Codependency is a term often used in relation to the partner or spouse of an abuser or addict. There is reasoning that to stay and tolerate the destructive behaviours and actions of these types of partners, that codependency must be present.
But this isn’t always the case. Codependency can also be present in relationships that appear normal but have a dysfunctional imbalance, with one partner unknowingly engaging in codependent behaviours out of insecurity about themselves, and the relationship.
So what is codependency?
Codependency is defined as taking an excessively passive, controlling or caretaking role in your relationship with another person.
When someone is codependent they tend to spend the majority of their effort in their relationship monitoring, controlling and attempting to placate or enhance the feelings of someone they love.
If a person is in a codependent relationship, there exists an inequity that is both unhealthy, and ultimately destructive to the codependent whose self esteem, needs and self worth are sacrificed for that of the other person’s.
How does codependency show up in a relationship?
There are a number of ways that codependency manifests and some of them can seem quite contradictory, but they are all about trying to control the stability of the relationship and the value perceived through the partnership.
Codependents believe that they are acting out of compassion for the person they care about and often become martyrs to the cause of their partner and relationship.
You might believe that your partner won’t do as well on their own without you, that you are their only chance of being truly happy. You might believe that if you did things differently or better your partner would not get angry or upset with you. You will likely diminish or deny your feelings and preferences in the relationship.
Your main aim is to keep your partner happy, and make life as simple and stress free as possible for them. Nothing that you need to do to keep the peace or provide for your partner is considered too much. The more you can do, the more validation you hope to get.
Conversely, you might try instead to control your partner, so that there is no opportunity for abandonment. A lack of trust will most certainly play a part and you will want to control the things they do, so that you can feel more secure about the relationship and their wish to remain in it.
The problem is that it tends to backfire as your efforts are unappreciated or go unnoticed by your partner.
And so you are probably failing miserably on all accounts and that just makes you want to try even harder.
You are in a cycle of codependency. And it isn’t going to benefit anyone, much less nurture a relationship with mutual respect, love and equality.
Codependency can be hard to identify because we often think we are just being selfless, caring and loving. We feel noble for loving someone at his or her worst. But there is a major difference to loving in these ways, and giving away who we are, for the sake of a relationship and the other person in it.
How do you know if you are codependent?
Are you operating with any of the following?
- Desperate for approval
- Uncomfortable being strong or assertive
- Wanting to control others
- Basing self worth on the approval of others
- Denying or diminishing feelings
- Struggling to make decisions in fear of upsetting others
- Giving up interests, friends or hobbies for the sake of others
- Feeling unnecessarily responsible for your loved ones actions
- Mistaking the need to rescue someone, with loving them
- Confusing being needed for being loved
- Giving more of yourself than the people you love give back to you
- Feeling upset when people don’t notice how much you are giving
- Avoiding abandonment by staying in unhealthy relationships
You may be codependent and it is time to reset the habits that are causing you harm.
Who have you become in order to make someone else happy?
You are not wrong in wanting love, validation and respect. We all want these things. But you must look to yourself first to find them. In life your best guarantee of being given the appreciation you deserve is to expect it from yourself first.
When you stand up for yourself and know what you are worthy of, you make it harder for others to treat you badly and you are unlikely to accept it when they do.
The opposite of codependency is to become the designer and director of YOUR life first. You can not, and do not need to control any other life except you own. When you redirect the energy you have given away to living in someone else’s shadow back to YOU, the possibilities are endless and incredible.
You can be the most honest, loving and loyal person in your life.
And today is the day to begin getting to know that fabulous person.
So what do YOU want? Who do YOU want to be? What are YOUR needs and desires? And how will YOU make sure they are met?
Photo credit: © 2009 Alex