What is Codependency?
When you are in a codependent relationship, the bond between you and your partner is extremely unbalanced. Instead of two people supporting each other, in this relationship, one person takes on the responsibility for the partner’s needs while ignoring his or her own desires. Only one person matters in such a relationship, but both are codependent.
Codependency has nothing to do with mutual support, helping a loved one in need, or loving someone and wanting them to be happy.
What Are the Signs of Codependency?
The term frequently refers to the behavior between an addict and his or her enabler. But there is much more to a codependent relationship.
First, to repeat. supporting a partner, especially when said partner is in need, is not codependency. Mutual support provides a healthy bond between two people who care about each other. In a codependent relationship, one person attempts to control all aspects of the other’s life. The other person will become more and more dependent and do less and less for him or herself. It’s like a road trip, with only one person driving while the other remains a passive passenger.
A codependent person isn’t just concerned about the partner’s life and behavior, but totally obsessed. This obsession grows until the person no longer recognizes any needs of his or her own and only lives to satisfy the needs of the partner. It is almost like erasing oneself out of existence.
Many of us learn codependent behavior at a young age from parents who were not able to provide us with the support and love all children require to grow into healthy adults. Those parents may have been sexually, emotionally, and/or physically abusive until the child stopped acknowledging any needs of his or her own and only worried about keeping the adult in charge as happy as possible.
As adults, these children frequently become involved with excessively needy people. The pattern of obsessing over someone else’s feelings and needs while ignoring one’s own began in childhood and is familiar and comfortable. Thus, it easily transfers into marriage.
In a healthy marriage, both partners’ feelings count and both should be able to discuss their needs and desires. That is not the case in a codependent marriage.
How to Establish Needed Boundaries
Once you become aware of codependent tendencies, it is time to establish normal boundaries.
- Listen to your partner but refrain from jumping in to fix the problem at hand. Trust your partner to do so.
- Learn to refuse requests for help. Slowly, your partner will become less dependent on you.
- Before you do something for your partner, asking yourself if you are being supportive or because you feel you must.
Stopping the Cycle of Dependency
Keep reminding yourself that the only behavior you can control is your own. You are not responsible for the actions of your partner.
You can, and should, discuss problems that affect either one of you and listen to your partner. You can offer suggestions, but it is up to your partner to accept or reject them. It is healthy and desirable to be compassionate. It is destructive to obsess about the other person.
When you end codependency, you relinquish control in the relationship. This can be difficult, but it is also necessary for a healthy relationship to develop.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to help your partner, but there are ways to do so without sacrificing your own needs.
It helps when you surround yourself with supportive people who accept and support you, but who expect you to be responsible for your actions and decisions. The more joy you seek for yourself, the more your own needs will matter to you.
Divorce and Codependency
If you have been codependent in your marriage, you have probably utterly neglected your needs while obsessing about your partner’s desires. This one-sided bond rarely leads to happiness and most frequently will end up in divorce.
In many cases, it is the wife who exhibits codependent behavior. Fairly or not, girls frequently are expected to be more nurturing than boys. This behavior gets rewarded with praise. Who doesn’t like being a “good girl?” But if this girl has not learned to consider and respect her own needs, the chances are she will end up in a codependent relationship. She is very likely to find someone needy who depends on her for care.
Codependent people have difficulty saying no, pretend they are okay when they are not, feel the need to be perfect, and rarely feel secure in a relationship. They feel powerless and controlled by circumstances. A divorce can put an end to this destructive cycle.
How Divorce Can End Codependency
You have spent years putting your partner’s concerns ahead of your own. You have depended on him or her to provide your life with meaning. Now, you are going through a divorce.
Your partner is used to placing his or her feelings ahead of your own. He or she may try to make you feel guilty and selfish for wanting a divorce. That is their problem. It should not affect your actions. Your best friend at this time is the word, “no.”
Now is the perfect opportunity to acknowledge codependent behavior and overcome it. Starting over can be difficult. It can also be brimming with unlimited opportunities.
- Start listening to your inner voice. It will tell you what you need.
- Build boundaries by making your needs a priority. This does not imply you cannot be there for the people you love.
- Learn to let other people deal with the consequences of their behavior. This won’t be easy at first; however, you will be benefitting them more than if you were to jump in and solve their problems for them.
- Learn to treat yourself with kindness.
By breaking the ties of codependency, you are preparing yourself for a healthy, beneficial relationship in the future.
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