We’re taught to dream of soul mates. How many songs are written about couples made for each other? The libraries are full of books about finding the person you want to be with all the time. But is this what we really want…or need? Can a close relationship become too close? Is this what they mean by codependency?
What is Codependency?
The definitions and criteria can vary widely but a codependent relationship is one that’s built upon helping each other. This may sound good at first. However, it’s a very dysfunctional form of helping. To help explain what this means, please consider some of the hallmarks of codependency:
- You willingly engage in long term, high-cost care-taking
- The more you sacrifice, the more self-esteem you feel
- You display a pattern of enabling and unhealthy helping behaviors
- You attract needy individuals, have a tendency to take responsibility for them, and thus take on problem far beyond your ability to handle
A codependent person does not set many boundaries. Therefore, their emotions are directly tied to the behavior of those in their life. This sets into a motion a dangerous cycle. The longer the cycle exists, the harder it is to recognize.
How Does Codependency Negatively Affect Relationships?
1. You feel like you cannot live without the other person
Once again, pop culture teaches us that this is a positive goal. It most definitely is not. Committed love is wonderful. Building your entire self-image around another person is dysfunctional.
2. Your partner controls you or you control your partner
This may sound obvious but control is a tricky concept. It’s so tricky that even some controllers don’t know they’re doing it. Codependency provides cover for such behavior.
3. You make excuses for your partner’s behavior
Here’s where the enabling kicks in. It may fuel addictions, abuse, or any of a wide range of antisocial behaviors. But we find ways to justify it. We play it down. We may even hide it. Our partner lies to us, but we choose to believe them since it’s easier than addressing reality.
What Can You Do About Codependency?
1. Develop self-awareness
It is essential that we learn who we are as individuals. Being someone’s partner is great but it’s not who we are. Getting in touch with our core self creates space to try new behaviors. Journaling is a productive way to begin this exploration.
2. Accept that a problem exists
Codependent couples can look like the happiest, most close-knit couples from the outside. This only makes it harder to accept the need for change. Attending meetings or counseling is useful.
3. Learn more about codependency
As you may have discerned by now, codependency covers a lot of ground. It is often misunderstood. As a result, it can carry a stigma. Educate yourself and reach out to others who understand this problem.
4. Attend meetings
Find out if there are any Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) meetings taking place near you. The group dynamic makes for a safe space to share and heal.
5. See a Counsellor
Find a counsellor who works with individuals and couples who can help you look at the learned patterns in relationships as well as teach you how to recognize codependent patterns and set healthy loving boundaries for greater intimacy without being codependent.
What You Can Do To Get Help with Codependency?
Codependency, by definition, is hard to recognize. It can be even harder to address without some outside help. The patterns of codependency are deeply embedded into our daily life. In many cases, we don’t want to see them and refuse to even look for them.
Working together in couples counseling is how we recognize and break such patterns. In cases of codependency, each partner often engages in individual therapy, too. With guidance, this issue can be managed and your relationship can be put back on track. You’ll create new goals and move in new directions.