What Is Codependency?

Codependency is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects one’s ability to maintain healthy relationships. While it’s not recognized as a diagnosable illness, codependency is extremely common and is often referred to as “relationship addiction.”

Someone with a codependent personality typically has a bad relationship with themselves. Therefore, they feel compelled to receive self-worth from external sources like other people.

Codependent examples

What is a codependent relationship?

A codependent relationship occurs when each partner abdicates responsibility for themselves. Generally, one partner is the “taker” while the other is the “caretaker,” although these roles can switch depending on the issue. For example, one partner might be a caretaker financially and a taker emotionally or sexually. (Codependent relationships aren’t always romantic, though: there can also be codependent friendships and similarly enmeshed family dynamics.)

This relationship might seem to work for a while, until either the caretaker feels angry, hurt, and drained from never getting the love and approval they are seeking, or the taker, never feeling filled up enough, seeks attention elsewhere.

Signs you’re in a codependent relationship:

1* The relationship feels stagnant.

You feel stagnant and stuck in the relationship. You don’t know how to bring life back into the relationship. You feel that you are settling, and that perhaps you are with the wrong partner.

2* You pay more attention to your partner’s feelings than your own.

This one applies to the caretaker, specifically: You are tuned in to your partner’s feelings but tend to ignore your own feelings or often don’t even know how you feel.

READ ALSO: CAN A CODEPENDENT RELATIONSHIP BE SAVED

3* You don’t feel good in the relationship.

You’re not feeling turned on to your partner. You don’t have fun together, and there isn’t much affection. You feel lonely with your partner, and you also feel alone—that your partner doesn’t have your back

4* You depend on your partner to feel okay.

You make your partner responsible for your feelings; that is, you make it so your unhappiness is tied to your partner’s actions instead of taking responsibility yourself for how you feel. This one is more specific to the taker’s experience in a codependent relationship, but actually, both partners likely feel dependent on their partner for their sense of self in some way.

5* You don’t feel at ease when you’re together.

You feel stressed around your partner, and you often feel irritated and frustrated with your partner. You are more relaxed around others than around your partner.

Example of a codependent relationship

The concept of the codependent relationship may have grown out of observations of alcoholics and their spouses. It must have been observed that a particular type of spouse got paired up with the alcoholic. That spouse came to be called the codependent.

Let’s say the man has an addiction to alcohol. Perhaps he has trouble being firm and making decisions that need to be made.

His wife happens to be someone who knew he had a drinking problem when they got together but that was okay with her because she felt called to help him. She believed she could help him and all would be well.

signs you are in a codependent relationship

His wife is attracted to people and situations that need her help. Consciously or unconsciously she believes she can (and must) rescue people. She is comfortable with situations where her ability to solve problems, care for others and take responsibility are called upon.

The alcoholic is the one with the drug problem. His partner is a support to him and that might or might not be the best thing. It sometimes enables the addiction.

This is an example of a ‘codependent relationship’ as if that was bad. No it is not. It is just an identification of a family system. It is not wrong, or pathological.

If it is unhealthy, it is because most of us grew up in unhealthy systems and produce unhealthy systems. It is normal unhealthy not abnormal.

Symptoms of codependency

It can be hard to distinguish between a person who is codependent and one who is just clingy or very enamored with another person. But, a person who is codependent will usually

Use all their time and energy to give their partner everything they ask for.

Feel guilty about thinking of themselves in the relationship and will not express any personal needs or desires.

Ignore their own morals or conscience to do what the other person wants.

May feel irritated or angry often

May feel entitled to the other person’s time and energy

Comparing self to others

Find no satisfaction or happiness in life outside of doing things for the other person.

Stay in the relationship even if they are aware that their partner does hurtful things.

Feeling needy of others’ attention and approval

Do anything to please and satisfy their enabler no matter what the expense to themselves.

Feel constant anxiety about their relationship due to their desire to always be making the other person happy.

What causes severe codependency in relationships?

I was raised in a home with unclear boundaries, not because my parents neglected to set them but because my parents themselves had never heard of such a thing.

In my home, my parent’s state (their fights, their arguments, how they were feeling) set the tone for how everyone was feeling. Focusing on them and how they were doing seemed a lot more important to me than thinking about how I was doing.

I was under the impression I needed to mediate to keep things “under control”. I felt hyper-attentive, like I was always walking on eggshells. I believed I was responsible for the emotions of others.

