Codependence & Submission: They ARE Different

I wrote this a few months ago, when I was struggling to understand myself and why I was miserable in my LDR. I rediscovered this post on Friday. I, for one, was impressed with my self-analysis. So, I post this for your consideration. This is another long hard look at the mind, heart and soul of cutesypah.
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For years, I've been thinking about the difference between codependence and submission: wondering if there WAS a difference, and how to succinctly and concisely explain the cohesion or lack thereof between them. and, ultimately, figure out if I'm a submissive, and a codependent, or simply a codependent who attempts to find her happiness by serving others and ignoring my own needs and wants.

and, in my reading on the site, "Breaking the Cycles" I found these four definitions of codependence in the article, "Codependent Behavior Patterns Are A Choice,"


An emotional, psychological, and behavioral condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules. –Robert Subby

A set of maladaptive, compulsive behaviors learned by family members to survive in a family experiencing great emotional pain. –The Johnson Institute


A stressful learned behavior associated with an unhealthy focus on the needs of others and/or attempting to take responsibility for the behavior of others.

–Brian DesRoches


We begin tolerating abnormal, unhealthy, and inappropriate behaviors. Then we go one step further, we convince ourselves these behaviors are normal.

–Melody Beattie


Only after reading these words for what is likely the hundredth time, I *finally* realized the difference between codependence and submission - responsibility for one's actions, or, in other words, acceptance and choice.

So, I'll be the first to admit it: I likely developed submissive tendencies in order to survive in my home, and keep my parents happy. I was a people pleaser, and performed, on cue, as a small child, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at two for quarters, and "Twas the Night Before Christmas" at 4 for a dollar. My parents boasted they could take me anywhere, and I always behaved, perfectly. I was the perfect child, unless I spoke out, or acted like a child should, and threw the occasional temper tantrum, for which I was soundly spanked, and sent to my room where I was grounded for the entire day. In essence, I couldn't be the "normal" child without being punished - hence, came my strive for perfectionism.

And, from this, came my need to serve, to ignore my own wants and needs (for I would be punished for them if I voiced them), and to do whatever I could to gain my parents' attention, and perhaps, the occasional kiss on the cheek, or a pat on the head, the consummate display of approval.

so, submission was the only way I knew how to relate, and to get affection. and, when the sexual cravings started, at age 10, and I could look at my father's magazine stash (for at the time he worked for the world's premier porn printer/publisher), I saw women servicing men. Top that off with my reading all the romance novels where strong women are always overcome and taken care of by stronger men, and you have all the makings of a female submissive looking for that "perfect" Dominant who will come to rescue me, give me all the love I didn't have in my childhood, and who will let me grow up big, and strong, and will love me no matter how badly I behave.

Submit is defined by www.dictionary.com as, inter alia, "to yield to another," or "to defer to another's judgment, opinion, decision," or "to present to another for approval, consideration," or "to subject one's self to a kind of treatment or influence."

Now, compare this to the definition above for codependence: a learned behavior in response to stressful situations, with an unhealthy focus on another's needs, and to take responsibility for another's behaviors (note the word "behaviors," rather than "actions." is that important?)

Is this why we don't have Dominants concerned about acting codependently, only submissives? I don't hear Dominants talking about how they are responsible for their submissive's behavior. Yet, I read about submissives, time and again, myself included, talking of their Dominant ignoring them, punishing them, and how the submissive blames herself (I know few male submissives so I focus on what I know) for her Dominant's behavior. In fact, the submissives I read about, talk of how they are "less" submissive because they question their Dominant's behavior, or perhaps, wonder if they are submissive at all, because their Dominant doesn't treat them properly, or doesn't behave in a Domly manner, or Goddess forbid, the Dom claims to "always be right, no matter what."

Now, I am beginning to realize that we choose to submit, and the Dominant chooses to accept our submission. But, if we are really strong, why do we question our submission when he doesn't hold up his end of the bargain, his end of the "power exchange"? Isn't this the definition of codependence - accepting responsibility for his behaviors?

And, do we submit because we wish to give deference, or because we wished to be loved? Or is it true that submissives confuse submission with love? Does sub frenzy pull us over the edge, until we feel bound by our commitment, our agreement and willingness to submit, afraid if we withdraw our consent, that we seal our fate in being known as "less than" a perfect submissive/slave because we couldn't endure or tolerate the situation? isn't that also the definition of codependence - a learned set of maladaptive behavior while adhering to an oppressive set of rules?

