When a relationship is in balance, it can be a source of strength and comfort. Sometimes, however, relationships become unbalanced, causing one person to depend very heavily on the relationship to meet their emotional needs. Falling into this pattern, known as “codependency,” can be stressful and even destructive to the relationship. Understanding more about codependency and how it can manifest in your relationships can help you take steps to restore balance to your way of relating to others.
What Is Codependency and Why Is It Harmful?
Codependency refers to excessive reliance upon a relationship to meet your emotional, physical, and psychological needs. A codependent person continuously sacrifices her own needs for the other person in a relationship. Although codependency often emerges in romantic relationships, it can also affect friendships, work relationships, or family relationships.
In many cases, codependent behavior is learned in childhood or adolescence and extends into adulthood. Dysfunctional family patterns often cause people to learn to push problems under the rug, avoid expressing emotions, and seek approval from other people to feel good. Continuing these patterns in adult relationships may allow you to avoid conflict in the short term. However, maintaining unbalanced, codependent relationships ultimately leads to a huge burden of stress and anxiety in the long term.
The good news is that just as you learned unhelpful ways of relating to others, you can also unlearn those behaviors and find better strategies of building relationships with others.
How to Tell If Codependency Is Ruining Your Relationships
Learning to recognize the following signs of codependency can help you make positive changes in your relationships:
- Being a “people pleaser” who puts others’ needs ahead of your own.
- Feeling a sense of responsibility for other people’s problems, including intervening to solve problems or offering unsolicited advice.
- Avoiding confrontation and making excuses for other people’s bad behavior.
- Feeling like a martyr or victim. This might include feeling used, unappreciated, or victimized by others.
- Taking on extra work or responsibilities to “win” another person’s respect or appreciation.
- A strong fear of rejection and belief that you are unlovable.
- Putting pressure on yourself to be successful at everything, going above and beyond the call of duty to excel so that other people recognize and appreciate you.
- Difficulty communicating your emotions to others.
- Feeling a need to take responsibility for other people’s actions.
- Constantly thinking about your relationships with others, including perceived mistakes you have made.
- Avoiding openness and emotional intimacy for fear of rejection or shame.
- Accepting verbal or physical abuse from others.
If the above signs of codependency sound familiar to you, you are not alone.
Many women get stuck in patterns of codependency that show up in all types of relationships.
As a counselor, I can help you create healthier relationships that bring you fulfillment and joy, rather than stress and anxiety.
Attached Image: Getty: #157376977, Path: http://d2e17bkrkslpjg.cloudfront.net/getty/full/getty-22431-157376977.jpg