We thank you, Lucy, Carol, Ellen and Kate for every inspirational triumph of the spirit.
Interview with Carla Romo
Your journey to writing this book took lots of self-work. How did you recognize and change your relationship patterns?
As I discuss in my book, 24-years-old was my big breaking point where I recognized I had these problems. It was to the point where it was staring at me so massively in my face that I was like, ‘Okay, I need to do something about this.’
The first step was getting out of my codependent my relationship. After my codependency breakup, I took some time to be with me.
Once I was out of codependent relationships, I knew it was important to give myself some space. So after another breakup, I decided: “I’m taking six months off of dating anything, no sex, no nothing.” And from there, it was a process.
I began by establishing a relationship with myself. I figured out what I needed, what I wanted, and what my boundaries were, and what communication should look like.
Once I was able to feel confident and good about who I was and what I was doing, then I could bring somebody else into my life. It wasn’t really until I took a step back to be alone, doing it by myself, that I could be like, “Okay, it’s game time. Now I can start dating.”
I was used to dating a certain type of person for so long. It was very uncomfortable for me to step into this new space of dating—to be in a relationship with somebody who was taking care of themselves and wasn’t emotionally disturbed or whatever it was that brought on my codependency.
It’s always a process! I look at this as a series of resets. It’s not just one time and it’s done.
Ask yourself: “how do I apply this throughout my life?” Because life is a marathon. You’re always growing and changing and establishing and learning.
What are the warning signs of a codependent relationship?
There’s not one standard definition for codependency.
The way I would explain codependency is this: you are in an intimate relationship with somebody (and this can be applied to work, friendships, family, or anything) and the relationship gets to the point where you lose a sense of yourself.
Codependency is when you’re so focused on the other person’s needs, wants, emotions, and what they’re going through that you actually neglect your own. Instead of taking care of yourself, you focus on taking care of someone else.
That is where you lose that sense of yourself.
How does pop culture reinforce our codependent relationships?
I was sitting in my therapist’s office, years ago, and I said, “All of these TV shows and movies act like codependency is love and this is how it should be. It’s so unhealthy.”
She agreed, and said, “Look at Twilight. That is a perfect codependent relationship.”
Or even The Notebook. People love that movie, but whoa that was so unhealthy! The girl is legitimately cheating on her fiancé, there are no boundaries and he’s just going after her like a crazy person.
In regards to pop culture, codependency is normalized. You get the sense that if the man wants you, he’s going to chase you.
I’d say in pop culture has played a role in creating codependency. Up to 90% of U.S. population is codependent. I think a lot of people put their fantasies out there in pop culture, and it’s really dysfunctional and unhealthy.
Parents can set the example. Teach kids about the importance of having your own sense of self. You have your own hobbies, you can stick up for yourself, you can tell people what you want, and you can speak your mind.
Because ultimately, you’ve only got the relationship with yourself, regardless of who the person you are dating is–you have no control over them.
It’s about establishing that relationship within, and being able to create a life that you want, and finding a way to be independent, while also creating a way to have a connection.
Don’t become so independent that you are isolating yourself.
What are some clear “ah-ha moments” that people can spot codependency in their own relationships? When you have an ah-ha moment, what’s the best thing to do next?
The number one ah-ha is when you can’t figure out why they’re in the relationship anymore.
Another is crying all the time and not understanding why. When you feel extremely emotional about the relationship.
Usually, codependents know if the relationship should be over.
You have to make a commitment to yourself of what you’re going to do. And then you can’t break that commitment, because that’s establishing the trust with yourself.
And you need to be able to follow through with that. Being able to trust yourself and follow-through is empowering, but it’s also fucking scary.
So establishing that trust, using it as a foundation, building blocks, of being able to then eventually end that relationship and decide when to do it.
Can you give some practical advice about setting boundaries in a relationship?
Keep your own schedule.
Create boundaries by implementing your own schedule. Start by finding a hobby!
Practice saying “no” early on.
It’s very exciting to be infatuated with someone. That’s a great way to set boundaries because you’re sticking to what you want and what you need.
Really think about it: what is it that you want out of a partner? And if there is a deal-breaker in the relationship, act on it.
Get a life!
If you’re in a long term relationship, focusing on yourself is a good way to create a boundary. If you’re in a long-term codependent relationship, you’re most likely not so focused on your life.
What are the best resources, both online and offline, for people looking to do the self-work necessary to break out of codependent relationship patterns?
12 Step programs are a great way for people to go at their own pace and find people that are going through something similar.
Of course, therapy or counseling are great resources and self-help books can be a huge help.
And also, hire a coach. I work with a lot of codependents. Reaching out, learning the tools, and getting help are all very effective.
If somebody is reading this article and had an “ah-ha moment” about their own relationships, what is something they can do *right now* to start changing their lives?
I would say start journaling. Start journaling about what your “aha” was and what’s coming up for you. And then seek help.
I look at the “a-ha moment” as an awareness. Get it down on paper and journal it out and really allow yourself time to think about it.
And then from there, reach out for professional help, whether it’s a coach, therapist, counselor, or 12 Step program. Find ways to help yourself.
What's your take?
Interview with Carla Romo