by Jacquelyn Small

When we can recognize and own our codependence patterns, the shadow no longer will have hold of love nature. But until then, this unintegrated shadow will periodically explode into our outer lives, doing its dance for all to see.

When in codependence, we play at loving and being loved by trotting out aspects of our shadow's nature and flinging them at one another in "needy love." Needy love is how the shadow dances. Codependence is the "dis-ease" of unequal relationships. It's a classic case of psychological projection, and, as I've explained earlier, of giving our power away.

We become so enmeshed with another person that we lose our boundaries and become one dysfunctional entity playing out opposing polarities: I'm weak, so he is strong, I'm "spiritual" and always kind, so my partner gets to be the bastard. He never feels anything, so I'll act out his feelings for him. She's the alcoholic and neglects all family responsibilities, so I have to take care of her–and everyone and everything else! I can't make money, so she's the financial wizard I have to beg from for pocket change or a new pair of pants. He's the "good father" type, so I get to neglect the children. My business partner has never made it in life on her own as I have, so I lend her my earned prestige, my reputation, my power, and my money. Then hopefully, I've made her feel equal. Right? Wrong! Nothing like this ever works; it all becomes self-defeating.

Codependence is our unmanifested potential in relationship
. In codependence, we are not bad or sick, just uninformed. Unfinished. To get beyond it, we must focus beyond it. Instead of saying I am a codependent (which stops your process and freezes it in time–it's a small story, not your greater one!), we say "I have these codependent conditions that manifest when I go unconscious in my relationships. These are the ways I keep from being myself."

There is a cardinal rule about loving: Until we love ourselves and honor our positive ego for needing what it needs, we can never expect to really love another, or even have empathy for what others might feel or need. We must become responsible for meeting our own needs directly in ways that do not harm us or anyone else.

No one–not even an intimate life partner–can do this balancing act for us. With us, yes. But for us, no. For we are self-evolving organisms! To fully be requires that we do this sacred work on our own.

In The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran offers the following profound teaching for lovers:

Sing and dance together, and be joyous,
But let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of the lute are alone
Though they quiver with the same music...
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow
Not in each other's shadow.

In relationships that come from the Heart, couples' lives are sometimes fraught with creative (as opposed to codependent) struggle, for they have often opted for accelerated growth.

They're learning to "let it all hang out" together, and they refuse to play ego games. When they hit up against what seems to be an impossible situation, they seek creative solutions and have compassion for each other's unconscious mistakes, rather than simply blaming and judging–or fleeing.

They want to truly get to know one another–and thereby understand themselves more deeply. Their primary desire is to remain in the Heart, even when the pain seems unbearable.

They know that tasting the true pleasure of living with an open heart is like drinking the sweet nectar of life, a delight so much greater than the drunkenness they've known as addicts seeking gratification from bottles, pills, glamour, illusions–and one another!

Relaxing into just being themselves is the greatest freedom.

The Law of Right Relationship:

To unconditionally love and honor each other as equal beings is the highest freedom.


RULE 1: Love manifests as freedom to be oneself, not as the bondage of trying to be someone we are not. When you're excited about something other than me, it does not take anything away from our relationship; it only enhances it.

RULE 2: Always tell your partner the truth. Protecting you from my truth is a sickening form of codependence. If I want to be trusted, I must first become trustworthy. But being truthful does not mean I have to become hurtful. If my partner asks me to be honest, I don't need to say "It's your crooked nose that is bothering me today!" This kind of sharing isn't helpful to either of us. But I can say in truth, "I'm feeling judgmental of you right now because I'm caught up in my perfectionism." Co-creators value being themselves. They do not always expect to be in a positive state. Consequently, they can share from their hearts without judgment–and when they cannot, they own their "stuff" and go do inner work.

RULE 3: No one is ever simply "right" or "wrong"; rather, we all receive lessons in how to remain conscious and responsible human beings. Blaming you is a convenient way to not take responsibility for my part–no matter how justified I may feel. Even when I cannot clearly see what my part is, I need to own my contribution to the conflict. I must be willing to discover what that contribution is and then to resolve it. One party never messes up a relationship; it takes a dynamic between at least two.

RULE 4: We all have similar feelings and needs; our storylines are the divergent part. When we differ, and heart-felt communication doesn't get us anywhere, it's better to just own that for now, we are in two different universes–mine and yours. Both are legitimate and honor each other's without giving up our own.

RULE 5: No one else is responsible for turning us on; getting "turned on" is an inside job! In the Heart, I can experience sexuality as part of my beauty and power, and sex becomes love–a higher emotion. Here sexuality is something within me that I express; it is part of the Self. When I'm tuned in and turned on, my partner will seem appealing to me; when I'm tuned out and turned off, he will not. And he may have nothing at all to do with my response!

RULE 6: Don't let the experience of joy or contentment take you down. Many of us have become so addicted to suffering that we've developed a very low "bliss tolerance." Anytime we begin to experience joy in a relationship, it scares us, and we immediately and unconsciously do something to depress ourselves. Unless we commit to manifesting the joy in our relationships, we won't recognize fulfillment even when we're right in the midst of it.

RULE 7: Aloneness belongs in relationships alongside togetherness. We must learn how to balance our time so that we can be alone with ourselves and/or our Higher Power and be involved in activities with friends, family, and partners. We must all learn to aid one another in claiming this vital need for silence, aloneness, and inner work.

RULE 8: We grow more from being recognized as having a positive trait than we do from being criticized for having a negative one. When someone recognizes us as being gifted or doing good, we feel injected with life. This uplift is often the greatest therapist. It helps us rise to our fullest potential. Warning! False praise doesn't count (or work).

RULE 9: Paradox is the name of the game in relationship; the more I need, the less I can have. Neediness and love are incompatible; they cannot manifest in the same space. It's a violation of your integrity for me to pull on you to give me something. Letting go of attachment to "the other" is the Buddha's solution for all suffering.

RULE 10: In relationships where both people envision ever-expanding love and deepening purpose, the vision becomes reality. It's more important to share our dreams and visions with one another than to share intellectually what we think we know.

(excerpt from AWAKENING IN TIME, pg. 190-195]