I received a playful glare from my flatmates as we passed each other in the street. I knew what I had done wrong: I broke the rules, as we live together and I went to Pret without them. How dare I break up the flat coffee run?! While in lockdown during October of this past year, my flat became so insular due to Covid restrictions that splitting up the group to leave the flat became an act of betrayal. We had become wildly co-dependent. I recall wanting to leave to go to Tesco or Pret and waiting over an hour until the entire flat could come, just so I wouldn’t have to face walking into town alone (the horror!).
While we eventually broke this relationship quirk, vestiges of our co-dependency remain and sometimes reveal themselves. Just last week when I discovered that one of my flatmates went to Tesco alone after I invited her on a walk, the word snake was out of my mouth before I knew what I was saying. Of course, this is something we can laugh about now, but this type of low-scale dependency had a definite impact on our relationship and there’s still an immediate sense of betrayal whenever anyone wants some independence. In my own view, this is a common tale of Covid-dependency.
While this phenomenon tends to be attributed to couples that are living together during Covid, I believe it also has its place in friendships, especially when you live together. According to Healthline, this brand of co-dependency is natural in cases where you are not likely to see people outside of your immediate household. The cause of this can clearly be traced back to Covid regulations, which discourage you from seeing people outside your household, or generally from typical modes of independence. While co-dependent relationships are not inherently bad, in the case of university flatmates it’s safe to say it’s unnecessary and unsustainable. According to an article published by Webster University, some of the signs of co-dependency include lack of an external support system, possessiveness, and suffocating closeness. In addition to this, the effects of co-dependency can include a fear of being alone, self-doubt, resentfulness, and physical and emotional burnout.
The impact of Covid restrictions effect on creating these dynamics within relationships should not be underestimated. The reoccurring lockdowns have placed the majority of people in positions where they have a limited social group with whom they interact daily. Outside interactions are few and far between, placing these select few in our social circles in positions of great importance. Seeing a limited selection of people every day might shrink one’s sense of individuality, impact external support systems creating a slightly co-dependent relationship, and diminish sense of independence. Lockdown restrictions compound this, making opportunities for personal space very rare, and the breaking down of boundaries between people’s independent lives. Personally, throughout this most current lockdown I have had to make a conscious effort not to fall into these relationship dynamics again.
As we approach the end of lockdown and the beginning of a long-awaited freedom, how can we all recognise and begin to rid ourselves off unconscious co-dependent behaviours? Insider magazine offers this advice to couples living in social isolation, it is important to keep independent contact with external support systems and make an effort to spend time apart from your ‘partner’. Undoubtedly this will become easier as restrictions loosen. However, it is important for all of us to remember that our flatmates are allowed, even supposed, to have independent lives outside of ourselves. So, before you call your flatmate a snake for going somewhere without you, or worse spending time with other people, you may want to take a moment to examine why.