Sunday, January 27, 2008

When in an Adult Loving Relationship, Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself

It is reasonable to assume that when we are in an adult loving relationship we attend to (and take care of) our significant other. At the same time, however, it is important to assure that we don’t carry our caring to an extreme – that’s typically called “codependency.”

Codependence (or codependency) is a popular psychology concept popularized by Twelve-Step program advocates. A “codependent” is loosely defined as someone who exhibits too much, and often inappropriate, caring for persons who depend on him or her. A “codependent” is one side of a relationship between mutually needy people. The “dependent” or obviously needy party(s) may have emotional, physical, financial difficulties, or addictions they seemingly are unable to surmount. The “codependent” party exhibits behavior which controls, makes excuses for, pities, and takes other actions to perpetuate the obviously needy party’s condition, because of their desire to be needed and fear of doing anything that would change the relationship.

I frequently have recommended an excellent self-help book published in 2002 by Jordan Paul and Margaret Paul: Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved by You? (Second Edition, Paperback). And in case you are struggling with the answer, I typically have two answers to the question: (1) “No,” and (2) “Run!”

As many of you know, a good friend and colleague (Dr. William A. Lambos) and I currently are writing the 2d Edition to my 1997 self-help book, Adult Loving Relationships. We have almost totally completed the first draft of the 2nd Edition, and in Chapter One – Self Analysis we have a subheading, “The Importance of Me.” In that section of the chapter we address the importance of paying attention to yourself while in an adult loving relationship. Below is a pertinent part of that section:


It is our contention that there are three things that we pay attention to when we are involved in an adult loving relationship: (1) ourselves; (2) the other person; and (3) the relationship we create and maintain. We will be discussing these in greater detail later in the book. If you will notice, however, we begin with the importance of paying attention to ourselves. This is critical. We are not suggesting, however, that we should be narcissistically involved in ourselves to the extent that we are unaware of the other person or our relationship with him or her.

When we talk with our clients, we frequently ask them if they have ever been in an airplane. We remind them that what typically occurs is that while the plane is taxiing out to the runway the flight attendant stands up front and gives specific instructions regarding what to do in case of an emergency. The flight attendant says, “Should an unexpected reduction in oxygen occur in the cabin, oxygen masks will come down from the ceiling.” The attendant also tells us that if we are traveling with a small child, we are to put our own mask on first. There are many reasons for this – primarily, we must make sure that we are able to take care of the child. In the adult loving relationships in which we have been involved, we have frequently wondered: If the other person is not able to take care of himself or herself, how could he or she possibly take care of me?

In an adult loving relationship, the most important thing that you offer to the other person is yourself. We assume that if you love the other person you would want to give him or her things that are good, things that are the best that they could be. Therefore, if the most important thing you offer the other person is yourself, it intuitively would make sense that you would want to be the best that you could be. The bottom line is that when you are in the process of attending to various, important aspects and considerations of an adult loving relationship, it is important make sure to always be aware of yourself.


Question: If you are in an adult loving relationship, what do you do to attend to and take care of yourself?


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