Codependency and Relationships
Codependency is a huge relationship barrier for many people! Often it is one that is difficult to identify within ourselves. WHY? It’s harder for us to see the codependent behavior because it’s US in the situation. As you begin to read and learn more about the concept and how it applies to you, the ability to change the behavior, repair relationships and reduce anxiety will come easily.
Those that struggle to maintain healthy boundaries find themselves having difficulties maintaining proper relationships with those that are closest to them. There’s an excellent and informative book called Codependent No More by Melody Beattie if you want to dig deeper into this concept.
Being codependent refers to someone who is overly reliant on another person emotionally. This occurs a lot in people who are struggling themselves, or are taking care of those who fight with addiction. Do you think you might be codependent?
So now that I have let you in on some resources you can use, let’s talk about how you can identify codependency. How do you know if you are in a codependent relationship? There are many “warning signs” that you may or may not see depending on your level of awareness. Mental Health America outlines the following information to identify codependency in relationships:
- An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
- A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
- A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time
- A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
- An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment
- An extreme need for approval and recognition
- A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
- A compelling need to control others
- Lack of trust in self and/or others
- Fear of being abandoned or alone
- Difficulty identifying feelings
- Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
- Problems with intimacy/boundaries
- Chronic anger
- Poor communications
- Difficulty making decisions”
After reviewing that list, can you see yourself in any of those scenarios with the ones you’re closest to? To be clear, one of these particular bullet points listed does not indicate that you are in-fact codependent. Also, you don’t need to have every item checked off in order to fall into this category either. It can be a mix and match of several of these which makes it a little harder to see, especially if you’re the one involved. It’s much harder to see the situation when it involves you.
For instance, if you’ve been in a situation with a friend or relative and you have difficulty making decisions and cannot communicate effectively; this doesn’t mean you’re codependent. But… if you’re someone in a relationship who is angry all of the time, there is dishonesty, you feel the need to get the other person’s approval, feelings of being responsible for their behavior, and you aren’t happy but you won’t leave—then you may want to take a step back, take a good hard look at what you are dealing with and engage a third party (therapist) to help you.
I know it’s a lot easier for most people to look at someone else’s relationship and be able to point this out clear as day, but to do that for ourselves is much more difficult. When it comes to reflecting on our own relationships, it’s also a lot easier to make excuses for why things are the way they are. But excuses won’t help you. It just facilitates the behavior. If you aren’t sure, ask someone who knows you well if you fall into this category, you might just get the honesty you need to make a big change.
Time for a Change
Once you have identified the problem, it’s time to fix it. Sometimes, these patterns of behavior are the result of childhood trauma that they haven’t been able to let go of or heal. Other times its from living with someone who constantly puts you down, disregards your opinion or value and has created uncertainty and lack of self-worth. That is why therapy is the best “medicine”.
Some types of therapy involve talking through your emotions so you can release the things that are holding you back and preventing you from being in healthy relationships with others. Trauma therapy such as EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) actually target those disturbing events from the past which created the negative beliefs you have about yourself and heals your brain. It is the closest thing to a miracle for healing.
Group counseling can also be helpful or the twelve step groups mentioned above. There is something to be said about hearing the stories of other people’s experiences that helps you put things into perspective. It can also give you some insight into how other people have managed to improve their relationships and how you can too.
Before I close, I want to share some resources for those struggling with or caring for someone who has an addiction. Thank goodness we live in a time where there are incredible resources available in our communities and for FREE! If you are living with, parenting or were raised by an alcoholic or addict, I recommend looking into Al-Anon which is an organization who helps friends or loved ones of those who are battling addiction to alcohol. There you will find comfort in the fellowship with other people in similar walks of life. Nar-Anon is for families whose loved ones have drug addictions.
Both of those resources are great for children, especially those who grew up in a household of parents who have used and abused alcohol or drugs. If you have been in that type of environment and never explored how they may be able to help you, I definitely recommend looking further into that. There’s no shame in looking for some closure and being around people who understand your particular situation and feelings.
If you’re someone who is having a hard time identifying whether or not you’re in a codependent relationship and have further questions, please reach out to me. I look forward to getting to talking with you all very soon! Take care.