Language and Codependency: Changing how we talk about love

Updated: Feb 18, 2020

Ever watched a movie, tv show, or experienced the real-life scenario of hearing someone say these words “You complete me.”? You probably thought, “How sweet!” and aspired to have that #relationshipgoals kind of love.

While for some, this type of phrase is more of a term of endearment and nothing more, for others, it may be truly something they feel in the pit of their stomach and it for these folks that it is problematic. The idea of someone “completing us” can be linked to codependency for a number of reasons which we’ll get into shortly.

First off, I want to be clear in explaining that the point of this article is to bring awareness to the relationship between language and perception as it relates to codependent relationships or those who are at high risk for connecting through this dynamic. In looking at this issue, it is my hope those experiencing these types of relationships can gain some insight and feel more empowered in their lives and the future of their relationship with themselves and others.

Let’s start with the language, shall we? Phrases like “You complete me” or “my better half” or “I couldn’t live without them” are not bad in and of themselves but rather it’s the whole-hearted belief that is a window into something deeper. The constant use and attachment to phrases like these perpetuate unhealthy subconscious viewpoints from our own lived experiences that may be harmful (i.e codependent relationships).

What is Codependency? Codependency is a particularly challenging relationship dynamic which often involves low self-esteem, poor boundaries, overcompensation, feeling trapped, and constant need for validation. The foundations for this tend to be established early on in childhood and related to attachment and bonding. One of the most common ways codependency manifests is through being parentified; in other words, parenting the parent (or sibling) in some way shape or form. An example might be “helping” by assuming adult roles of providing, doing domestic work, emotionally comforting others that happens due to adverse situations but can often be seen with a parent suffering from depression, substance use, etc. These experiences can be disempowering emotionally and psychologically.

For many, codependency is often not within their self-awareness because it has such deep roots in us. It is only usually through repeated relational hardships, trauma, and feedback from loved ones that this may come into to forefront and questioning begin. Below are a few ways we talk to ourselves or experience love and relationships that might indicate some codependent characteristics.

To start, you might commonly use phrases