When the term “codependent relationships” first entered the mental health vernacular, it applied to people who were in relationships with alcoholics. Alcoholics Anonymous began in the 1930’s and soon after, the spouses of alcoholics wanted a place, or group, where they could go to discuss how alcoholism affected them. The spouses formed what is now known as Al-Anon.
What is a codependent relationship?
A codependent relationship does not have to involve chemical dependency such as drugs and alcohol. It also affects people who are in relationships with those who have mental and physical illnesses. It is a learned pattern of behavior in which you sacrifice your needs to fulfill the needs of others. This may sound like the definition of a mom, but a co dependent relationship goes beyond taking care of others. It occurs in dysfunctional relationships and can be unhealthy for both partners.
Loosely defined, a co-dependent relationship is one in which one, or both partners have too much emotional or psychological dependence on the other person. In response, the co-dependent person desires to control the other person’s erratic behavior. Usually, this behavior is learned in response to dysfunction. A co dependent tries to adapt to emotional or physical stress that results from another’s addictions or illnesses.
Healthy Relationships vs. Codependent Relationships
A level of dependence is seen in relationships. Your children depend on you for safety, financial security and nutritional support. You depend on your spouse, or partner for love, financial security and as a partnership in raising children or maintaining a home. When you define dependent in healthy terms, you can be in a relationship with someone and depend on them to love, support and honor you.
Only when this dependence turns into a situation where your needs are not being met and at the expense of your partner’s needs, do you have a codependent situation.
Raising Children in Codependent Relationships’ based homes
You can raise your children to not be co-dependent. A few ways to do this are to not have stringent rules in the house. Some rules need to be bent to allow for compromise. A family ruled by dysfunction can result in a child turning into a codependent due to the selfishness shown by family members.
In your home, allow for open and direct communication, let children by playful and be allowed to express their needs and wants. Children can’t always get what they want, but they should be accepted for speaking their desires. They shouldn’t worry about upsetting the status quo just because they express a need.
Teach children how to let go and have fun. Not everything and every situation needs to be controlled. The best memories are those usually created on the spur of the moment when passion and freedom collide.
Addictions and Codependent Relationships
Many codependent relationships take place in the presence of additions such as alcohol, drugs, gambling and sex. If you are in a chemically-dependent relationship, seek help from groups such as Al-Anon. A mental health professional can help you and your partner make a recovery to a healthy lifestyle for both of you. You need to learn how to break the cycle of dependence so you are both happy and healthy. When you understand what is codependent relationship potential, you can make better choices for partners.
Questions to ask yourself if you are unsure of your co-dependent relationship status with an addicted or chemically dependent person are things such as:
- Do you obsess over how much alcohol your partner consumes?
- Do you smell your partner’s breath for evidence of alcohol consumption?
- Do you lie to cover up a drinker’s behavior?
- Are you in a financial crisis because of alcohol or drug use by your partner?
- Have you missed appointments because of the drinker’s behavior?
- Are you isolated and alone; afraid to talk to others because of your partner’s addictions?
- Has your partner ruined gatherings because of their drinking?
- Do you threaten to harm yourself or your partner if they don’t stop drinking?
- Have you searched your home, car or garage for hidden alcohol or drugs?
These types of behaviors are destructive and controlling. You have no control over what your addicted partner does and your worth and value are not dependent upon your partner giving up his addictions. You are worthy and valuable regardless of his behavior.
Define Codependent Relationship
A codependent relationship quiz can help you identify if you’re in an unhealthy relationship. Speak with a psychologist or counselor to determine if your relationship can be classified as a codependent relationship. A few questions to ask yourself are things such as:
- Do you try to control another person’s behavior and feel responsible if they make bad choices?
- Are you in a relationship with an addicted person?
- Do you put the needs of another person before your own out of a sense of obligation?
- Do you feel rejected when your help is not welcome?
- Do you suppress your true feelings of animosity or resentment and then have episodes of explosive anger in response?
- Are you the first one at work and the last one to leave, yet do not charge the company for your worked hours?
- Do you overextend yourself and commitments to groups or activities?
- Are you an obsessive cleaner and cannot rest until the laundry, housecleaning and cooking are complete? Do you do this to make someone else happy?
- Do you secretly monitor another’s mail, bank account, texts and e-mails?
- Are you feeling depressed, suicidal or anxious?
- Do you wish your partner would pass away to get you out of this codependent relationship?
If you answered yes to three or more of these signs of a codependent relationship, you may be in an unhealthy pairing.
A co-dependent relationship can be toxic. You are in a relationship with someone who is unable to care for and love you the way you deserve to be loved. Some are emotionally unavailable, yet can be excessively clingy and needy. They want you to be their everything and you feel important being that person. This type of attachment continues to repeat itself until you get help and identify why you enjoy being in this codependent relationship.
Look Inside your Codependent Relationships
Relationships bring about intense feelings. You want to be with that person as often as possible. This isn’t a bad thing unless you or your partner cannot function without each other which is a sign of codependency in relationships. If you suspect you are in a co-dependent relationship, look at yourself and be truthful in your response to these questions:
- Do you crave approval and validation from outside sources?
- Have you sacrificed your goals and dreams for someone else’s?
- Are your personal relationships unfulfilling?
As your co-dependent relationship continues, your emotional health is at risk. You may begin to experience:
- Extreme fatigue or depression
- Withdrawal from others
- Lose your daily routine
- Neglect your children
- Sacrifice your career
- Feel hopeless or suicidal
You do not have to remain in an unhealthy, toxic co-dependent relationship. You can get out of it and be ok on your own. You can find a person who will support you and love you and one that will not try to control or manipulate you because of their dysfunction.
In a co-dependent relationship you sacrifice your needs. When this happens, neither of you can appreciate your value or worth. You need to learn how to stop being codependent in a relationship. This may take some re-programming as a co-dependent relationship is comfortable. Embrace the uncomfortable, though, and learn how to be in a healthy partnership.
How to End a Codependent Relationship
Co-dependency affects everyone involved. A counselor can help you become more assertive and speak your needs. You also need to become a better listener to avoid controlling other’s behaviors. The only person you are responsible for is yourself.
Remember that you are allowed to feel all your feelings including anger, fear and sadness. You are allowed to have thoughts and attain your goals. You also need to examine yourself for your own faults and flaws. Identify why you continue to choose co-dependent relationships.
A Twelve-Step program may be beneficial for you. You can release control over others and learn to accept others for who they are. You learn that you are powerless to change anyone but yourself. You can change your response and improve your own life.
You will need to identify what a healthy relationship is and how to be an independent person in a relationship. There is a lot of freedom in a healthy pairing in which you are free to be yourself. When both people are free, love can grow in the most beautiful of ways.