According to John Bradshaw (if I understand him correctly) all relationships cycle through four stages, if at any of these stages there is trauma, abuse, neglect, or lack of completion, an individual will reenact that stage in every relationship of their lives. They will get stuck, and not grow up or reach their full potential. They become relationship disabled. The stages are as follows (and I’m greatly simplifying here because you can have deficits in more than one stage):
Codependency–this is like the loving mother with her infant, the doting pet owner, the newlywed couple–you’ve seen it, almost disgustingly “in love”, everything is enmeshed, there is no separateness, or desire for it. This is also the newly converted religious zealot. This is the stage that I have deficits in, so it is stage I inadvertently attract, seek, at the same time as I repel and abhor it. People stuck in this stage can be very needy, smothering, or with savior complexes, they seek complete emeshment to feel whole.
Counter-dependency, will naturally follow. This is the “terrible twos” at their worst, the rebellious teenager, the fighting couple, and dissaffected religious zealot. It is this monumental and difficult stage that will lead to the next if one sticks it out. If not, you get to repeat it…for the rest of your life. This is Boe, he has some pretty profound deficits in this stage. As a result, he is labeled a rebel, a black sheep and attracts overpowering personalities in his life or those stuck in codependency in order to continue to practice countering them. Those in this stage need to buck the system in order to feel whole. If the relationship manages to survive counter-dependence, it will evolve into independence.
Independence is self explanatory, and the stage I am finding myself nearing, both in my relationship with my family and the Church. This is where you learn to do things on your own, think for yourself, and take care of yourself. I suppose this is where atheists and agnostics may find they are most comfortable. It is an uncomfortable stage for those entrenched in co and counter dependence, but eventually it should become liberating. It can be a dangerous place for couples as they drift apart seeking individuality. But the rewards of keeping each other in the loop is reaching interdependence.
Interdependence creates a new joint individual that is greater than the sum of its parts. You are separate, but one. You can exist without the other, but you choose to be together, because together, you are better. Interdependence can look a lot like codependence to the uneducated or unperceptive observer, but the subtle differences are profound. Interdependency is infinite. I believe interdependency is what God wishes mankind to achieve, both with God and with each other.
Now that I think it, perhaps interdependence leads right back to codependence,but at a different level. I think trauma sends a person right back to codependence–needing and being needed. But each relationship that goes through these stages will emerge at a higher level when reoccurring. It seems a natural part of growth and development.
What do you think of these stages? Do you see them in your own relationships?