What is Codependency and how to overcome it

What is Codependency?

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 Causes Codependency?

Codependency can be a result of having been raised by parents who were also codependent or through experiencing an abusive relationship as an adult. It is a psychological condition that is characterized by a tendency to put the needs of others before one’s own.

There are many different causes of codependency, however some are more common. One way that codependency can start is when people have parents who were addicted to substances or have mental health issues. In these cases, children may grow up feeling like they need to take care of their parents and never get the chance to learn how to be independent from them. Another cause of codependency can occur when people feel like they need to take care of their partner because they think it will make them happy or keep them from leaving them for another person.

The narcissist and the codependent enabler

Narcissists have an inflated sense of their own self-importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. They are characterized by an excessive preoccupation with themselves, their physical appearance and attributes. In addition they require constant attention and admiration to validate their self-worth. This means that they will often make it a point to find a partner who is willing to give them whatever they need and never get anything in return. The partner becomes their enabler, stuck in a cycle of codependency that they cannot break out of.

Signs of Codependency

Codependency is a term used to describe someone who is excessively caring for and focused on the needs of others, to the point that it causes problems in the person’s life. This can be exhibited by excessive amounts of guilt or shame when spending time with themselves, or neglecting their own needs and wants. Clearly this is not a healthy outlook on life, so if you think you are codependent it is important to do something about it.

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. You 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.

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.

For Further Reading

You might also want to check out the following posts about narcissistic families and the impact of childhood trauma:

And finally, this is my story. I was the scapegoat daughter of a narcissistic father.

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