Updated: May 23, 2018
We here the word "codepedent" thrown around a lot, but do we really know what it means? By the end of this post, you will know whether you are in any codependent relationships. Codependency is usually problematic for those involved and fosters continued problems. It means the boundaries in the relationship are enmeshed and unbalanced. (See my blog post on boundaries for more information). Let's start by looking at the definition:
Codependency [kō-dĕ-pen’den-sē], n.:
1. a condition in which one person supports, either overtly or inadvertently, the addictive behavior of another. 2. a condition where one person becomes the “caretaker” of an addicted or troubled individual. 3. a destructive form of helping; enabling.
As you can see, a codependent relationship continues the cycle of addiction or problematic behavior. This is because the person who is the "helper" will lose their identify if the person who is the "helped" gets well. It goes the other way, too: The person who is "helped" will receive less care and attention from the "helper" if they get well. Healing the dynamics of codependency is important for both people in the relationship because having an identify based on the problem or addiction fosters a continuation of the very problems they would like to eliminate. Codependency can happen in parent-child relationships, sibling relationships, friendships, romantic relationships, etc. It can even happen in therapeutic relationships!
So how do you know if you're a codependent "helper"? Here's a list of indications that you may have taken on this role in one or more of your relationships. Having a majority of these things more likely shows that you are in a codependent relationship. Have a one or two may simply indicate that you need to adjust your boundaries a bit, but you may not be fully codependent.
Think and feel responsible for other people—for other people’s feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, wants, needs, well-being, lack of well-being, and ultimate destiny.
Feel anxiety, pity, and guilt when other people have a problem.
Feel compelled—almost forced—to help that person solve the problem, such as offering unwanted advice, giving a rapid-fire series of suggestions, or fixing feelings.
Feel angry when their help isn’t effective.
Anticipate others’ needs.
Wonder why others don’t do the same for them.
Find themselves saying “yes” when they mean “no,” doing things they don’t really want to be doing, doing more than their fair share of the work, and doing things other people are capable of doing for themselves.
Try to please others instead of themselves.
Feel sad because they spend their whole lives giving to other people and nobody gives to them.
Find themselves attracted to needy people.
Find needy people attracted to them.
Feel bored, empty, and worthless if the don’t have a crisis in their lives, a problem to solve, or someone to help.
Become afraid to let other people be who they are and allow events to happen naturally.
If you find yourself in a codependent relationship, you may want to see a therapist to help you reset the boundaries in your relationship so that it's more functional for both parties. You can give me a call or send me an email if you would like more help in this area!