When some people use the word “codependent,” they’re referring to someone in a relationship with an addict or alcoholic, or who is merely dependent on another person. But codependency is more specific than that, and more soul-sucking than people realize, for both the codependent person and the person they’re trying to control.
How do you know if you or your partner is codependent? Here are some behaviors that characterize codependency:
- Codependents second-guess themselves when people mistreat them. Instead of setting a boundary like walking away, they try to make the other person change.
- If the other person won’t change, they increase the pressure.
- They aren’t straightforward about their motives, often because they don’t know their motives or what they really want. They use words and actions they believe will make others care or change, rather than expressing themselves directly and allowing the chips to fall where they may.
- Like everyone, they want to be happy. But their trauma wounds give them a blind spot about what can actually make them happy: developing themselves and allowing relationships to form naturally with good people.
- They wait for someone else to give them love, connection, financial stability and a vision of the future because they aren’t generating these things themselves.
- They attach to dysfunctional people, causing their powerful “fixer” engine to fire up and distract the codependent from all that’s missing in their life.
- Codependents like to feel like the responsible one, the wise one, the poor suffering one who holds everything together, even when not asked to play this role. It’s how they get meaning.
- The importance they place on seeming to have it all together prevents them from connecting with people or asking for help.
- They find it hard to admit personal failures and worries, things most people feel from time to time such as “I feel that hardly anyone likes me,” or “I thought I’d be farther along in life by now.”
- Their pain will generally be described as something someone else did or failed to do.
- They have a hard time seeing they signed up for most of their relationships, and that those situations didn’t just “happen” to them.
- They confuse themselves with another person – more specifically, another person’s problems. They focus on trying to solve the other person’s problems, rather than advance their own lives.
- They believe that if the other person changed, they’d be happy, even if the other person is only someone they’ve dated a short while.
- Sometimes they purchase books, research therapists and watch videos just to “help” their partner, whom they believe needs these resources but won’t admit it. They don’t seek resources for themselves or admit they have a problem.
- To the codependent, their negative patterns feel like a force of nature, or a curse—something that just happens to them.
- They feel resentful and taken for granted because they do so much for people who don’t reciprocate or appreciate it.
- When asked about their hopes and plans, they have trouble answering. It feels that this is something for the future, when the current crisis has passed. But because of their choices, there is perpetual crisis.
- Codependents tend to repeat their relationship patterns on the job with supervisors and colleagues. As in personal relationships, they tend to believe they just “attract” these people and can’t see their own attraction to the dynamic. It activates a toxic stress that can feel like a high that temporarily lifts them out of depression and creates the feeling that, once again, they are the wise one, the long-suffering one. But their silent pressure on others to change only leads to unfulfillment and failure.
- Codependents live with a toxic level stress and are prone to stress-related illnesses, financial problems and social isolation.
- When codependents don’t get what they want, and they seldom do, they can lash out or even explode.
Codependent tendencies often form in childhood, when neglect and abuse meant emotional needs were not met. Fortunately, trauma symptoms can be healed. In the video How to Tell If Your Relationship is Suffering Because One of You Is Codependent, you can learn how to work on all these codependent behaviors and set yourself up for personal healing and better relationships.
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