Understanding Dependency and Codependency
Codependency is best described as a relationship dynamic in which one person takes the role of the giver, sacrificing their own needs for the other, including taking responsibility for the choices and behaviors of others. A codependent person not only manifests this behavior in romantic relationships but also with friends, parents, children, and coworkers. For the most part, individuals with codependent traits attract individuals who are emotionally immature and dependent because codependents like to rescue others. Their sense of self-worth depends on how much they are being needed. They have difficulty setting boundaries and respecting the individuality of others. Unfortunately, most codependents are not aware of their hidden motives and tend to feel hurt and offended if their intrusiveness is rejected. They tend to feel victimized in their relationships. Codependency is a controlling behavior. Their objective is to make themselves indispensable, therefore, securing their place in their relationships and avoiding abandonment.
When you are codependent, you give and give with the expectation of receiving, but to a large extent, the opposite takes place. The more you give, the more the others take. We know that connecting with others is our biological need and desire, hence, relationships play a significant role in our existence. Nonetheless, when a relationship threatens our freedom and balance, it becomes toxic and harmful. There is a great deal of misunderstanding on the topic of co-dependency. Codependency stems from an unhealthy and excessive need to feel needed. There is some degree of codependency even in the healthiest relationships, however, the closer we get to codependency, the farther we get from unconditional love and vice versa. As we share our life journey with other human beings, we need to be watchful to keep a balance between meeting our individual needs and the needs of the relationship. Our aim should be to keep our autonomy without jeopardizing the intimacy of the relationship. This is a tough mission, particularly when our self-worth is weak and our identity not well defined. The primary and most important relationship is the relationship with us. The farther we are from feeling complete, the more we are inclined to seek and promote codependent relationships. I say a relationship is codependent when the individual growth and freedom of at least one partner is compromised by the need to keep the relationship going. Both dependency and codependency originate from the same source. We just switch roles in relationships. Codependents have unmet emotional needs and dependency features, but they are hidden behind the “caretaker” and the “do it all” heroes and heroines. It is not possible to be in a relationship with a dependent person and not be dependent yourself. Codependent relationships operate on a hidden trade of giving and expecting. They are based on the principles of need, survival, and control, and they obey to the motives of fear and the ego self. To determine the degree of your codependency, check the following symptoms.
• You often feel like walking on eggshells.
• You feel apprehensive and anxious around your partner or loved one.
• You feel unsafe in your relationship
• You frequently have thoughts of abandonment
• You don’t trust your partner, you often feel jealousy
• You and/or your partner exhibit some form of addictive behavior, food, alcohol, drugs, gambling, or else.
• You are a people’s pleaser
• You can’t say no to others
• You have difficulty setting limits
• You have difficulty communicating your emotions
• You obsess about others, their feelings, and their reactions
• Relationships feel like a battlefield
• You try to control your partner’s behaviors
• You are constantly trying to rescue others
• You take responsibility over others’ feelings and actions
These maladaptive behaviors were once learned through imitation or in response to pain and fear. These behaviors are typically learned within the first 7 years of our lives. For codependents, most relationships end up in abandonment as others become asphyxiated. Because their inability to cope with rejection and abandonment, codependents tend to run quickly into a new relationship to avoid the excruciating pain for the loss. Consequently, they will repeat the same patterns and even with higher intensity in the next relationship. Codependency is not considered a mental illness but a maladaptive way of achieving intimacy and relating to others. It can be overcome through a process of self-awareness and professional help. Early intervention is the key. Through the help of introspective and cognitive therapy, the emotional wounds can be healed, and the behaviors can be understood and corrected.
Iris Pitaluga, M.S., LMHC