Sometimes the best choice is to walk away from a relationship, despite the heartbreak that will follow. While it may be uncomfortable to let go of someone, it is more damaging to stay in a relationship that is dysfunctional. Unfortunately, many people ride out toxic (and sometimes abusive) relationships because they feel responsible for their partner’s well-being. If you find yourself self-sacrificing your own needs and worried that your partner cannot function without you, it may be an indication that you are a codependent person.
What is codependency?
Codependency is a behavioral condition that interferes with a person’s ability to maintain a healthy relationship due to prioritizing someone else’s life. A person that is codependent will enable undesirable behavior, feel as though they must be needed to be deemed worthy, will focus attention outside themselves, may wish to play rescue, and can act as a compulsory caretaker. The codependent person often uses detachment–denial of issues–as a defense mechanism. People with a codependent condition often have a sense of identity by playing this role in people’s lives. It is an addiction.
Relationships with a codependent dynamic are usually unbalanced. The codependent person may give up their own needs and desires to satisfy their partner’s needs. They may get caught up trying to fix their partner’s problems (i.e. drug and alcohol addictions, irresponsibility, and poor mental health), or covering up their problems from the world, and consequently carrying the burden on themselves. Even when a codependent recognizes they are being mistreated or are in an unfair relationship, they often believe they deserve it.
What are the roots of codependency?
A person develops codependency as a child through learned and imitated behavior. A child’s parent may be emotionally unavailable to the child, as perhaps their parent(s) was, so the child takes on the parent role to take care of their own parent(s). Most likely, the child witnessed behaviors such as avoidance of difficult situations, lack of confrontation, and disregard of personal needs. Additionally, the unavailable parent may physically or emotionally abuse the child, creating a paradox for the child–they believe love and abuse go hand-in-hand. The child then internalizes and imitates all the witnessed behaviors. This is considered a dysfunctional family dynamic. When the child becomes an adult, they repeat the pattern in their relationships, continuing to take on the parenting role, continuing the cycle of denial, and accepting abuse and manipulation as a norm in a relationship.
What are some signs that I am codependent?
There are certain traits that can help you determine if you are codependent or if your relationship is codependent. Here are a few:
- Having a purpose when you are needed
- A drive to rescue people you pity
- Feeling guilty to assert needs
- A fear of abandonment
- Dodging conflict and arguments
- Repressing emotions
- Diverting attention from yourself to avoid confronting own issues
- Having weak boundaries
- The need to be liked by everyone and to please them
- Poor communication skills
- Trouble saying “no” to people
- A desire to always be in a relationship
How can I treat my codependency?
Even if your behaviors resemble codependency, it is best to work with a mental health retreat center professionals to properly diagnose you and your relationship patterns. If you have a codependency condition, you will need to work through your childhood issues to understand your current destructive relationship issues. A therapist may recommend reading materials and other resources to educate you and your loved ones about your behavioral patterns.
It will be apparent that you have broken the cycle if you become self-reliant, have stopped your enabling habits, care for your own needs, walk away from abusive situations, can say “no” to people, and establish boundaries.