Co-dependency is a learned behavior which gets passed down in families. Feeling safe, loved, and accepted is essential to develop a good sense of autonomy and self esteem. When the environment in which we grow fails to provide these ingredients, we develop codependent patterns. Codependency comes from a deep fear of abandonment which leads the affected person to go to extremes in order to maintain his/her relationships.
Codependent relationships are characterized by the need to control one another. These relationships are destructive, anxiety driven and in extreme cases lead to physical abuse, chemical dependency, and even illness.
Codependency was first identified by studying the interpersonal relationships in families of alcoholics. “Co-dependent” was the term used to describe how family members structured their lives and their sense of self based on the unpredictable behaviors of the addicted member. Those living with addicts tend to make their personal decisions based on the mood of the addict rather than what is truly a healthy choice.
Today we see that codependency can take place in all kinds of relationships and that those with codependency patterns will reflect such behaviors in all their relationships.
Characteristics of Codependents:
- An exagerated sense of responsability
- A tendency to to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to love people they can pity and rescue (projection).
- A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time.
- A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts.
- An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The codependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid feeling of abandonment.
- An extreme need for approval and recognition
- A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
- A compelling need to control others
- Lacl of trust in self and/or others
- Fear of being abandoned or alone
- Difficulty identifying feelings
- Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
- Problems with intimacy/boundaries
- Chronic anger
- Poor communication
- Difficulty making decissions
The only way to save a relationship from codependency is by having all members of the relationship acknowledge their maladaptive behaviors and fully commit to work on healing the emotional wounds where the codependency is rooted.