Codependency has been a buzz word since the 1980s but what is it actually and how is it impacting our relationships? Today I speak with Vanessa Bennett who is an expert in this topic.
She outlines how codependency research has evolved, generational trauma, desire types and we even unpack the patriarchy! This woman is incredible and we could have talked for hours.
I can guarantee you will learn something life changing in this episode. So grab some tea, coffee or go on a walk because we are getting down and dirty!
In this week’s episode, we discuss:
[1:17] About Vanessa Bennett
[1:52] Vanessa and her husband’s new book, “It’s Not Me, It’s You”
[5:22] Codependency from Vanessa’s perspective
[9:04] Codependency vs. hyper independence
[11:08] Generational trauma
[13:06] Tools people can use if they don’t have access to therapy
[16:13] Attachment theory
[20:02] Underfunctioning vs. Overfunctioning
[25:06] Desire types
[29:25] How the patriarchy has impacted men
[32:55] What to do when you’re not feeling a relationship anymore
[38:36] What’s all this fuss about the spark in a relationship
[43:06] How to stop self sabotaging and finder deeper connection
[48:39] Advice for when starting a new relationship
[53:10] Vanessa’s favorite date
About Vanessa Benett
She is a licensed holistic psychotherapist, clinical entrepreneur, author and mental health content creator. She integrates years of study in Buddhism and yoga psychology and co-hosts the Cheaper Than Therapy Podcast, and leads many retreats and workshops.
Vanessa and her husband’s new book, “It’s Not Me, It’s You”
Vanessa and her husband noticed a parallel between the struggles that their clients were dealing with and what they were moving through in their own relationship. They wanted to dissect these in a way that helped the readers and so they could see themselves in their story. She wants people to realize that therapists don’t all have their shit together and we all deal with the same stuff.
Codependency from Vanessa’s perspective
Vanessa is trained in a type of psychology that includes the soul and also focuses on the collective. She believes that we are a codependent society and although we like to think it’s a dirty thing it’s really in the air we breathe daily.
Her definition of codependency at its roots is, “if you are good, I am good and if you are not good then I am not good.” This means that your emotional state is based on somebody else.
Codependency vs. hyper independence
These are basically two sides of the same coin and on a spectrum with interdependence is in the middle. Interdependence means, “I am my own sovereign being.”
This is about us but it’s also a healthier approach for other people in the relationship too, such as your children.
We are learning more and more through epigenetics that past generations pass down their genetics to us and this is acutely seen in the people whose family survived the holocaust or came on boats from Africa.
It’s not a death sentence though and we can change these genetics by changing the patterns and doing something differently.
Tools people can use if they don’t have access to therapy
Start reading books about the subject such as ones by Melody Beattie, “Codependent No More”. Also find someone you trust on social media who has content that you really enjoy.
It’s also really important to focus on personal responsibility in this healing journey. Codependents are known to be finger pointers or to rely on other people’s behavior changing so they can be okay but this is about our journey not theirs.
Vanessa goes into a very topline perspective of the attachment theory in her book because it is a huge body of work. The founders studied people’s early attachments mostly with their mothers and from there you can see more how these impact people later on in romantic relationships, friends, work and children. The attachment styles are actually less fixed and more of a spectrum than what was originally thought.
Until we do the work on ourselves, we will continue to see the same patterns but with different people. It’s extremely important to do the therapy and read the books but we have to do this outside in the world to see the true change.
Underfunctioning vs. Overfunctioning
Vanessa highlights that neither person is right or wrong and this is a common dynamic in relationships. These are both responses to anxiety and even though one person may not be doing as much they aren’t particularly lazy but they may hold a belief that keeps them from fulfilling it. The overfunction-er is just as much of a problem as the other dynamic.
There are different desire types and the way we react to sex and desire sex. Roughly, seventy percent of men can experience spontaneous desire which means they can feel a desire for sex before they’re actually turned on. The same percentage of women experience responsive desire which means they need to be turned on to feel the desire for sex.
How the patriarchy has impacted men
In terms of socialization, many men are taught that they are owed sex. Culture has cut them off from a lot of their humanness and they’re ability to be all of themselves so they start to find sex as one of only places they can connect deeper. They use it to self-soothe and self-regulate and they end up having only two ways to feel, have sex or get angry.
What to do when you’re not feeling a relationship anymore
Firstly, Vanessa will make sure that both parties have done everything they can do so that if they do walk away they don’t do it with any regrets. You can also ask the question, “To keep this relationship am I breaking up with myself?” and this answer will help you see if the relationship has run its course.
Our culture has an obsession with longevity as a sign of success rather than people having a fulfilling and beautiful commitment to each other.
What’s all this fuss about the spark in a relationship
We put too much emphasis on the spark in the beginning of the relationship when that feeling can be laced with a lot of things from the past and mixed with lust.
Vanessa recommends to her clients to not rush into anything when that feeling is apparent and if you don’t feel it right away don’t use it as a reason to run. Healthy relationships can be a slow burn and you can miss out on someone really good for you because you’re chasing that.
How to stop self sabotaging and finder deeper connection
Start by asking yourself what you really want? We can talk the talk all day but if we aren’t willing to do the things to find deeper connection then we aren’t living in alignment with what we want.
Further, it’s getting touch with the feeling that precipitates the feeling to run and self sabotage. Usually these are core wounds that are extremely painful and scary and can take a lot of work with a therapist to gain capacity for the discomfort.
Advice for when starting a new relationship
Don’t play games and be honest. If you’re feeling disconnected or somebody’s pulling away, call it what it is. We can think that we have a certain communication style but things can change quickly when we are activated so being honest when we can and using effective communication can be really helpful.
Vanessa’s favorite date
Vanessa remembers a time with friends and not a romantic relationship because she believes we don’t put enough emphasis on platonic love. Her birthday party was planned by one of her best friends and he did a great job. She just had to show and enjoy and it was an amazing night.
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