Sometimes people mistake the milk of human kindness for co-dependency. Thus, when co-dependent women start to recover, the pendulum swings the other way and they become determined not to “caretake” or to give away too much. They don’t want to offer care unless someone asks. This is fine, and for some a necessary part of the recovery, but some distinctions are in order.
Empathy, sensitivity, care, compassion, and tenderness are wonderful traits. Being deeply involved and nurturing in a relationship can reflect a person’s wonderful capacity for intimacy. The ability to protect and care for children is a skill to be highly valued. When you comfort someone in need, you bestow a precious gift. Tuning in to the needs of others is beautiful. The codependent woman does not need to get rid of these abilities; she needs to learn to recognize her motivation and to bestow these gifts on herself.
Her behavior becomes codependent only when carried out with a hidden agenda—to look good, to have her partner indebted, or to feel superior. Then it is not love and nurture.
Calling up someone whom you know is hurting and saying, “How are you doing?” is a caring gesture. Too often women attempting to recover from co-dependency think that they shouldn’t reach out, that the other person is always supposed to ask first.
The easiest way to distinguish between co-dependency and genuine care is to examine your motivation. If you are about to do something because you think you should, or because you need to reinforce you image of yourself as a good person, or you are keeping score and expect something in return, you might experiment by not doing it and see how you feel. If, on the other hand, you are acting out of simple caring and concern, without negating your own needs, by all means reach out. That’s what love is about. That’s what will heal the world.
I would like to see the term love addiction dropped from the vocabulary. People may be addicted to euphoria, romance, people, security, but they can’t be addicted to love. It’s like saying one is addicted breathing clean air: that can’t be, for there’s enough and it’s right there and there are no side effects. Similarly, there are no harmful consequences to love and there can’t be too much of it. We don’t have to work hard to breath deeply.; we just relax and it comes. We find love by learning to tell the truth, by surrendering to our calling, by having discipline in our lives, by operating from faith. No one loves too much.
Love is the ultimate joy.