What is Codependency?
We can’t speak of a codependent relationship, without speaking first about codependency. Earlier in the 1950s, the term was used in the context of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It was used to support partners of individuals who abused substances. That is because they were entangled in the toxic lives of their partners. Regularly, the term is used in addiction counseling to describe behaviors in relationships affected by substance misuse.
However, it is much wider than that. Codependency refers to a mental, emotional, or physical, reliance on a partner, friend, or family member. It involves sacrificing your personal needs, to try to meet the needs of others. Although it may be done out of care, that is not majorly the case. Someone who is codependent has an extreme focus outside themselves. Their thoughts and actions revolve around other people.
Codependency talks about a person’s behavior and attitude, rather than the relationship as a whole. Someone who is codependent often builds their identity around helping others. They depend on others to validate their self-worth. A codependent person may deny their own desires or emotions just to get approval.
Basically, it is due to a poor concept of one’s self, leading to an inability to have an opinion or say “no”. Common symptoms of codependency include low self-esteem and a need to save others.
What is Codependent Relationship?
Codependent relationships signify a degree of unhealthy clinginess, where one person is the “giver” while the other is the “taker”. The person with codependency may take on a “caregiver” role for their partner. The partner relies on the caregiver to handle most of every issue in the relationship.
Although the caregiver cares for their partner out of a desire to help, he often feels the need to be needed. He attaches his self-worth to the well-being of his partner. Codependent behaviors enable the “taker” to continue in bad habits, such as addictions. So, when the caregiver saves the partner from consequences, the partner will lose the motivation to change.
Therefore, this ends up creating a toxic relationship for both partners. However, the caregiver is not to blame for the other person’s misbehaviors. But codependency encourages such without the caregiver’s knowledge.
What Causes Codependency?
Generally, the major cause of codependency is centered on childhood experiences. This happens when one or both parents are not fulfilling their role in the child’s life. The parental dysfunction is often due to addiction, mental health problems, or domestic violence. In such cases, the child needs to occupy and play the role of the parents.
For example, if a parent is regularly too drunk to fix dinner, a young child will learn to cook, so the family doesn’t starve. Gradually, the child becomes a pseudo-parent for his siblings. So, he becomes responsible for the well-being and upkeep of his siblings.
In other cases, the child is expected to care for his own parents. For example, a parent going through domestic violence may turn to the child as a confidante. Taking the role of an adult as a child requires all the efforts of that child.
Naturally, he is underdeveloped for such responsibilities. It’s like wearing oversized pants, he trips and falls up to the point that falling is no longer so painful to him. That is what happens when the child is so focused on keeping the household running. Therefore, he has to ignore his own needs. So, as a child in such a situation, codependent behaviors are necessary for survival.
Do You Have a Codependent Personality?
If you’re not sure if you have a codependent personality, here are some typical signs to watch out for.
- You find it difficult to make decisions: To make a decision, you depend on the opinions of the people around you. People like your partner, parents or friends. However, asking for the opinion of others isn’t so bad. But you literally can’t make a single decision without asking what they think about it.
- It’s difficult to say what’s really on your mind: When you’re offended or not comfortable with something, you don’t speak up. It’s either you rant to someone about it, or you swallow it up. But you don’t speak up to the offender in question.
- Poor self-esteem: This may be as a result of certain childhood experiences. Being told to be quiet whenever you want to express yourself, is one of such experiences. Eventually, this develops into low self-esteem. Poor self-esteem is the root of codependency.
- Fear of abandonment: This is another major reason why you please people without considering your well-being. You are scared that they will abandon you. So, you make yourself very useful to the point that they just have to depend on you. Hence, your need to be needed.
- Unhealthy dependence on relationships: There are certain people who can’t survive outside a relationship. If you’re one of such people, then you have a codependent personality. At this point, you can’t survive being single. You believe your happiness is attached to someone else.
- You always feel responsible for others: Usually, you always feel responsible for or take responsibility for their actions. For example, you might think it’s your fault that your sibling has an abusive partner. Hence, you feel like you never protected or provided for them enough.
Signs of a Codependent Relationship
How would you know if you’re in a codependent relationship?
The following signs are ways you can tell.
- Treading carefully to avoid conflict with your partner.
- Feeling the need to check in with your partner or ask permission to do daily tasks.
- Often being the one who apologizes. Even when you’re not wrong.
- Guilt tripping is the order of the day. They always make you feel sorry for them.
- Doing anything for your partner, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Putting your partner on a pedestal despite the fact that they don’t merit this position.
- Struggling to find any time for yourself, especially if your free time consistently goes to your partner.
- Feeling as if you’ve lost a sense of yourself within the relationship.
Codependent relationship vs Interdependent relationship
Codependent couples tie their sense of self-worth and value to each other. Naturally, all relationships require a sense of loyalty and commitment. However, this case is problematic. That is because devotion to your relationship shouldn’t outweigh your individual and psychological needs. If this is the order of the day, it is a toxic relationship.
On the other hand, interdependency is when two partners care and nurture the relationship, without compromising their own sense of self. Interdependent couples are in charge of their lives and fulfilling their own significance. The relationship is based on a place of wanting their partner, not needing them. This allows them to focus on themselves and gives room for self-development. This creates a healthy and balanced relationship between both partners. As a result, the relationship feels secure.
Can a Codependent Relationship be saved?
Yes, it can. Breaking up isn’t necessarily the best or only solution to fixing a codependent relationship. However, to fix a codependent relationship, focus on setting boundaries, and finding happiness as an individual. Have more time for yourself as an individual. You can also talk to your partner about the goals you’ve set for your self-development. Find hobbies of your own, try other things you love to do. Also, separating for certain periods of time might create a healthy dependence on one another.
Lastly, see a therapist. A therapist can help you reduce codependent behaviors and develop healthier relationships.
Generally, codependency does not qualify as a mental health diagnosis. But it causes severe distress. That is mostly because the symptoms are so widely applicable. Therefore, codependency leads one to develop other mental health concerns, such as anxiety.
Usually, any healthy relationship will have some codependency. Every successful relationship has some give and take. Naturally, it’s reasonable if one partner looks to another for advice or guidance on a major decision. Furthermore, It is quite normal to feel responsible for our loved ones. The need to help and support is necessary. But codependency does not refer to all caring behaviors or feelings. Only those that are excessive to an unhealthy degree are a matter of concern. However, if you seek out or maintain relationships that are not fulfilling or healthy, you have a codependent personality.
Symptoms of codependency
Common symptoms of codependency include low self-esteem and a need to save others.
What is Codependent Relationship?
Codependent relationships signify a degree of unhealthy clinginess, where one person is the “giver” while the other is the “taker”.
What are the signs of a codependent person?
For starters, difficulty making decisions in a relationship is a sign of codependency. Other signs include;
- Difficulty in putting your sentiments into words.
- Communication problems.
- Others’ approval is more important to you than your own.
- Having low self-esteem and a lack of trust in yourself.
What does a codependent relationship feel like?
One person does not voice their desires and demands because they believe they are inconsequential. They may have trouble understanding their own emotions or needs.