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Codependency in relationships involves becoming so invested with each other that you can’t function independently. It typically plays out as one person being more passive, lacking confidence, depending on being taken care of, and often having difficulties making decisions. The other person in the relationship is more dominant, controlling, takes charge, and gets some satisfaction from making decisions and taking care of the other person.

There is a normal amount of give and take in healthy relationships. Interdependency with someone is healthy, and involves being able to rely on their input and support that allows both people to grow, become better people, increase resiliency, and maintain clear identities apart from the relationship. Codependency, however, goes beyond what is healthy in ways that can negatively impact both people involved.

Effects of Codependency

Codependency often results in:

  • Having an exaggerated sense of responsibility for others (e.g. "They would fall apart without me. They couldn't survive. I'm all they have.")
  • Having an exaggerated fear of being alone and being abandoned
  • Doubting your decisions and not trusting yourself without significant input or approval from others.
  • Feeling guilty and selfish when you do something for yourself
  • Low self-esteem and a sense of losing your identity
  • Needing to be needed, where you only feel good about yourself if your sacrificing something or going out of your way to help others
  • Feeling resentful
  • Developing unhealthy coping mechanisms & compulsive behaviors
  • Feeling exhausted and burnt out physically and emotionally
  • Neglecting other important relationships
  • Stagnation in moving toward become better people and achieving personal goals. Both people are being held back in some way.

In the long term, codependency takes a toll on both parties involved. The helper feels exhausted and sometimes trapped and the other person feels helpless and unable to function alone. Ultimately, both individuals base how they feel about their life and themselves as a person, on how the other person is doing and feeling. The helper shows love by providing assistance and the other person feels loved when they receive assistance.

There is often an imbalance because it is typically one person who consistently struggles and needs help (e.g. addiction, mental health issues, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement). That person becomes dependent on the helper. The helper often places a lower priority on their needs and become preoccupied with meeting the needs of others.

People who are in codependent relationships can have numerous positive qualities. However, those qualities can be exploited, ignored, stifled, or overused.

Signs of Codependency
  • Do you find yourself dependent on the approval from someone else for your self-worth and identity?
  • Do you recognize unhealthy behaviors in your partner but stay with them anyway?
  • Are you giving support to your partner at the cost of your own mental, emotional, and physical health?
  • Do you spend a great deal of time and energy either trying to change your partner or conforming to their wishes?
  • Do you have low self-esteem and look for things outside of yourself to make you feel better?
  • Do you think people in your life would go downhill without your constant efforts?
  • Are you confused about who you are or where you are going with your life?
  • Do you feel that you have lost contact with your own needs, desires, and sense of self?
  • Do you have a fear of being abandoned or alone?
  • Do you find intimacy in a relationship relationships where your primary role is that of a rescuer, supporter, and confidante?

Codependent relationships often involve intimacy problems, dependency, control, denial, problematic communication, unhealthy expectations, and issues with healthy boundaries. These relationships can occur anywhere, within a family, work, friendship, romantic, and among peers.

If you are the helper in a codependent relationship, it may feel like you have lost yourself and in some ways, are being preventing from living up to your potential. The person who constantly needs assistance can often feel helpless and powerless.

Ways to Reduce Codependency In Your Relationship

It may be helpful to engage in some sort of counseling to explore the issues, make sure to find time to spend with others outside of the codependent relationship, make time to focus on individual hobbies and enjoyable activities, and continue to educate yourself about codependent dynamics.

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