're speaking with a series of experts, trying to help to us to de-code and understand these two pathologies and how to heal.
Our next guest is Dr. Allan Schwartz. He's a featured writer on Mentalhelp.net, a public service of the Centersite. Dr. Schwartz has been in private practice for more than 30 years and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Colorado. He received both his MSW and Ph.D. from Yeshiva University in New York. He is a certified psychoanalyst and graduated from the National Psychological Association of Psychoanalysts. Welcome, Dr. Schwartz.
Allan Schwartz: Thank you. Good to be here.
Claudine: Thank you for joining us today. So, I'm wondering if you can give me your theories in terms of what you think about codependency and love addiction. Are they the same topic, or do you feel they go hand-in-hand?
Allan Schwartz: In my opinion, they go hand-in-hand, They're really the same topic. The love addicted person is somebody who is codependent, which means that - remember the old song, "Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places?" That's what they're doing.
Claudine: So, how do you know the difference between the two?
Allan Schwartz: Well, a codependent person, you can call them love addicted. Look, all of us want to be in a loving relationship. Everybody wants to have a partner and to feel loved by the partner and be able to provide love to the partner. It fulfills a basic human need for a sense of belongingness and emotional fulfillment.
A codependent person, for a variety of reasons, is looking for the same thing that all of the rest of us are searching for, but from people who aren't able to provide it. Now, the rest of us will tell ourselves, "This isn't working," and move on. The codependent person continues to pour resources into a bad investment. They are convinced that if they could just change this other person, if they could just stick with them, if they could fix them, then the relationship will succeed, and they will have the love they want.
And what they do is they badger this other person who is not committed to the relationship, never really was. They don't listen to that information, and they continue to pour attention into it, make demands of the other person, demands that, right from the start, they find unreasonable. And as a result, this codependent person continues to feel rejected, frazzled, depressed, and yet is utterly unaware of what they themselves are doing.
Claudine: Well, that's a question of mine. If one has been functioning in this manner, how would they know to function any differently? And does this affect women and men in different ways?
Allan Schwartz: In my experience over the years in my therapy practice, it's predominantly women. I'm not sure I can answer the reason why for that, but there are some men who have shown up that way. But predominantly, I find that it's women, and ultimately, these women do find their way into therapy because they feel depressed and hopeless. I mean, how many times can a person suffer rejection? It finally dawns on them that something is wrong. Now, up until this point, they've blamed the other person, but when you have enough other persons, or when it's gone on long enough and there is enough pain, they come into therapy.
But I find in working with people like this in therapy, even though there's now an awareness that something is wrong, there is still a tendency to blame the other person and even to tell me that, "Look, I'll bring my lover into therapy. Maybe you can fix him." Or, if it's the other way, "you can fix us." Of course, that never works. And when I have agreed to see the two together, the other person shrugs their shoulders and says, "Look, she doesn't get it. I'm not interested. I don't want to marry," or "I don't want to spend more than once every other week with them. I don't want to feel tied down."
It's a part, really, of rather than codependence or addiction to love, this person is dealing with a personality disorder, and it's a disorder in which they have, going back to their childhood, suffered enormous amounts of rejection and even abuse. And in a way, what they succeed in producing is the self-fulfilling prophecy, where even if they start out with a person who maybe is interested, they become so dependent and so demanding that they really succeed in pushing the other person away and end up in exactly a repetition of the same situation where they feel rejected, hurt, out in the cold, and desperate the minute they're not feeling loved. It's very painful and it's very painful to watch it happen.
Claudine: So, do you feel that this is a generational legacy, and someone at some point in the generational legacy has to stop and make some changes?
Allan Schwartz: Someone has to stop and make some changes. I'm not sure what you mean by a generational legacy.
Claudine: Okay, let me rephrase it - a generational personality disorder. Because, naturally, if my mother is codependent, I've learned certain patterns and ways of existing that are transferred.
Allan Schwartz: Oh, I see. Yes, observational learning. You know, our parents are role models and yes, most definitely, a father or a mother who has been codependent this way… Yes, whether it's genetics or whether it's learning by observation, by having been shaped by this thing by watching my parent in this way, yes, I end up this way myself. I was also thinking generational in terms of… You know, it's very interesting when you read literature from the 19th century, when marriages were arranged, you don't find this kind of thing so much.
Claudine: Why is that?
Allan Schwartz: Because there wasn't this overriding anxiety to find a partner. And I'm not saying that it's better to have our parents select our partners for us, but today when there's much more freedom and much less family support, there's a great deal more anxiety about finding a partner. And I think that that plays into this type of personality, who starts out with a great deal of anxiety, feeling unloved, and very frightened that they'll never find anyone. But then there's the paradox. When they do find someone, they drive them away anyway. So it's hard. And this is something that they've learned from their parents.
