Am I Codependent?
“Am I codependent?”
I hear this question from clients fairly often, usually with a good dose of hesitancy. I suspect that is because “codependency” is a buzzword we throw around but don’t necessarily really understand. In this post, we’ll learn a bit more about the history of codependency and aim to clarify its defining characteristics.
The term “codependent” was borne out of addiction treatment and 12-step programs, specifically AA and Al-Anon. A loved one may be in a codependent relationship with someone struggling from a substance use disorder, and they, too, would quickly find their life unmanageable. The two people would become enmeshed, and the codependent person would assume the role of rescuer.
Now we use the term codependency in a broader sense, not just in the context of addiction. When we say codependency, what we really mean is a dysfunctional relationship pattern characterized by a lack of individuality and an overemphasis on attempts to control or “fix.” Typically, we see one person as “the giver” and another as “the taker.”
The “giver” will overly sacrifice their own needs to support or rescue the “taker.” As this pattern repeats, the giver will lose touch with themselves, tie their worth to their role as the rescuer, and often develop resentment toward the taker. Each becomes overly reliant on the other, in different ways, and it may feel impossible to break out of the cycle.
So back to that original question. What follows is by no means a comprehensive list of codependent traits. As you read, I suspect you will quickly realize if any points ring true.
You may be codependent if…
- You prioritize others’ needs over your own
- You get your sense of worth externally/from other people
- You focus more on other people and catch yourself trying to control them
- Your relationship feels imbalanced. One person often takes, and the other gives too much.
- You neglect your own needs and wants.
- You feel resentful. (And often also, shame, anger, and fear.)
- You’ve been told you have poor boundaries.
- You see your partner as needing your help to be fixed or changed.
- You don’t know who you are outside of being a caretaker.
- You try to avoid conflict.
- You try to manage other people’s emotions. You try to minimize the natural consequences of loved ones’ actions. (We see this often in families with addiction). You may also have heard the word “enabling” to describe this behavior.
- You’re afraid to say no.
- You feel you’re walking on eggshells around this other person.
- You feel you’ve lost your sense of self, at least within the relationship.
Well? Did any of those statements resonate with you?
You aren’t alone.
At some point in our lives, often in childhood, we develop codependent behaviors as a way to cope with something challenging. Maybe even as a survival technique in situations in which we feel powerless. We likely aren’t consciously aware of what we are doing, and it can take significant time and self-examination to recognize that these behaviors no longer serve us as we move forward.
The good news is that recovery is absolutely possible. If you’re reading this post and screaming “yes!,” then I encourage you to go ahead and reach out for help. There are great self-help books out there on codependency, as well as support groups (CoDA), therapists who can help (hi!), therapy groups, podcasts, and more. Above all, I encourage you to be gentle and compassionate with yourself on your journey.
If you are interested in working with me on learning more about codependency and on how to recover, please contact me! I’d love to see if we’re a good fit. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to my mailing list to stay updated on the latest blog posts and resources.