The key to overcoming codependency in relationships
It can be great to have someone to depend on, a shoulder to lean on in difficult times.
It’s not so great when you rely on them for everything only to feel disappointed that they’re not meeting your needs.
I know this first hand from a few early relationships. Whilst it can be frustrating when someone doesn’t ‘put in the effort’ you want them to, a closer look might reveal that the issue isn’t them at all.
You could be being codependent.
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You just so desperately want to be an equal – and they’re not meeting your high standards? Your standards may be potentially unreachable for most and hard work at best for some.
Codependency recovery can be difficult; it takes a lot of self awareness but the quality of your relationships afterwards will drastically improve.
8 Symptoms of Codependency
If you meet several of these following criteria then you may exhibit codependent behaviour in relationships.
You probably won’t be familiar with all these issues within one relationship but there is a chance that someone with codependency traits will display these behaviours elsewhere as well.
1. You try to please everyone.
You’ll often avoid confrontation with somebody from fear that you’ll hurt their feelings even though your own needs aren’t being met (which was the reason for confrontation in the first place).
Often this wouldn’t even be something ‘argument-worthy’.
Silly things like challenging bad habits such as smoking indoors when you have asthma or asking for something that might only slightly put the other person out.
For example, you really need your partner to do daily household chores today as you’re in a rush to an important meeting. However, the thought of asking them to do chores on top of their work schedule (which is the same as yours) is something you think they’ll react badly to, so you do it all yourself anyway.
2. You can’t say ‘no’
This could apply to any relationship whether romantic, platonic or family.
The inability to be assertive and say ‘no’ links in with the previous point. Nonetheless, it can also extend to not being able to stand up for yourself in potentially dangerous situations such as an abusive relationship.
You find it easier on the surface to accept what’s coming, whether it’s an event you didn’t want to attend or dealing with your abusive partner when they come home drunk from the pub.
But underneath you know that it’s more painful to accept those things than it would have been to walk away.
This also applies to substance abuse – unable to control yourself when alcohol (or whatever crutch you have) becomes available to you.
3. You stay in dysfunctional relationships
Because to you it’s easier to cope with a relationship that’s not quite meeting your needs than it is to leave and face being alone.
You have avoided ending romantic relationships because you didn’t want to be single, or you line up another one within weeks to ‘fill the gap’.
Not being able to turn your back on a toxic family member through fear of hurting their feelings.
Remember these personality traits aren’t just present in relationships and the dysfunctional relationship could be with a bottle of wine or gambling.
You know that it’s not good for you, but the thought of leaving and not having anything to fill its place is scarier than the alternative. Even when that alternative could mean eventual death.
4. You’re the one putting in all the effort
In fact, you put in too much effort which means you run the risk of being taken for granted.
Codependency recovery starts with recognising when the effort is necessary and when you’re putting yourself out in the hope that they’ll reciprocate.
There are, of course, instances where you are putting in a normal amount of effort and the issue is actually that your partner is too laid back and selfish. This is a different scenario altogether.
However, as I mentioned earlier, in codependency, your standards are so high for them to match that most people wouldn’t be able to even if they tried. The issue here is you, not your partner.
5. You care too much about other people’s opinions
Another branch of people-pleasing but this one is deeply routed in your own insecurities and low self esteem.
You bought a new top that you felt you looked good in only for someone close, your mother for example, to tell you that they’re not sure they like it.
It’s not their top, they don’t have to wear it which means they don’t have to like it.
You don’t wear it again anyway because you can feel the criticisms every time you pull it out your closet.
You liked it before they said they didn’t, now you’re worried that if you wear it you’re going to get an influx of criticisms which you can’t deal with.
But again, in this scenario, and any other similar scenario, it’s you that’s missing out!
6. You ignore red flags or deny them
You know your partner is cheating, or that the alcohol is destroying your body but you’re so comfortable having something as a crutch that you ignore the issues or you sit in a state of denial.
This one can be potentially detrimental to your health, both physical and mental.
And this isn’t the only way that denial can affect you. It could be that you’re denying your own needs or feelings in order to please others or avoid difficult conversations.
You could also be denying that the codependency exists in the first place, which is very common with substance abuse. There’s a reason why accepting you have issues is the first step to any codependency recovery – it can be a tough process for someone to admit that they’re causing their own problems.
7. You play care-giver constantly
You find it difficult to sit back and let others take care of things like chores or cooking.
You like to be in charge of those activities and can be pretty overbearing if someone does something in a way you don’t normally do it.
You will drop all your own needs if somebody asks for your help and in extreme cases you can even feel hurt or rejected if someone doesn’t accept your offers to help them. You need to be the ‘mother’ of the group.
8. You become obsessive
Your thoughts around your partner can become obsessive, you take note of everything they say, the way they say it, the things that they do.
These thoughts only ever make you worry or become anxious, you become painfully aware of how dysfunctional the relationship is and ways that you can fix it.
You often don’t do this in the best way, which would be to communicate openly and effectively. Instead you try to change small things through passive comments which are likely to be ignored resulting in no change.
This can make you resentful towards your partner for not changing even when your lack of communication is to blame here.
Why does codependency happen?
Often, codependency issues become ingrained personality traits when an individual is raised in a dysfunctional environment.
Maybe one of their parents had an issue with alcohol or drugs so they raised the rest of the family.
A parent could have had an accident causing them to become dependent on their child who didn’t properly deal with the mental health repercussions in a professional setting and internalised their struggles.
Frequently this individual will have had to take on a serious role of care-giver in their home.
Many people when going through a difficult day will exclaim that they ‘need a drink’ to get through the rest of the day.
The difference with codependency is that needing a drink becomes a default reaction to a minor issue to the point where it becomes routine and now they need a drink to get through any day.
The issue here is with the individual and their difficulty to accept themselves.
They often have very low self esteem, feelings of failure and other inadequacies.
To compensate for these areas in which they believe they lack, they will then put the focus onto someone or something else in their life which lives up to their expectations. This is where codependency recovery becomes vital.
Codependency recovery; how can we improve?
Before even beginning to fix relationships, the individual who is codependent must begin to work on themselves.
Like an addict needs to wean or go cold turkey, a codependent in a relationship must do the same.
A cool off period from their partner to work on themselves and to also prove to themselves that they can survive without the other person is necessary.
Even if they leave for an afternoon of activities on their own avoiding the temptation to call or text their partner whilst out can be a good start.
It’s important to be able to be able to live with our own company, whether for a short period of time or for years.
Sometimes it’s much better to be alone than to force remaining in an inadequate or dysfunctional relationship.
Codependency recovery can really begin to set in motion by attending therapy sessions.
A psychologist will often delve into the codependent’s childhood to try help figure out the root of the cause.
Often there is an event or a series of events that have resulted in the codependent to avoid acknowledging their worth, to put themselves second best at all times.
Codependency recovery is also deeply rooted in drastically improving self esteem.
With healthy self esteem we are able to recognise when our needs are not being met and do something about it.
We are aware of damaging habits and can take steps to improve upon them as we have a healthy dose of self respect.
We are able to be assertive and do things on our own terms instead of feeling guilty at the prospect of hurting other people’s feelings.
Now is the time to become a smidgen more selfish.
Your mental health relies on it.