Allan Schwartz: And they've learned it through watching parents where one is abusive to the other, or one or the other has been abusive to the child. You find it in families where there is a lot of substance abuse, weak fathers. Even for the boy or the girl, a weak and dependent father produces this sort of thing. It doesn't necessarily come from a daughter learning it from a mother. The role of the father is very important, and if there's a weak and dependent father, this can produce the same thing in the girl because the role model of the father is enormously important for her.
Claudine: So then, how do you protect your children?
Allan Schwartz: You protect your children - that's a very good question - by staying away from drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol don't mix with raising a family. By not engaging in blaming your spouse, but by working together towards finding solutions. I think that in an age where there is not a lot of family support for young couples, it's a good thing to go for marriage counseling. To find ways to be cooperative with one another.
It's interesting, this past weekend in the magazine section of the New York Times, there was a long article about a woman with a good marriage of 10 years. She and her husband are both journalists, and she thought, "Well, gee, let's go for marriage counseling to see if we could find even deeper happiness." Well, at the end, what she discovered - and they have children - is that the pursuit of happiness is the wrong pursuit, but rather it's a pursuit of getting along together with each other and discovered she has that with her husband.
They're able to communicate with each other, be open with each other and work together, and that's going to produce well-adjusted kids. I mean, sometimes there are going to be quarrels, but where there's constant quarreling and bickering, hostility and blaming, and it's never ending, it's not going to produce a sense of self-confidence and well-being in the children, who will then grow up themselves feeling frightened, insecure, dependent, and very pessimistic about relationships.
Claudine: Dr. Schwartz, I am wondering how our listeners can learn more and contact you.
Allan Schwartz: Well, I can be contacted a variety of ways. I can be contacted through Mentalhelp.net. My articles are there and my email connection. Or people can email me directly at my email address email@example.com.
Claudine: Repeat that again.
Allan Schwartz: D as in David, R as in Robert, A as in Allan, N as in Nathan, S as in Schwartz. Then Ph.D. At aol.com.
Claudine: Excellent. Thank you so much for sharing all of your wisdom with us today. We're going to stop here for a short break. We will be back. This is Stay Sane Now.
OK, Then... - Cathy - Jan 20th 2010
I have seen this then. Most memorable is the most recent. A married man who was not living with his wife had an affair with a single woman for 8 years. The single woman wanted the man to leave his wife and marry her. She was always complaining that he would never leave his wife and I do not believe that he planned to - he wanted his wife to love him. (I think this marriage was a marriage of convenience because they were both military and there are great advantages to that.) Finally the man becomes fed up with his wife and leaves her. He goes to the girlfriend and tells her that he has left his wife and wants to marry her. She tells him to get lost too late even though the relationship had continued up to this point. (I watched this over a two year period.) He ends up at my door after a two month absence and has lost tons of weight and says he has no reason to live if the girlfriend won't marry him. (Allan, could have used you there!) So the girlfriend gets a new boyfriend, this drives the old one crazier. She is engaged to the new boyfriend after a couple of months. We moved away. I was updated that shortly after, the engagement was canceled and the girlfriend ended up moving a little further north to be with the original boyfriend, the one that couldn't live without her. I have seen this a few times before where the girlfriend wants to marry for years, like 7 or 8, but finally when the guy becomes available "Well, he really doesn't want to marry me." So, I guess this is part of something I don't really need to make sense of. They all seem to deserve one another with the games they play.
But... - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Jan 18th 2010
Your comment has a lot of merit. The term "co dependent" is over used, very vague and, in reality, meaningless. That is why it is better to speak in terms of personality disorders, depression and many more more precise terms that have validity.
You are also correct about those women who have the luxury to leave a bad relationship. However, part of the difficulty in writing and talking about these issues is that there are numerous exceptions. No one description fits all kinds.
In tems of this radio interview, what was really being discussed had to do with people who are looking for partners and, as yet, have no children. These are single people who spend years dating and forever find permanency an elusive type of thing. In other words, these are not people who are married (here, too, there are exceptions) with children and being abused, but are people who are attempting to get a man to commit but her refuses. I have seen people stay in these unhappy relationships for years and not able to put an end to it. They are not even living together on any type of permanent basis.
So, the issue is not about abuse, strictly speaking, but about constantly pursuing unloving lovers.
But.... - Cathy - Jan 17th 2010
But, I see co-dependency being put on everyone that is in a bad relationship especially where an addiction is present on the part of one of the partners. This is not accurate, thereby, making "co-dependency" an over used and often inappropriate term. This is actually understandable since the majority of people making such statements do not understand the many issues that come into play when a partner does not have any supports to help them get out of a relationship. Oh yeah, a woman can leave with the kids and live on welfare but when you weigh being in a relationship and not feeling loved with living below the proverty level with your kids...also, I think they changed the term, like they have so many, to fool you into not knowing that they are calling you an "enabler" so, if you are a co-dependent, 20 years ago they would have said you were an "enabler". Everything is so simple when you have finances that enable you to take on the world.