Co-dependent relationships are often used in cinema as a plot device or talked about with humor when a well-meaning wife babies her husband in a sitcom. Despite these types of relationships being fodder for entertainment, they stem from complicated family dynamics and years of missed opportunities to connect. Keeping reading to learn more about co-dependent relationships and how you can learn to work past them.
There are many definitions of co-dependency and co-dependent relationships, but the most simple definition is the most powerful one: when two people with dysfunctional personality traits become worse when they’re together. More specifically, someone in a codependent relationship will often support or enable someone else’s poor habits and/or feel dependent on their partner’s approval for self-worth and identity. Most suffering from co-dependent relationship problems may also have issues with anxiety, increased stress, or depression.
Signs you’re in a co-dependent relationship:
There are many instances of co-dependent relationships as they take many forms. Generally, the questions below are a good marker to determine if your relationship has co-dependent tendencies.
Is it hard to say no when your partner makes demands on your time, energy, or resources?
Do you feel like your sense of purpose is to satisfy your partner’s needs?
Do you make excuses or cover up for your partner’s problems with drugs, alcohol or violence?
Do you feel trapped in your relationship?
Do you often keep quiet to avoid arguments?
How co-dependency is developed:
As infants, we are completely dependent on our parents or caregivers for food and safety. As an infant is incapable of doing anything for themselves, their attachment to their caregiver is paramount to physical and emotional wellbeing. If a child grows up with an unreliable or unavailable parent, they feel as if they have to take over the role of caretaker within this relationship. A child in this situation will put the needs of a parent first in order to curry favor and try to increase the parent’s involvement and interest. As a result, the child represses their needs and to focus on the needs of the unreliable parent. They may also downplay the parent’s poor behaviors or “cover” for them when they’re irresponsible. As this child grows up and gets into adult relationships, they take these tendencies with them and often fall into the dynamic with their partner.
How to work beyond co-dependency:
Being a part of a co-dependent relationship is definitely a difficult thing to admit, but with hard work, learning how to overcome your co-dependent tendencies will be beneficial for you and your family. The first step to determining the best path to recovery is to see a therapist who can diagnose you officially. Once you’re in their care, you’ll explore early childhood issues and how they affect your current relationship. Getting to the bottom of long-lived hurt, anger, jealously or stress can help you break down barriers and rebuild healthy relationship dynamics.
Christy Weller, Psy.D., Couples Counseling Boulder. I bring a genuine curiosity, a kind appreciation of where you have been, and a non-judgmental stance so that you feel comfortable exploring your story and making sense of it. I tailor my work to each client and I’m trained in both short-term and long-term therapies.