Frustrated parents of adult son living in their home

Codependence Is Identity Dependence – Part 3


“First Generation” Codependence

The concept of codependence in America first came on the scene following World War II.  Amidst the post-war backdrop of victory, celebration, and abundance, many American families were experiencing something quite different in the privacy of their homes. 

An exorbitant number of men returned home from the warfront emotionally traumatized, angry, and broken.  To expect them to immediately step back into the roles they had left a few years earlier was a recipe for disaster. 

Three conflicting messages were bombarding these men all at the same time: 

  • The new culture of prosperity and accomplishment in America demanded they and their families be (or at least appear to be) perfect, happy, and successful.
  • Their family needed them to immediately resume their important roles of husband, father, and provider.
  • Their view of life was now seen through the clouded lens of post-traumatic stress and flashbacks to the unimaginable things they had seen, done, and experienced on the battlefront. 

I can only imagine how overwhelming this might have been for those men to have such expectations heaped upon them.  On one hand, they strived to do everything within their power to create a family that society would deem acceptable, yet they had to live every day with the constant inner turmoil of fear, shame, grief, and who knows how many other painful emotions.

Many turned to excessive use of alcohol and others isolated themselves emotionally, but virtually all of these men exhibited significant issues with anger and rage that could at times become volatile and harmful to those around them, especially their wives and children.

Codependence Thrives In The Presence of a Dependent

Enter what we now have come to know as “codependence.”  Following World War II, alcoholism among men became rampant in American society.  In their need for something – anything – that might help them cope with the weightiness of life, alcohol offered an escape from their painful memories of war, and their feelings of isolation, rejection, and failure.  Not only had they become “dependent” on alcohol to help them function somewhat normally in everyday life. They had also unknowingly become “dependent” on the need for every member of their family to play along with their anger-based life, fearing what might happen if the secret was ever exposed.

Frustrated parents of adult son living in their home

This became like a never-ending dance, with toxic shame being the only record that was played.  The man’s dependency demanded that every member of his family cooperate with him in every way, or they would experience painful consequences.  Therein lies the origin of the concept we now understand as “co-dependence” – family members cooperating with the dependent, even at the expense of their own individual needs and well-being.

I remember when I was growing up in the 1960s, there were still many women who had never learned to drive, as their husband had always insisted on taking them wherever they needed to go.  Many women had spent much of their adult lives being homemakers, wives, and mothers – providing for the needs of their home, husband, and children.  As a result, they had never been employed outside the home.  They (the wife) had become entirely dependent upon the dependent (the husband) to provide for their needs, therefore, co-operating with the dependent.  Knowing this, it’s not difficult to understand where much of the generational shame we face today had its beginnings.


Soul health and spiritual maturity cannot be separated.  Our counselors are ordained Christian ministers as well as certified and licensed Christian counselors.  We are able to help you experience freedom from shame, anxietydepression, or marriage / relationship conflict with methods that are purely Christ-centered.  Please click on this link to learn much more about how our MARRIAGE COUNSELING can help you become a more authentic follower of Christ, and help you find freedom from identity dependence.

Life Training offers convenient sessions at office in Louisville, Kentucky, as well as online counseling via Zoom or FaceTime.  Our non-profit counseling practice has had an outstanding track record from over a decade helping men and women, individuals and couples who are ready to move beyond anxietydepression, and conflicts in marriage or other relationships find hope and healing in their lives.  Contact us today at 502-717-5433, or by email at 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *