Codependency is a term that's been around since the 70s. It started out among the addiction recovery movement, characterized by loved ones of those struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs. Therapists were discovering that when couples or families were coming in for counseling for addiction, the loved ones displayed some unhealthy ways of relating. They coined the word “codependency”, listing a variety of characteristics associated with such.
Over the years, codependency has taken on a much broader definition. However, the commonality at the root remains characterized by an unhealthy way of relating or negative patterns associated with relationships in general.
Codependency's become a buzzword in recent years. There are many people labeling themselves codependent, regardless of whether addiction is in play or not. Some may have codependent characteristics, but many may not. They may simply be struggling with some unhealthy relationship dynamics.
If you happen to be struggling in relationships, you may benefit from learning more about codependency. If you are struggling with it, then it’s helpful to know, so you can start addressing it.
As you gain insight into characteristics or behavior patterns that are not serving you, you can then address them and modify them to help you relate in healthier ways. This can certainly help you enjoy better, healthier relationships.
I used to struggle with plenty of codependency characteristics. Needless-to-say, it affected my relationships with others and myself. In fact, at one point, I was an emotional mess.
The inner pain prompted me to learn more about healing what needed healed so I could learn healthier ways to relate to myself and to others.
Now, let's get into some characteristics of codependency. Maybe someone has told you that you are codependent, clingy, or needy. Maybe you've been working on yourself for a while, but feels stuck in this area. Maybe you've attracted the same kind of selfish, unemotional partners time and time again.
Regardless of why you're inquiring more about codependency, here are some telltale signs that you are dealing with codependent ways of relating:
We all want to help people out. That's normal. But people pleasing goes beyond the normal way of relating. People pleasing is marked by doing all sorts of things for people in order to feel a sense of worth or get affirmation from them.
You busy yourself complimenting people, and trying to please them in a variety of ways. But you're not doing these behaviors just because you are an angel. You're doing them with an attachment to get something back from them that you feel is missing in your life.
It's usually the feelings of self-worth or unconditional love. The problem with this is that when you spend your time people pleasing, you set yourself up for disappointment. You set yourself up to say, “I did all of these things for you and this is what I get in return?” And you walk away angry, hurt, and frustrated.
It’s important to have internal and external boundaries. Having healthy boundaries in your relationship will save you both from a lot of negative emotions.
Do you have a tough time setting boundaries? Or do you set them and don’t follow through?
For example, let's say your partner enjoys putting you down for some reason. They may belittle you or take their frustrations out on you. Or maybe they’re just a jerk.
Either way, a healthy boundary on your end would be to sit down with them and say something like, “Hey, this is not acceptable. I require that you respect me, and if you can’t, well, this will be a deal breaker for me.”
For someone who is struggling with codependency, they may have a tough time setting that boundary or keeping it if they do.
Caretaking is a characteristic of codependency in that when someone comes to you with a problem, you feel the need to fix it so badly that you run yourself ragged trying to do so. It’s “caring” in order to get something back from others, rather than caring out of compassion or empathy.
Caretaking is different than caregiving. We should be caring and help others out. However, it helps to know what your motive is. Are you doing things for people for selfish reasons? For your own gain? Or worth? Or are you caring out of genuine compassion?
When the fear of abandonment is running under the surface, it can cause you to do some things that aren't great for your relationship. Obsession and jealousy are two examples. If your whole life is revolving around your relationship, this this could be a codependent characteristic. If you find jealousy popping up a lot, and it's really not warranted, that's another characteristic.
This goes hand in hand with losing yourself in the relationship. If you don’t have a sense of “self” and base your identity around others, you’re overly depending on them. This goes for intimate relationships, as well as friendships or parenting. When I was raising my children, I was way out of balance on this one. I lost my “self” along the way, so when they grew up, I hit a brick wall wondering, “Who am I?”
Do you have trouble expressing your concerns or feelings out of fear of conflict? Are there times when you want to say no, but you say yes anyway? Do you stuff your feelings because you don't want to upset anyone? Do you walk on eggshells?
Not being able to communicate your once, needs, or emotions is another characteristic of codependency.
Someone who struggles with codependency loves to feel in control. When they can control their environment, they feel more secure. They may also try to control others, because when they can, they feel safer. This may keep them from taking risks or letting loose. I’d been told more than once to “loosen up and have some fun”.
These are just a small list of codependency characteristics. Did you see yourself in any of them?
If you can relate to some of these, you may want to learn more about codependency recovery. There are various options to help you deal with what’s going on under the surface that has you relating in codependent ways. Codependency Anonymous is a 12 Step groups that has helped many people recover. Seeing a therapist can be helpful too.
Don’t let codependency keep getting the best of you. Too many people just give up when they could be growing and learning new ways to handle problems in their relationships.
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