Always doing the right thing, caring what others think, putting others first – all good traits, ones that would make you a great friend, partner, or family member; and it is correct to think of other people, their needs and what makes them happy, but not when it constantly comes at the cost of your own.
If you find that your life is entirely revolving around the needs of one, or several other people then it may be a sign of codependency. If you find your actions are wholly ruled by what a specific person or people think, how they will feel and what it will do to them if you do or don’t take certain actions or behave in a particular way, then you are living the life of a codependent; and being totally reliant on others to run your life, or for your emotional validation is not a healthy or pleasurable way to exist.
The dictionary definition of codependency is the “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one who requires support on account of an illness or addiction.”
The concept behind codependency first emerged in the 1940s, it is suggested it initially came from the theories of German psychoanalyst Karen Horney describing a certain personality type. It was adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous to define the behaviour frequently identified in the families of people suffering from alcohol use disorder; acknowledging the entwined and dysfunctional lives shared by the partners and family members of alcoholics, classifying them as co-alcoholics.
By the 1980s the medical community had identified the similarities between alcoholism and drug addiction and the name co-alcoholics had been changed to co-chemically dependent, shortened to codependent. It became popular in the self-help and therapy arena with the publication of books such as “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie and Robin Norwood’s, “Women Who Love Too Much.”
Somewhere between the 1990s and today the expression has moved on from its original meaning and is used in mainstream popular language to describe an often difficult, sometimes toxic and destructive, and occasionally emotionally or physically violent, relationship.
Codependency is a problematic relationship between two people, where one relinquishes their power and control to the other who is addicted, sick or narcissistic. Codependents are routinely drawn to people that are not driven to participate in an equally beneficial or shared relationship. Their chosen partners are typically selfish, self-centred, and full of ego, and the codependent will feel undervalued and disrespected in the relationship but also powerless to change it.
The term codependency is often bandied around when talking about a relationship where one partner displays clinginess or seems needy, but all relationships are based on some form of dependence on the other person. In a healthy partnership, both sides rely on the other for love and support, whilst understanding and valuing the other’s need for separate and distinct lives, activities, friends, interests, and opinions.
In a codependent relationship, one person needs the other one to fulfil their sense of worth or achieve their value, and the other partner enjoys being needed. Because of this, the codependent will put the other person’s needs above their own, no matter what. They will plan and revolve their life around meeting their partners needs or requests. They will suppress their own voice, thoughts, and values to meet the other’s needs.
Codependency can take place between friends, romantic partners, family members or co-workers. In a codependent relationship, one person is always the “giver” and one is the “taker.”
If one partner is controlling or abusive, these signs are magnified and the codependent is unable to reach outside of the relationship, make decisions on their own or have any voice at all for fear of retribution and emotional or physical violence.
Some relationships can be improved simply by making some behavioural changes and establishing boundaries. However, in some cases the relationship is beyond saving, it can be extremely toxic and dangerous if the taker is abusive, violent or takes a sadistic pleasure from being in control.
Do you think you are in a codependent relationship? Do you feel that you struggle with codependency in all your relationships?
Here at our private residential rehab clinic in Ibiza, we can help. We treat clients with a variety of emotional and psychological conditions, using a carefully researched and constructed program of recovery with a great team of qualified doctors, therapists, and counsellors.
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