Understanding Codependency: Am I Codependent?
Codependency is a term that describes an unbalanced relationship in which one person’s needs are met while the others aren’t. Codependent people “enable” the bad behavior of a loved one by supporting them, and becoming very invested in the lives of others, despite how it negatively affects their own well-being.
For example, a parent may have a hard time setting healthy boundaries by telling their grown addict son or daughter that they must move out. This is a lose/lose situation because enabling this self destructive behavior stalls recovery and only perpetuates the problem. In addition, the codependent parent puts themselves in harm’s way, mentally, emotionally, and perhaps even physically.
Another example might be a relationship in which someone’s boyfriend is often running late to class and not completing his college assignments. His girlfriend enables these behaviors by making sure that he gets up on time and helping him write his papers. Getting overly involved in this way gives her an increased sense of purpose and value in the moment, but doesn’t truly help her or her boyfriend in the long run, and will likely lead to resentment on both their parts.
Codependency often stems from an individual’s low self-esteem, desire to please, and an inability to set clear boundaries. Codependents feel responsible for others’ problems and will take them on, despite the personal toll it may cost them.
Where Does Codependency Come From?
Codependency is usually developed in childhood. If you grew up in an environment where your emotions were either ignored or punished, you most likely developed low self-esteem, believing your needs didn’t matter.
Many codependents had parents who, for some reason, were unable to fulfill their role as caretakers. This dysfunction is usually the result of addiction, depression, narcissism, trauma, or other issues. In this situation, the child is forced to take on responsibilities beyond their years, taking care of younger siblings and even their own parents.
Signs of Codependency:
- The belief you must “save” or “rescue” others, a sense that you can do it better
- Low self-esteem
- A one-sided relationship where one person is responsible and the other is allowed to be chronically irresponsible.
- Going without so that others can have what they need or want.
- Walking on eggshells around others and keeping opinions to yourself so as not to upset the other person.
- Martyrdom – taking care of everyone else and feeling resentful when no one cares for you.
- A need to control
- A need to please
- An inability to set good boundaries
- Staying in relationships that are harmful or abusive
- A feeling of guilt when taking care of yourself
If you can relate to one or more of these signs, there is a good chance you may be suffering from codependency.
The good news is, by committing to your own personal development, and working with a therapist who specializes in codependency, you can have a fulfilling life which includes taking care of yourself, and creating true, reciprocal connections with others.
If you’d like to discuss individual therapy, please reach out to me.