What is Codependency
Codependency can be loosely defined as a dysfunctional relationship between two people in which one person strives, almost compulsively, to ‘fix’ the other person. A characteristic behavior in codependency is enabling, in which the codependent ignores problem behavior in the other person or makes excuses for them in order to continuously feel needed or to live up to a faulty sense of responsibility for that person’s conduct.
As children, most of us understand our lives in conjunction with our dependency on our parents. In this fashion, we come to believe that our needs are supplied by someone or some force outside of ourselves, which can be hazardous to self-growth and independence. We are the only real creators of our own happiness and self-esteem — the rest is just illusion.
In most codependent relationships, all of our energy is focused on other people and circumstances and diverted from ourselves. As codependents, we are predisposed to think that those we enable have the problem. But by trying to fix and control everything for them, their problems become ours. Equally harmful is the fact that they don’t have to take responsibility for their problems because we are always working hard at fixing them.
By doing this, we enable their addictions and negative behaviors, which allows them to stay sick. Through this pattern, we waste energy obsessing and attempting to control the actions of others and become ourselves mentally and emotionally controlled by this need to manipulate their lives.
To start, it is necessary to understand if we are currently in a codependent relationship. Some red flags are: trying to control our partner’s behavior so that we feel comfortable, allowing our partner’s mood to bring us down, constantly overanalyzing our relationship and specific conversations, and trying to ‘fix’ whatever problem arises in our partner’s life, instead of allowing them to fix it themselves.
At times, we can all succumb to these inappropriate and harmful behaviors, and in doing so we loose the connection to ourselves by handing our power over to another. In a codependent situation, these behaviors are the foundation of the relationship and have developed into comfortable, yet unhealthy patterns.
Our emotional maturity dictates our ability to manage and monitor our emotions and to determine the emotional state of others. A high degree of emotional maturity allows us to think before we act, take responsibility for our lives and actions, and respect the independence of others. In this way, communication barriers and unhealthy behavioral patterns can be overcome.
Healthy boundaries allow us to protect and take care of ourselves. We must recognize when we are being disrespected, then communicate clearly that our boundaries are being infringed upon. We have a right to protect and defend ourselves, and are obligated to take responsibility for how we allow others to treat us. With healthy boundaries, we will not allow another’s dysfunctions and insecurities rule our actions and behaviors. We can learn to recognize where and how we can help in ways that will empower ourselves and those around us.
When we are self-aware, we have the ability to change in positive ways. We can see which things we need to work on, in ourselves and in our relationships. Through this self-identity we learn how to be interdependent or mutually dependent. There is a balance to the relationship, where each person depends on each other in fair and healthy ways. With interdependence we can consciously give ‘power’ away to others because our self-worth is no longer dependent on outside influence and validation.
Willingness to Change
Changing our relationship with ourselves is essential to accomplishing any permanent changes in our relationships with others. Obtaining healthy interdependence allows us to see the truth in ourselves, others, and situations. Most codependents come from a childhood with similar family dynamics. We need to work on ourselves — healing adolescent trauma and adjusting our ‘childhood programming,’ so that we don’t continue with the patterns in relationships that are comfortable but destructive.
As we become honest with ourselves and develop healthy self-esteem, we become interdependent, without misguided beliefs that others’ behaviors determine our self-worth. We can then seek to understand others in our lives, based on this solid internal and spiritual foundation. Through this state of being, healthy relationships are formed — where two whole individuals support each other and share their life together in a way that allows each to truly, and independently, shine.