Are You Codependent?
To be dependent on someone or something is a natural part of life. We depend on many things daily for our survival and well-being.
From the food that we eat that enriches our health and strength to the occupation that supports our lifestyle in this world, providing money for food, shelter and security.
Being dependent can and is a healthy part of life in moderation, as with all aspects of life. Depending on a doctor to take care of our health, the car the drives us to work and even to a certain point that mechanic that makes sure our car runs smooth to get us to that work.
Our cat depends on us for food and water and a safe home, the neighbor depends on us to keep our things on our side of the fence or keep the noise down in our apartment after a certain hour, so they can rest.
Now you might be thinking, if dependency is a natural part of life then does codependency really exist? How do I know if I am codependent?
There are a couple factors that play into the unhealthy dynamics of codependency.
One of the top indicators of a codependent relationship is addiction. Like the elephant in the room, the addiction of one individual within a relationship ends up running the relationship.
Difficult personality behaviors such as Narcissism also create a codependent relationship. The person in the relationship whose behavior is more balanced and doesn’t have an addiction problem doesn’t usually realize what is happening.
Here are some eye-opening relationship characteristics that point to codependency.
All Me and Never You
In codependency there is no balance, it is all one person. One person gives and the other takes. This promotes exhaustion and the giver will eventually burn out from expelling so much energy and time meeting the other persons wants and needs.
When we find ourselves carrying the weight of any relationship? Being responsible for the inner and outer workings of that relationship, keeping it functioning and dealing with the other persons thoughts and emotions all the time there is a good chance that it is a dysfunctional codependent relationship.
When we depend on someone there is a balance, sometimes one person gives more and the other counter balances that another time by giving more, and sometimes it’s equal. No matter what type of relationship a person is in there should always be give AND take.
The Deer in the Headlights
When a person is in a relationship where they feel trapped, cornered or unable to escape from the other persons thoughts, needs and emotions - they are most likely in a codependent relationship.
Feeling smothered by another person or that their feelings are all consuming is unhealthy for everyone.
We all need a break sometimes from our important relationships, and the person we share them with. It gives us the time to reconnect with ourselves and who we are as a person separate from that relationship.
We also gain some time connecting to friends, family, the community and nature. By being able to do these things we live a full life that enables us to be a better person within a relationship.
Confronting the darkness
For some of us in a codependent relationship it can be hard to deal with confrontation. We expel so much of our energy trying to please, placate and be responsible for the other persons emotions that we have already exhausted a good portion of our energy.
The thought of having an argument or heated discussion with them can frighten us because what little resources we have left to care for ourselves and just plain function day to day would be even more depleted.
Instead we work hard to sidestep confrontation, say or do things that we wouldn’t normally do just to keep the peace.
When this happens, we get further and further away from the person we really are, and this becomes unknowingly our coping skill to survive this relationship. Avoiding confrontation most of the time points to the possibility of a codependent relationship.
While it is wonderful to have coping skills to deal with life challenges, this one is unhealthy because it is smothering out the light that makes a person who they are. Their own emotional needs and wants can become stuffed deep down inside causing further emotional issues.
Ignoring the Flawed
We all have flaws and things that make us less than perfect, from the scar on our chin to nervous energy where we never sit still for more than 5 minutes. In a codependent relationship we might find ourselves covering up the other persons flaws, making excuses for them or accepting these flaws as our own.
In a healthy relationship each person has flaws that are acknowledged, worked on and accepted. In some relationships, these flaws can be one of the good points that bring us closer together.
We accept the small flaws like a little extra softness around the middle or forgetting the toilet seat by smiling and loving that person more. When those flaws are brushed under the carpet in hopes that no one trips over them, most of the time the giver ends up fall over them repeatedly.
Dependency exists in every human emotional relationship and is healthy when boundaries are in place, limits are set, and respect is the foundation of that relationship. This difference is what creates the foundation of a healthy, thriving relationship that is beneficial to both people involved.
Some good questions to use in determining codependency are:
Does this relationship promote growth and happiness in each person?
Is there a balance of give and take for each person that isn’t exhaustive, threatening or uncomfortable in any way?
Are both individuals able to function in a healthy manner while in this relationship?
Are there reasonable boundaries in place?
Are those boundaries respected?
If you feel you are in a codependent relationship it is a good idea to seek the help of family, friends and a trained professional. They can better assist you through this process, allow you to express your feelings, support your choices and help you bring your life back into balance.
Remember, none of this is your fault. You didn’t do anything to deserve this, and you certainly didn’t come to this relationship looking to be codependent.
This type of relationship can be very hard to see while you are living in it. If you are able to take an emotional step back and see it from the outside and assess what is happening, you can better determine your course of action.
The sooner you get the help you need, you will start feeling better about yourself. When you feel better about yourself making the right choices in relationships will come naturally. This also makes you a better person who is equipped to handle the difficulties of any relationship, and in life.
You deserve to be the best person you can be every day. If someone is standing in your way, it is never a healthy relationship and you should do whatever is necessary to either fix the relationship, or move forward from it positively, for yourself.
Call Dr. Clare Albright, Psy.D., Psychologist CA License PSY11660 at (949) 454-0996 at