Codependency can be defined as a pattern of behaviour in which one person’s self-esteem and self-worth is dependent on the approval of another person. The codependent feels worthless unless they’re making sacrifices for their enabler, and the enabler gets satisfaction from having their every need met. It’s a dysfunctional relationship of enmeshment built on manipulation, control, and fear.
Research suggests that codependency typically develops in childhood as a response to neglect or emotional and physical abuse by a parent or caretaker. The child learns that their needs are unimportant; that to remain quiet avoids conflicts; and that by sacrificing their own needs they will win approval and love.
Codependency can also develop as a result of caring for a chronically ill person. Cast in the role of caregiver at an early age can result in a young person neglecting their own needs in favour of others.
Codependent relationships can occur between friends, family members, and romantic partners. It’s common in relationships where chronic illness, mental health issues, addiction, and physical abuse are present. Situations where the love and happiness in the relationship is predicated on one person’s distress and the other rescuing or enabling.
Signs of codependency in a relationship are not hard to spot. Often, the codependent knows they’re in an unhealthy relationship but feels powerless to set boundaries or to end the relationship.
The goal of codependency recovery is to find the balance between caring for others and taking care of oneself. Codependents need to examine their beliefs and where they came from; identify their relationship patterns; and begin to set new boundaries on what is and isn’t acceptable in relationships. Developing new friendships, joining a support group, and investing time in hobbies or other personal development activities can help codependents build back their self-esteem and self-worth.
Signs You’re in a Codependent Relationship
- Do you constantly worry about people’s opinions of you?
- Are you attracted to people that have problems?
- Are you loyal to people who continuously reject, hurt or mistreat you?
- Are you unable to find satisfaction or happiness in your life outside of doing things for another person?
- Have you lost your sense of identity, or given up on hobbies and personal interests to accommodate another person?
- Do you have difficulty saying no when someone makes unreasonable demands on your time and energy?
- Do you frequently make excuses, compensate, or ignore people’s unhealthy or hurtful behaviour?
- Does your sense of purpose involve making sacrifices to satisfy other’s needs?
- Do you value the approval of others more than you value your own opinions?
- Do you deny your thoughts and feelings to avoid arguments?
- Are you supporting someone at the expense of your mental, emotional, and physical health?
- Can people manipulate you to get their own way?
- Is another person’s happiness your #1 priority?
- Do you feel trapped in a relationship?
If you see any of these signs of codependency within your relationship, you can change the dynamics and end your dysfunctional love patterns. There are many excellent self-help books and articles written about codependency that can help, or seek guidance from certified mental health professional. End the cycle of self-sabotage and abuse and create the love and happiness you deserve.