Codependency is a term that describes an unhealthy or unbalanced relationship where one person’s needs are met while the others aren’t. Codependent people are said to “enable” the bad behavior of a loved one by supporting them, no matter if it negatively affects their own well-being.
As an example, a parent may have a hard time setting healthy boundaries by telling their grown addict son or daughter their behavior is unwelcomed and they must move out. This is a bit of a lose/lose scenario because enabling this bad behavior stalls recovery and only perpetuates the problem. In addition, the codependent parent puts themselves in harm’s way, mentally, emotionally, and perhaps even physically.
Codependency often stems from an individual’s low self-esteem, excessive need to please, and an inability to set boundaries. Codependents feel responsible for others’ problems and will take them on, despite the personal toll it may cost them.
Where Does Codependency Come From?
Codependency is usually developed in childhood. If you grew up in an environment where your emotions were either ignored or punished, you most likely developed low self-esteem, believing your needs didn’t matter.
Many codependents had parents who, for some reason, were unable to fulfill their role as caretakers. This dysfunction is usually the result of addiction, depression, narcissism, or other issues. In this situation, the child is forced to take on responsibilities beyond their years, taking care of younger siblings and even their own parent(s).
When we’re young, codependent behaviors are a survival mechanism. But as we become adults, these same behaviors prevent us from experiencing healthy relationships.
Signs of Codependency
Codependent people will typically one or more telltale codependency signs:
- The belief you must “save” or “rescue” others
- Low self-esteem
- A one-sided relationship where one person is responsible and the other is allowed to be chronically irresponsible.
- Going without so that others can have what they need or want.
- Walking on eggshells around others and keeping opinions to yourself so as not to upset the other person.
- Martyrdom – taking care of everyone else and resentful when no one cares for you.
- A need to control
- A need to please
- An inability to set boundaries
- Staying in relationships that are harmful or abusive
- A feeling of guilt when taking care of yourself
If you can relate to one or more of these signs, there is a good chance you may be suffering from codependency.
The good news is, by committing to your own personal development and well-being, and working with a therapist who specializes in codependency, you can have a profound recovery that ultimately leads to peace, fulfillment, and true connections with others.