I recently read Gary Chapman’s best-selling book, The 5 Love Languages. In it, he lists what he believes are the ways people give and receive love and affection.
He says that some people need to receive ‘Words of Affirmation,’ such as, “I really appreciate you taking out the garbage, babe,”or, “You look beautiful in that dress.”
Other’s receive and express love by ‘Spending Quality Time Together.’ No kids, no phones, no laptops or movies, just spending time together sharing and talking.
Third is, ‘Receiving Gifts.’ Those little shows of endearment. They say, “I was thinking of you. You’re important to me.”
His fourth love language is, ‘Acts of Service,’ things like, when your partner puts gas in your car, or takes care of the bills.
Finally, he lists, ‘Physical Touch,’ as his fifth love language. Many people need that intimate touching to feel special and loved by their partners.
You’re Supposed to Know
It’s important for couples to learn about what makes each of them feel special and loved. But what happens when you aren’t able to communicate what you need to your partner?
Enter the Codependent. Codependents have a different way of communicating with their loved ones. I call it the, ‘If you love me, you’re already supposed to know what I need and if you don’t already know, by the 30 hints I’ve dropped, I’m not going to tell you,’ love language.
A healthy person, to get their needs met, they first have to be able to express what their needs are and they have an expectation that those needs will be met. A codependent expects their partner to already know what they want and are disappointed and even resentful when their partners haven’t picked up on the hints, clues and smoke signals they’ve left behind. They choose this option rather than stating directly what they want or need, because they are so good at reading people, they expect the same of others. They’ve also been taught to feel shame for having and expressing their needs, so it’s as though it’s been programmed right out of them.
Shame, guilt and manipulation are the languages of Codependency. They are the tools that they use to get their needs met. It’s easy to think of their partners, the emotional manipulators, as the perpetrators of abuse and to think of the codependent as the consummate victim, but this is what they know and indicative of their dysfunctional communication skills.
What they do is, they try to shame and guilt their partner by playing the perpetual victim, the martyr, who has put up with so much and shame on you, for not meeting their needs – even though they haven’t told you what they are. They’re hoping that their partner will see and acknowledge that there is an IOU in their emotional-currency bank account and they want a payout somewhere down the line.
The problem is, if you’re dealing with an emotional manipulator, they will never acknowledge that debt and that bank account will be in a continual deficit. On top of that, the Codependent’s constant displeasure will have their partner feeling like they can never get it right or make them happy and so instead of bringing their loved one closer, this behavior actually drives them further away.
A healthy person, dating a codependent, just won’t play that guessing game. They’re direct and have no problem expressing themselves and they generally don’t comprehend why someone would have trouble asking for what they want and they have no interest in never being able to make someone happy.
The Codependent, desperately wants to be loved and acknowledged by their partners, but they never tend to get what they want, because shaming and guilting just aren’t effective ways to get your needs met.
Resentment This Way
When we don’t see revenue coming in to our emotional bank accounts, we get resentful and that resentment expresses itself in passive aggressive behavior. We may say things like – “I was going to get you Laker tickets for your birthday, but considering the way things are, I didn’t bother. Statements like this imply victimhood with a dash of shame.
The jabs may become more vicious as time goes on, “Do you think you could pick up the kids and stay out of the pub, for once in your life?”
“Yeah you look nice all dressed up in that suit and shirt that I bought for you.”
When anger and resentment enter the scene, the relationship is in trouble. When you’ve got two people who don’t know how to communicate, one that is constantly thinking of others, the other constantly thinking of themselves, a huge deficit in the emotional bank account and both oblivious or in denial, dysfunction has entered the building.
The Queen Martyrdom
I remember always feeling hurt, let down and unappreciated. His nickname for me was Chi and I would walk around daily saying things like,“Poor Chi.” What I was trying to express to him was, “Look it’s all about you again. I’m being victimized again. You owe me.” But as usual – Message Not Received, because I didn’t know how to send the message. I was never taught. I had no role models to tell me that I deserved to have my needs met, nor did I have someone show me what healthy communication looked like
Codependents feel uncomfortably, comfortable being Martyrs. It’s what they know. The wounded child lashes out in its adult body, but lacks the emotional maturity and the coping skills to express themselves effectively.
Keys to Healthy Communication
- Awareness – Notice the dysfunctional communication patterns.
- Let Go of Fear – Say it. Just do it. What’s the worse that can happen? If you expressing your needs is too much for someone, then it wasn’t meant to be.
- Practice being Direct – Get in the habit of saying what you want and need – again and again. Let it become your habitual way of being.
- Raise Your Level of Expectation – Behavior/consequence. If your needs aren’t being met then take action. Don’t allow yourself to be mistreated. Don’t acclimate yourself to the abuse. Take action.
- Raise Your Self-Esteem – Know that you matter. Your needs matter. You’re important. Don’t waste your time with someone who you have to constantly remind of your value. If they can’t see it, hold out for someone who can.
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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at freedigitalphotos.net