Codependency is an unhealthy relationship dynamic where an individual has an emotional or psychological reliance on another person.
Initially it was used to refer to relationships where one of the partners is addicted to drugs, alcohol, or other substances and the other partner feels compelled to provide emotional support.
However, this type of relationship imbalance does not only happen in cases of substance abuse, so the term is nowadays used more widely.
If you find yourself stuck in a cycle where you are always giving to the person you are in a relationship with, and not getting anything in return, then you might be in a codependent relationship.
Codependency is characterized by an unhealthy balance of power that often results in feelings of guilt or inadequacy in the “giver.”
In fact the giver is usually plagued by low self-esteem, excessive feelings of guilt and shame, and a sense of powerlessness over one’s own life.
What is Codependency?
Codependency is a type of dysfunctional relationship in which one person has an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on another.
It is often seen in romantic relationships, but it can also involve family members and friends.
In codependent relationships, people often place the needs of the other person before their own in order to feel valued and avoid conflict.
This can lead to resentment and an imbalanced power dynamic.
Additionally, someone who is codependent may fear abandonment if they don’t comply with their partner’s wishes.
What Causes Codependency?
There are many different causes of codependency, however some are more common.
Unhealthy Family Dynamics: Codependency often stems from a childhood in which unhealthy family dynamics such as excessive control and lack of support were present.
Low Self-Esteem: Codependent people often have difficulty believing in their own worth, leading them to seek validation and acceptance from their partners rather than having faith in themselves.
Poor Communication Skills: People who have developed codependent behaviors may struggle to communicate effectively with their partners, resulting in misunderstandings and conflict, or feelings of not being heard or taken seriously.
Unresolved Trauma: Traumatic events experienced during childhood can cause a person to develop codependent tendencies as they grow older, making it difficult for them to form healthy relationships with others.
Addiction: Substance abuse can lead to codependency if the user turns to a partner for support instead of seeking professional help, or if the partner enables their addiction by attempting to control it or refusing to confront the issue head-on.
Anxiety And Fear Of Intimacy: People who are fearful of intimacy may resort to codependent traits as a way to avoid getting too close to someone in order to feel safe and secure, depriving themselves of true emotional connection in the process.
Signs of Codependency
The first step to overcoming codependency is to identify if you are in a codependent relationship.
One of the common signs of codependency is when you are always the one to apologize, even if you have not actually done anything wrong.
You could also find yourself doing things for your partner that you do not feel comfortable doing, or not doing things you want to do because you are worried that your partner would not like it.
Codependents might even worry that you cannot break up with the other person, even if you want to, because your partner would not be able to cope without you.
The following are some clear signs of codependency –
Unbalanced Relationships: Codependent relationships are often characterized by an unequal balance of power, with one person taking on the role of caretaker and the other person receiving the care.
Low Self-Esteem: People in codependent relationships often feel that their worth is based entirely upon what their partner thinks of them, causing them to have low self-esteem.
Difficulty Maintaining Boundaries: Codependent people often lack strong boundaries, allowing their partners to dictate their behavior and decisions and leaving them feeling trapped or powerless.
Fear of Abandonment: Fear of abandonment can be a dangerous side effect of a codependent relationship, as it can lead to a person staying in an unhealthy situation out of fear rather than seeking help or a healthier environment.
Struggling With Communicating Needs: People in codependent relationships may struggle to communicate their needs and wants to their partner if they are constantly trying to please them instead of speaking up for themselves.
Allowing Yourself To Be Taken For Granted: Codependents can sometimes find themselves settling into roles which allow them to be taken advantage of, such as carrying out all the chores without being appreciated for it or always being available when needed but not being shown the same level of commitment from their partner in return.
Get Professional Help: Seeking help from a mental health professional can be an essential step in overcoming codependency and learning the skills to form healthy relationships.
Increase Self-Awareness: Becoming more aware of one’s own thoughts, feelings and behavior is an important part of learning how to separate oneself from unhealthy patterns of behavior.
Heal Unresolved Traumas: Working with a therapist to process unresolved traumas or other painful experiences can help to bring healing and closure and reduce codependent impulses or behaviors.
Practice Healthy Boundaries: Learning how to say ‘no’ and enforce limits on what is acceptable and unacceptable in relationships is an important part of breaking free from codependency.
Learn How To Express Needs And Boundaries In A Positive Way: Communicating needs clearly while respecting the boundaries of their own as well as their partner’s can help people build strong, healthy connections with others rather than unhealthy ones based around control or manipulation.
Balance Independence With Interdependence: Finding a balance between independence and interdependence is key for codependent people learning to rely on themselves, rather than relying too heavily on their partner for support or validation, or avoiding intimate connections altogether out of fear or anxiety.
How to break free
Seeing as the root cause of codependent behaviour is a lack of self esteem, it is important that you invest time in yourself.
Focus on your strengths and on the parts of yourself that you love, and make an effort to stop the negative monologue about yourself that is often playing in your mind.
Start to carve out time for yourself and do things alone or with friends. You could go for a massage or meet a friend for coffee.
Practice saying “no” when someone asks you to do something you do not want to do.
Initially it will be hard, but as time goes by and you realize that the world did not end simply because you refused to do something, it will get easier.
And finally, if you feel you are trapped in a codependent relationship with a narcissist or someone who will not let you out of their clutches, seek help.
There are therapists who can support you as you build your confidence and feelings of self-worth, until you finally have the strength and the courage to break free.
Remember this – you are precious and you deserve to be happy.
Codependency is a common issue, and one that can be difficult to overcome.
However, with the right tools and resources, it is possible for anyone to learn how to form healthy relationships and break free from unhealthy patterns of behavior.
Recovery from codependency takes time and effort, but the rewards are worth it in the end – allowing someone to have more fulfilling connections with others and greater self-confidence.
Frequently Asked Questions About Codependency in Relationships
Codependency refers to a behavioral condition where one person becomes excessively reliant on their partner for their emotional and self-esteem needs. This often leads to an unhealthy, unbalanced relationship.
Signs of a codependent relationship can include:
– Difficulty setting boundaries
– Feeling responsible for your partner’s happiness
– Neglecting your own needs in favor of your partner’s
– Fear of abandonment or being alone
– Constantly trying to please your partner, even at your own expense
Codependency can develop as a result of childhood experiences, particularly in families where parents are emotionally unavailable or abusive. It can also develop in adulthood through relationships where one person is overly controlling or needy.
Yes, codependency can be treated. Therapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can be beneficial. Self-care practices, developing healthy boundaries, and learning to prioritize your own needs can also help break the cycle of codependency.
No, codependency and dependency are not the same. While it’s normal to rely on others to a certain extent, codependency involves an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner.
A codependent relationship isn’t healthy because it lacks balance, with one person’s needs being prioritized over the other’s. Both parties in a relationship should feel valued, respected, and able to express their needs and wants.
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Carla Corelli is an author, advocate, and survivor of narcissistic abuse. Having grown up with a narcissistic father, Carla experienced firsthand the profound impact of psychological and emotional abuse. Fueled by her personal journey, she pursued a degree in psychology and has dedicated herself to shedding light on the complexities of narcissistic abuse.
With over fifteen years of experience in writing and advocating for survivors, Carla is deeply committed to providing support, education, and empowerment to those who have endured similar trauma. Through her insightful articles and resources, Carla endeavors to offer a compassionate space for healing and growth, while advocating for greater awareness and understanding of narcissistic abuse.
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