What is Codependency? 6 Questions to Ask Yourself and Facing Your Pain

By Dominica

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Last Updated: July 13, 2022

Codependency is a term that you may or may not be familiar with, but it is fairly common in relationships. It’s become more popular in recent years, but the term was coined decades ago in the 12-Step recovery movement.

Counselors who were treating alcoholism or drug addiction started noticing similar unhealthy characteristics among the partners or family members of the one struggling with addiction.

For example, let’s say Danny was being treated for alcoholism. His wife, Mary, was also struggling with an addiction – people pleasing.  She spent a lot of energy catering to Danny’s wants and needs, so much so that she lost herself and regularly enabled him to keep drinking. 

Her needs went out the window because she was so caught up in wrapping her world around her partner.

The dynamic of the relationship was unhealthy, with codependency at the root.

 

 

What is Codependency?

Many define codependency as an unhealthy relationship with another person, such as your partner, parent, friend, and so on. 

There are various characteristics associated with it, such as:

  • low self-esteem
  • poor self-worth
  • the lack of ability to set and keep boundaries
  • insecurity
  • not recognizing feelings

Many times, someone who is codependent will join up with someone struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs. In fact, some experts state that the two attract each other for various reasons. The relationship may go well for a while, but eventually some toxic or unhealthy behaviors will arise.

There may be a lot of conflict, jealousy, enabling behaviors, poor communication, and more. As a result, oftentimes a whole lot of emotional pain ensues. 

For the codependent, they may feel stuck in a relationship that is not going very well. They may even want out of the relationship but can’t seem to end it. They may feel afraid of being alone or don’t want to hurt the other person.

The one struggling with addiction may feel the same way. They may or may not be aware that their addiction is playing a role in the unhealthy relationship. They also may not feel strong enough to reach out for help or end the relationship. 

Either way, they’re both living with quite a bit of inner conflict and pain.

 

 

6 Questions to Ask: Are You Codependent?

  • Have you been told that you are codependent?
  • Do you feel overly dependent upon your partner?
  • Do you have a tough time feeling independent from your partner?
  • Is your partner struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs?
  • If so, do you feel like you’re going crazy trying to help and/or cope with the behaviors associated with it?
  • Are you being verbally, emotionally, or physically abused? 

If you answered yes to at least one of these, know that there is hope for you. Codependency is more common than most people think, but there is a path you can start walking that can help you overcome this kind of relating.

There is a saying in 12 Step groups that goes like this:

“When the pain gets great enough, you’ll do something different.”

Being in a toxic relationship can cause both partners a lot of inner pain. However, that pain can be used as a prop to lead you to a new path – a path toward learning more about codependent behaviors and overcoming them.

Plenty of people recovering from codependent behaviors will tell you that they started out in recovery full of negative emotions and plenty of pain. However, once they really started walking the recovery road and doing their inner healing work, they started managing and overcoming that pain.

 

 

It’s Time to Face Your Pain and Relationship Toxicity

If you’re in a relationship that is very dysfunctional and you’ve tried on your own multiple times to get it worked out, it’s time to face your pain and the toxicity in the relationship.

The good news is that there are those that are willing to help you.

If your partner is steeped in addiction, perhaps they can attend a rehab or 12 Step group for help.

If you’re struggling with codependent characteristics, you can also attend a support group such as Codependent Anonymous or Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.

These groups are designed to help you start to really focus on you and your life, working through any issues you may be struggling with and getting your life back.

 

 

Codependency: Recovery Takes Time and Effort

Any kind of recovery takes some time and effort, but if you get on the road to recovery, you’re on your way to learning how to have a healthy relationship with yourself and others.

It will require some effort and time on your part, but it’s certainly possible. If you’re struggling or if you know someone else who is struggling, it’s time to take your first step toward recovery. Reach out for help today.

Further Resources:

Codependent No More by Melody Beattie

Goodbye Codependency: A 40-Day Devotional And Guided Journal To Boost Self-Care

Photo by Helena Lopes

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