Can I Overcome Co-dependence?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on February 7th, 2010 - Last updated: October 1st, 2019
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Do you believe I can undo the “addiction” in relationships I have experienced if I can understand the underlying cultural beliefs that enable it?

I’ve been reading Pia Mellody’s book on love addiction…and am wondering …do all her treatments assume the same cultural beliefs that enable the addiction?

Is that why I would “always” be an “addict” under that theory?

You are giving me hope. I am a Ph.D. that studies culture and organization, society, etc… what you present seems to be in synch with what I have learned/studied and believe.

Please answer. I would be so grateful.


Dear Lonelyheart,

Your comments that Pia Mellody and the codependence movement buy into the same cultural values that underlie love addiction are extremely insightful (although given your training in cultural analysis, you should be sensitive to this).

Here is how my approach to love addiction differs from this:

  1. Codependence (or love addiction) is not a disease, not lifelong, not inbred. Obviously, there are more lovelorn adolescents than adults.
  2. The differences between codependence or love addiction as disease and my view of it are the same as that between the disease of alcoholism and my conception of alcohol and drug addiction.
  3. The differences include, in addition to the salutary impact of maturing of life structure (career, and self-respect, and social supports) the impact of beliefs over biology. This should be more evident in love than drug addiction, although it is true of both.
  4. Underlying and accompanying these life developments are changes in conceptions of love and romance, of the sense that one desires and deserves respect and stability, and that one needs to offer this to someone else as part of a love relationship.
  5. Actually, love addiction is more resistant in the face of maturity than drug addiction because the culture’s beliefs are more positive to the continuation of love addiction — self sacrifice, total dedication, ignoring those outside the relationship. To see the flaws in this model, and its ties to addiction, takes an extra effort of will.

You can do it, millions have.



Thank you for answering me so quickly. I have copied many of your articles and will be looking for your book. In addition to my own life issues, I work with Native Americans dealing with issues of addiction and find your work to be very likely valuable for this.

I see hope in your words. No easy fixes for anyone, but potential for intense work that could change how we “work” with people facing their various addictions. And I definitely see how the cultural support for values in “love addiction” makes it harder to confront. But the challenge is enticing to me on many levels.

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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