Codependency is assuming responsibility for meeting other’s needs to the exclusion of acknowledging one’s own needs. This affects a person’s life in numerous ways: a person can’t tell where their reality ends and someone else’s reality begins, trouble getting own needs and wants met, resenting others for the pain they have caused you, difficulty in close or intimate relationships. Codependency can lead to low self-esteem, poor boundary setting, difficulty owning and expressing your own reality and imperfections, and difficulty taking care of your needs.
Co-dependency is a learned behavior and affects a person’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It can also be called “relationship addiction” because codependents often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, abusive, or emotionally destructive. When a person is codependent, they have a strong desire to control people. They are compassionate and believe that other people need their help. The flip side of this is that they have a hard time with boundaries so other people tend to control them.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if you’re codependent:
- Do you make a lot of decisions based on other people’s opinions rather than your own?
- Do you like to help people but you secretly do it so they will like you?
- Are you in relationships where you feel you do most of the giving?
- Do you overschedule activities and neglect your family or yourself?
- Do you have trouble saying No to people?
- Do you notice other people’s problems and try to solve them rather than your own?
- Do you hold on to unhealthy relationships because you want to avoid the feeling of abandonment?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be dealing with codependent behavior.
What can I do to move out of codependency?
First, examine whether you have the codependent behaviors that are outlined above. If you have some of these behaviors, but not that often, then just understanding the impact of the behaviors may be enough to cause change. However, if you chronically use codependent behaviors, more intervention is needed to understand what is happening, how it got started, and what the choices are. Self-help groups such as Codependents Anonymous or individual therapy may be helpful to support your journey towards growth and healing from codependency. Co-dependency is usually rooted in a person’s childhood and therapy would explore early childhood issues and their relationship to current destructive behavior patterns. When the awareness is linked to current thoughts and behaviors, real change can occur.
In order to move out of codependence, you need to accept that you cannot change others and begin to focus on yourself. Identify and work through personal issues. This is where you see and understand more about yourself. You are able to live in the present moment, while understanding the past. Learn to be okay with yourself – not define yourself by what you do for others. This allows you to take responsibility for self-care and get your own needs met.
Codependence can move into healthy dependence and independence in relationships if there is a commitment to growth and change. The co-dependent must identify and embrace their feelings and needs. That may include saying “no” to people, learning to be self-reliant, and taking the focus of others and bring it back to themselves. When there is a willingness to make changes, codependency can get better!