Recognizing Codependency between two people is important because sometimes the best choice is to walk away from a relationship, despite the heartbreak that will follow.
While it may be uncomfortable to let go of someone, it is often more damaging to stay in a relationship that is dysfunctional. Unfortunately, many people ride out toxic (and sometimes abusive) relationships because they feel responsible for their partner’s well-being.
If you find yourself self-sacrificing your own needs and become worried that your partner cannot function without you, it may be an indication that you are in a codependent relationship.
What is Codependency?
Codependency is a behavioral condition that interferes with a person’s ability to maintain a healthy relationship due to prioritizing someone else’s life.
A person that is codependent will many times exhibit the following characteristics:
- Enable undesirable behavior
- Feel as though they must be needed to be deemed worthy
- Will focus attention outside themselves
- May wish to play rescue
- Can act as a compulsory caretaker
The codependent person often uses detachment, or denial of issues, as a defense mechanism. People with a codependent condition often have a sense of identity by playing this role in people’s lives. It is almost an addiction to them, or an addictive behavior.
Relationships with a codependent dynamic are usually unbalanced. The codependent person may give up their own needs and desires to satisfy their partner’s needs.
They may become caught up trying to fix their partner’s problems (i.e. drug and alcohol addictions, irresponsibility, and poor mental health), or covering up their problems from the world, and consequently carrying the burden on themselves.
Recognizing codependency can be difficult and even when a codependent person realizes they are being mistreated or are in an unfair relationship, they often believe they deserve it.
What are the Roots of Codependency?
A person develops codependency as a child through learned and imitated behavior. A child’s parent may be emotionally unavailable to the child, possibly because their parent was to them, so the child takes on the parent role to take care of their own parent or parents.
Most likely, the child witnessed behaviors such as avoidance of difficult situations, lack of confrontation, and disregard of personal needs.
In addition, the unavailable parent may physically or emotionally abuse the child, creating a paradox for the child because they believe love and abuse go hand-in-hand.
The child then internalizes and imitates all of their witnessed behaviors. This is considered a dysfunctional family dynamic.
When the child becomes an adult, they repeat the pattern in their own relationships, continuing to take on the parenting role, continuing the cycle of denial, and accepting abuse and manipulation as a norm in a relationship.
What are the Signs of Codependency?
There are certain traits that can help you determine if you are codependent or if your relationship is codependent. Recognizing codependency will become easier to see if these signs are apparent.
Here are some common signs of codependency:
- Having a purpose when you are needed
- A drive to rescue people you pity
- Feeling guilty to assert needs
- A fear of abandonment
- Dodging conflict and arguments
- Repressing emotions
- Diverting attention from yourself to avoid confronting own issues
- Having weak boundaries
- The need to be liked by everyone and to please them
- Poor communication skills
- Trouble saying “no” to people
- A desire to always be in a relationship
Codependency Healing and Treatment
If your behaviors show you are a codependent person it is best to work with a mental health professional to properly diagnose you and your relationship patterns to begin proper treatment for codependency healing.
If you have a codependency condition, you will need to work through your childhood issues to understand your current destructive relationship issues. A therapist may recommend reading materials and other resources to educate yourself and your loved ones about your behavioral patterns.
For those who have used alcohol or other substances to cope with the stress and anxiety of being in a codependent relationship, it might be necessary to seek help at a dual diagnosis treatment center to overcome codependency and addiction.
It will be apparent when you have broken the cycle if you become self-reliant, have stopped your enabling habits, care for your own needs, walk away from abusive situations, can say “no” to other people, and establish boundaries.