I know this is a fine line I'm drawing, but I believe it's necessary, for me, at least, to review and analyze this line drawn in the sand. I need to know whether this is a line I can cross, can live with, or whether this is a wall that will cut me off from myself, or cause me to always ponder and wonder if it's greener on the other side, or whether the line will be, at some point, the line around my neck, hanging me, as a martyr, willing to be victimize myself in order to reach for that elusive relationship of Dominant and submissive that I can never quite reach without killing myself in the process.

Where do we draw the line between healthy interdependence/power exchange and unhealthy codependence/taking responsibility for the other's behavior? Why is it only submissives who seem to blur this line, while so many Dominants seem to ignore this line? What is the difference between saying, "this doesn't work for me," and saying, "He owns me, and I must accept what he gives me, like it or not"?

So where is the line drawn between submissive and doormat? What is the difference between submitting to his whims, and tolerating his neglect and abuse? As the Kind Dom, Pygar, asks, what of training and rules when it amounts to emotional damage? As David from A View From the Top notes that public displays of humiliation force the public to accept one's D/s interactions.
And Sir J notes that submissives are moody and high-maintenance. Really? Really? Or is it that we're trying to find that ever-moving line in the sand, trying to decide if we will cross it, feel comfort from knowing our boundaries, or see it as a line tightening into a noose? What of the thought that Dominants are high-maintenance and moody? is that acceptance on the submissive's part, or tolerance of inappropriate behavior?

What of the gentleman Dominant? What of the Daddy Dom who wishes to support and encourage? What of the submissive who craves objectification, and wants all of her thoughts, and actions to be controlled by another? What of the slave who recognizes that her needs are not met by her Master? Does this truly mean she is not a slave? OR is the reality that the Master who controls her does not understand her needs, and perhaps she would better flourish under the watchful eye, and different perceptions and actions of another Master?

does one's question about getting her/his wants or needs met make her/him less of a submissive/slave? I think not. but many do not agree with me. Ahhh...but this is my blog, not theirs. and this is my perception of me, not theirs.
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After six weeks with Mr Right, many of my codependent tendencies have seemingly disappeared. The regular spankings keep me in balance. I do not feel the need to prove my abilities to others, because I receive constant approval, acceptance, love, and guidance from the one who matters most to me: Mr Right. He sees when I'm out of balance, and knows when I need release, long before I do. Yes, I can't see right away what hurts me, as I learned long ago to deny the pain in order to survive, and hence, my tolerance for acceptable pain and unacceptable behavior is quite high. He knows and sees this is not good for me.
He sees a real difference between the woman he met in the coffee shoppe a few months ago, and the woman I am now. I am more calm, more open, more at peace, and less concerned about the need to impress others, all because I know that the one I love is pleased and impressed by my actions and my words.

All I needed was a constant hand at the small of my back, constant reassurance of his presence, a reminder of his strength, compassion and love, and the knowledge that he will catch me if I fall. I also know that by pressing my back into his hand, he knows that I walk at his pace, and do not wish to separate myself from him. I yield to him. And in turn, my submission strengthens us both, without my codependence getting in the way.

3 Comments so far »

  1. by selkie , on September 6, 2009 at 4:51 PM

    CP, what an articulate and insightful understanding of the difference between the two. However, what I REALLY take away from this is something that is true to my own heart - the premise that it is ALWAYS the submissive who is at fault - that has always irked me.

    As I come from a perspective where dominants are , when all is said and done, STILL human and thus subject to faulty judgments, mistakes and screwing up at times, then it follows that the person submitting must internalize that she is entitled to sometimes at least ask for illumination and understanding. To me, I have far more respect for a person that recognizes and "owns" their missteps than those who constantly seek to apportion blame elsewhere and refuse responsiblity - for is that not really the ANTITHESIS of being dominant?

    enjoyed this.

  2. by taiah , on September 6, 2009 at 6:22 PM

    This is excellent! I have a very independent personality - often one that is bordering on defiant. I don't mean to be that way and I am working on it but I had to be in order to survive a marriage of abuse. Because of this, I find that I have little tolerance for weak minded individuals. Please don't be offended but when I see a co-dependent submissive it just irritates the hell out of me... because I recognize them as co-dependent and want to shove them into the therapists office. I think this article is one that all submissives should read and truly consider when pondering their submission.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. by mouse , on September 7, 2009 at 7:52 AM

    I enjoyed this too cutesypah! It is interesting your words can come back and seem, I don't know, more honest than you realized when you first wrote.

    I'm still wowed I guess at the maintenance spankings, or whippings, because I never thought of them that way. I just figured Omega just wanted to...ya know? Okay blonde moment.

    I asked him about that and he laughed and said that I NEED them!

    As his slave, I'm really learning the importance of balance in my life...I never realized how out of balance I've been all these years...really I'm talking decades!

    I'm glad you found Mr. Right and that he sees your needs so clearly!

    mouse

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