What Type of Relationship Are You In?

Hey there peeps.

A few months ago I got a burst of courage to add some more depth to my blog, by making it more than a place where people can learn about art and illustrating a book, but ALSO a place to talk about the purpose of my story You Should, You Should, which included codependency and other mental health awareness, since that's what inspired me to write this story (see links under "therapy posts" in the margin to the right).  I was learning things that blew my mind and helped me SO much.  I wondered who else in the world like me could benefit if I were to share a bit here and there.  I was pretty excited about it, and felt good about the response I was getting from the first few posts, but then I got one response in particular from someone close to me that scared me away from the topic for a while.

Well... I don't know if this is because of the mood I've been in this weekend or what, but I'm feeling the need to push myself out of the comfort zone again!  I've learned that when I'm feeling isolated and ashamed, that pushing myself to new boundaries seems to help.  Conquer the fear.  Kill the shame.

Recently I've discovered and studied something called "Dependent Personality Disorder" and brought it up with my therapist, quite worried this would be my diagnosis.  He confidently assured me I did not have the disorder.  Phew!  He said, "You have the tendencies, but not the disorder.  The difference between you and someone with the disorder is that you are aware, and uncomfortable in these frames of thinking and behaving, and you know it's not right.  You're not happy this way and making huge progress to change.  Someone in the disorder would be completely blind to it, and denying that they even have a problem, because in their mind that's completely normal."  He opened the manual and read the list of symptoms, all of which I'd already studied, and we discussed them.  Possibly a few years ago, had I talked to a therapist, they probably could have told me I had the disorder.  Thank goodness I can see it now!  You're welcome to google it if you're interested, but I want to show you something he showed me a few months ago.

There are three types of relationships:  
(well at least three that we discussed that day)

1.  Codependent
2.  Dependent
3.  Interdependent

He drew the following on the board to demonstrate what each looks like.  The "1" represents someone who is healthy.  The "1/2" represents someone who is broken and needs someone else to feel whole.

Dependent Relationship:

                   1/2     +      1      =  1 1/2     ....or in other words....
me     +    them  =    (doesn't work)
Based on neediness

In short:

In this situation, the broken person needs and clings to a healthy person in order to feel whole and will do everything they can to make the healthy person stay and be what they need.  The only healthy option for the healthy person in this situation is to get out of the relationship.  If they don't, there is a chance that the broken person will suck them dry like a leach, and drag them down and make them become also another 1/2.  Which then changes the dynamic to codependent...

Codependent Relationship:

1/2   +   1/2    =  1
me   +   them  =  I
Based on neediness

Two broken people need each other to need each other in order to feel whole.  These are the ones who say they can't live without the other, they are my other half, we do everything together, we can't exist or live or function without each other.... etc.  My therapist used his hands and arms to act as leaches as he said, "They are basically like two leeches who suck each other dry," his hands started eating each other at the wrist and moved up the arms, "until they've eventually both exhausted each other and have nothing left to give each other, then break apart and look for new broken 'hosts' to attach to."  His snake hands separated and seemed to be searching the room.  This is also a dangerous relationship... two broken people can make things messy if things get too dramatic, or if alcohol or drugs creep in.  This is why we see some miserable abusive relationships last as long as they do.  Because in a lot of codependent mind frames, they can't survive without the other.  See my post on very specific codep symptoms here.

Interdependent Relationship

1    +      1     =  2

me  +  them  =  us
Based on choice/agency/respect

Two whole people come together by choice.  They both have their own lives, interests, goals, friends, and feel good about themselves individually, allowing them to love each other simply because they love each other.  They then make room for and accommodate one another because they choose to.  They develop a need for each other because they love each other.  Instead of the other relationships who love each other because they need each other.

(Why no "independent?"  Because people do need people, and "independence" doesn't include needs at all.)

Then he said, "So how do we know what kind of relationship we're in?  Well, we can tell by their symptoms."  He wrote on the board a list which included:

Symptoms of Codependent/Dependent Relationships:
  • Artifical Rules  (e.g. You must talk to me every night before bed... You must always sit by me... etc)
  • Control
  • Manipulation
  • Passive/aggressiveness
  • Punishments
  • Silent treatments
  • Guessing games/Pouting
  • Etc.

Soooooo.... what does this have to do with children's books and Hippos?  Often times children feel broken, unsure of themselves, and play out all these same scenarios trying to feel good.  With their friends, with their parents, with their siblings.  Here's the thing... we can't teach kids what we can't do for ourselves.  If we aren't "whole" then we're probably not taking care of ourselves.  We're trying to make someone else what we need them to be, in order for us to feel better.  But that is never, never going to work.  It's an endless road of countless difficult relationships and misery.  But the REAL KEY is to not only work on keeping our relationships with others healthy and killing the unhealthy symptoms, the real key is to work on our relationship with ourselves.

