Have you been asking yourself questions such as “am I codependent?” If so, let’s explore what codependency is and how counselling for codependency can help.
What Is Codependency?
Codependency is a term that describes an unhealthy or unbalanced relationship where one person’s needs are met while the other’s aren’t. Codependent people are said to “enable” the bad behaviour of a loved-one by supporting them, no matter whether it negatively affects their own well-being.
As an example, a parent may have a hard time setting healthy boundaries by telling their grown child who has an addiction that their behaviour is unacceptable and they must move out. This is a bit of a lose/lose scenario because enabling this behaviour stalls recovery and only perpetuates the problem, and setting boundaries with the adult child may result in a broken relationship. 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. People with codependency often feel responsible for others’ problems and will take them on, despite the personal toll it may cost them.
Am I Codependent? Let’s Look at a Definition
Ross Rosenberg, who is an expert in the field and author of The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us, defines codependency as follows: “Codependency is a problematic relationship orientation that involves the relinquishing of power and control to individuals who are either addicted or who are pathologically narcissistic. Codependents are habitually attracted to people who neither seem interested nor motivated to participate in mutual or reciprocal relationships. Hence, the partners of codependents are often egotistical, self-centered and/or selfish. Typically, codependents feel unfulfilled, disrespected and undervalued by their relationship partner. As much as they resent and complain about the inequity in their relationships, codependents feel powerless to change 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 people with codependency 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 age, taking care of younger siblings and even their own parent(s).
When we’re young, codependent behaviours are a survival mechanism. But as we become adults, these same behaviours prevent us from experiencing healthy relationships.
Signs of Being Codependent
Codependent people will typically have 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 to not upset the other person
- Martyrdom–i.e. taking care of everyone else and feeling 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 struggling with codependency.
The good news is, by committing to your own personal development and well-being, and working with a psychotherapist who specializes in codependency, you can have a profound recovery that ultimately leads to peace, fulfillment, and true connections with others.
If you’d like to explore treatment options, please reach out to me.
We would love to hear from you even if you’re not ready to make a commitment to an appointment. Feel free to call or email us today to request a FREE 15-minute phone or video consultation.