My first relationships had no boundaries, because I didn’t know what they were or how to set them. “I love you no matter what” sounded to me like “true love”. My sense of self was in the other. I processed breakups as a total loss of myself.

A lack of boundaries was then reinforced by pop culture. The music I heard and movies I watched encouraged codependent love, rather than healthy love. “I can’t live if living is without you” sounded total and true, rather than out of whack and clearly detrimental to my sense of sovereignty.

Codependency is insidious and it’s pervasive. Spending time alone and learning how to say no are frowned upon, put down and regarded as “selfish” – yet these are precisely the antidotes to codependency. It’s no wonder we end up exhausted and discouraged, jumping from one needy, suffocating relationship to another, only to conclude love sucks and is not worth the devastation.

READ ALSO: 17 SIGNS OF PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE RELATIONSHIP, WHY SOME PARTNER ARE PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE

Why is it so hard to leave a codependent relationship?

We often stay way too long in dysfunctional relationships; we stay even when we’re being hurt emotionally or physically and there’s no indication that the relationship will ever meet our needs. We continue to think we can change our partner and make them into something they are not. We don’t want to give up. We don’t want to fail at another relationship. And we don’t want to be alone.

If we would only believe that if we end relationship; we will gain confidence, self-esteem, and a stronger sense of who we are as individuals when we invest time and energy into getting to know ourselves, allowing our feelings to surface and be expressed in healthy ways, and clearly seeing what we truly want and need.

How do you deal with your codependency

I don’t blame me for being codependent. When I first come into the world and learn about love, I learn from relationships around me and most are codependent.

The examples I see, romantic movies and stories, songs and music, play out for me examples of codependent relationships.

The message I get is clear: true love means neglecting me to earn the love of another person. It’s super romantic to lose myself, to feel like I can’t live if living is without you.

Boundaries – the simple notion of having limits – is widely regarded as selfish. If another person feels something, I feel it too, instead of recognizing the emotion of another cannot be mine.

Of course I end up unsure of who I am – since I only exist through another – and clueless about what I want, since my entire focus is on guessing what you want.

Codependency is people pleasing and lack of boundaries and expecting a soulmate will come save me – and I in turn will fix him, because codependency means you see people as projects, like fixer uppers.

It takes a long time to process that the notion that we can help or save another is an assault on their sovereignty.

Codependency means that when the relationship is over I realize I never really tended to myself, so aside from an unclear identity and a murky sense of what I need or want, I have never learned to express my thoughts or emotions, never learned to ask for anything.

To deal with codependency, I need to get to know me and learn to love myself. To understand who this person living inside of me actually is. To love spending time with me, so I can hear her. To learn to clearly express what it is that I want.

I am supposed to be an advocate for myself.

My most important relationship, the deepest, most satisfactory, most complex, is the one with me. Because, that’s the one that determines the shape of every other.

how to deal with codependency

Can a codependent relationship be fixed?

A codependent relationship can be fixed with the practice of checking in with myself.

I check in with myself. I listen to my feelings. I respond by setting boundaries. Feeling overwhelmed? I need a boundary. Overextended? Boundary. Taken advantage of? Boundary? Resentful? Boundary. Setting boundaries is really hard and it’s normal for them to feel uncomfortable, wrong, scary.

I check in with myself. Am I trying to fix, save, rescue someone other than myself? Pause. I step back. Boundary. I cannot “help” someone else – believing that I can is the definition of codependency. People need to face the natural consequences of their actions. If I attempt to “protect” them from these consequences, that defines me as an enabler. This means I am the problem.

I check in with myself. Does an absence of a crisis make me feel like the other shoe is going to drop? Dushka, take a breath. Settle in. Learn what calm feels like, what peace feels like. This is healthy. It’s really foreign and difficult if I associate my self worth with making myself valuable during a crisis. Being proud of “always being there – always, day or night” is a lack of boundaries = codependent.

I check in with myself. Do I feel the urge to give long explanations to things I do? A long explanation is codependent. I learn to get comfortable feeling misunderstood or disappointing others.

I check in with myself. Does a relationship feel unsafe? Boundary. I step back, or step away.

Just like I cannot save another, only I can save myself. Only I am responsible for myself. Only I know what’s best for me. I align my life to this. To what I know. To me.

Thanks for reading, please share to educate others and don’t forget to like and comment your opinion in the comment section. See you next time and have a blessed day.