So, I've written a story of a large awkward Hippo who learns to stop depending on pleasing other people in order to feel loved and accepted.  He finally learns to take a stand and just be who he is, without apology.  To his surprise, his friends aren't disappointed at all.  More than that, they enjoy him more for being himself.  What matters most to Hippo though, is that he let go of needing and depending and clinging to their acceptance.  Had they not liked what he had to offer, he would have been fine!  Which is awesome!  He learned to validate himself, and that's what matters.


  1. I really love this. I really needed a book like this when I was little, well I still need it now. :) There are lots of ideas for other books that stem from this one story.

    It would be great to see a second book that discusses what Hippo does when some friends push back against his independence. Some do. It would be great to have a model for kids and parents to read about how it is okay when things don't always turn out perfect.

    Whatever you do with this and wherever you choose to go with it, I really admire the work that you are trying to do.

    1. Thanks Lish. I really appreciate hearing that this book idea doesn't sound like a good idea to ONLY me. ;)

      Second of all..... you're one of the most amazing people I know. I would have loved to hang out with kid you.

      And yeah... I have recently been thinking the same thing. What if everything didn't turn out perfect? At the time I wrote this, my mind was playing out worst case scenarios SO often that I needed to remind myself that MOST of the time in our lives, especially among people who love and accept us already, there's nothing to be afraid of. That we'll be loved even more. Ya know?

      Thanks so so so much for commenting Geary! But especially thanks for being so instrumental in teaching me this stuff in the beginning!

  2. Hi Ginny,

    Reading this makes me think of how awesome your book is! I will pre-order it as soon as my address becomes definite (I might be moving, so by October my address might be obsolete).

    Your book reminds me of a poem I've written 70%, called "The Elephant who Likes Ballet". It tells a story of an elephant who becomes a top ballet dancer because a hippo (coincidence?!) encourages her. I wrote this poem before I knew what your book was about! :P Here's an excerpt.

    Sometimes, the scared spectators wonder,
    "How does [this Elephant] dance without a blunder?"
    Truth is, when she was a kid,
    she fell a lot, indeed, she did.

    Some ballet friends of hers just laughed--
    the swan, the crane, and the giraffe.
    But Hippo said, "Don't fret my friend.
    Things will be alright in the end.
    Just look at Rhino, Panda, Walrus.
    A failure's what mean folks would call us.
    But," he said, "these guys are champs.
    They danced real well in ballet camps.
    They did not fall or get leg cramps!

    As soon as I finish digesting ballet terminology, I'll complete this poem. :P

    Meanwhile, keep up the good work!


    1. Thanks Gloson!!!

      Hey I have to tell you something, I totally watched a youtube video of you performing that chipmunk poem as a motivational speaker, and you are AMAZING!!!! Can I blog about you sometime? Gloson I love this poem so far, thanks for sharing it with me!! You're really good at rhyming. I feel like my book and your poem are possibly meant to be friends. ;) Have you read the story yet? I have it posted on my blog.


      I want to buy one of your poetry books. Which one would you recommend? (assuming you have more than one)..... ok so I just looked you up on amazon and both are for kindle. I don't have a digital device for ebooks yet.... sorry!

      Thanks for reading, and for your comment! I'm seriously proud to know you.

    2. Hi Ginny!

      There is a youtube video of me performing the chipmunk poem as a motivational speaker? You mean "My Kitty Cat Loves French Fries" or something? if not, give me the link! :P

      And thank you very much for the encouraging words. Yes, you can blog about me. I'd be thrilled and very honored to be on your blog. :)

      I just read your poem. And left a comment there. The story was really good and the rhymes were really fun too. The picture of a hippo riding off in the sunset with tummy riders is a spectacular sight!

      Hmmm.. strange. The Kindle editions for my book should have a link to their paperback editions, and vice versa. Anyway, here's the link (paperback):

      (I recommend "Creative & Funny Poetry for Kids"; the other one is more for littler kids. Haha.

      And thanks! I feel lucky to be friends with you too. :)

      By the way, is your poem still editable or is it final now? I'm sure you have corrected the "breathe" typo in "Breath in deep and shout with glee", right?

    3. "My Chipmunk Loves Nuts" here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyjoLt6u19U You are definitely one cool cat. I was laughing. :) And inspired.

      Glad you like poem, and YES it's still being edited. In fact I just got an email from my editor and all his comments asking me to work on different areas. We do have the "Breathe" part figured out. ;) Thanks haha.

      Thanks for the link I'm totally buying it!!! And thanks again for commenting again!! :)

    4. OH THAT ONE. I see. :P

      Okay then. Good luck polishing your poem! Don't worry. I heard Dr. Seuss liked to spend around a year polishing up his poems.

      Thanks so much for your generous support!!! :)

  3. Good on you for putting this out there, Ginny. You're a brave woman.

    This brings to mind non-violent communication, which my sister and brother-in-law introduced me to. Have a look at:

    and also, when you have some spare time, a workshop video (3 hours long, but even watching the first 20 mins is worth while):


    1. Thanks Roelant!! So I don't think I realized until recently that you are from Australia so now when I read your comments I think of your accent as I read. :) Especially that "good on you" haha. That's got to be an Australian phrase! I love it.

      Thanks also for the links!! They're fascinating.


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