Understanding Codependency

Understanding Codependency

Codependency is characterized by a person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other to fulfill nearly all of their emotional needs. It is usually based on one person enabling the irresponsible, addictive or underachieving behaviours of the other person.

Do you expend all of your energy in meeting your partner’s needs? Do you feel trapped in your relationship? Are you the one that is constantly making sacrifices in your relationship? Then you may be in a codependent relationship.

Signs of Codependency

  • Low self-esteem – feeling you’re not good enough or comparing yourself to others are signs of low self-esteem. You believe others are judging you for not measuring up to their standards.
  • People-pleasing – Codependents believe that are supposed to please other people. Saying “NO” causes them anxiety. They go out of their way to accommodate other people, usually sacrificing their own needs to do so.
  • Poor boundaries – Codependents have blurry or soft personal boundaries. They feel responsible for other people’s feelings and problems. They allow others to judge or control their feelings, thoughts and needs.
  • Reactivity – a consequence of poor boundaries is that you are highly reactive to other people’s thoughts and feelings. If someone says something that you disagree with, you will either alter your perspective to match theirs, or you will become highly defensive.
  • Care taking – another effect of poor boundaries is that if someone has a problem, you need to help them to the point of sacrificing yourself. You place the needs of others before your own.
  • Control – Control helps codependents feel safe and secure. There is an inner turmoil brewing that is too scary to explore, so they turn their control on external factors, or situations they truly have no control over (people, environments)
  • Dysfunctional communication – Codependents have trouble effectively communicating their thoughts, feelings and needs. Often times, you know your own truth, but for fear of rejection or ridicule, you won’t speak up. Your own inner shame prevents you from speaking your truth. Your communication is more passive-aggressive, in that you wait until you can no longer hide your truth and explode in a fit of rage.
  • Dependency – Codependents need other people to like them to feel okay about themselves (external validation). They are afraid of being rejected or abandoned. This makes it difficult to end a relationship, even if they know it is harmful or toxic.
  • Denial – it is very difficult for most codependents to seek help because of their denial of the problem. They deny their own feelings and project blame on to the people and situations that surround them.
  • Unhealthy attachment – Because of the fear of rejection, personal shame and weak boundaries, often times codependents struggle to have open, close and honest connections with the people in their lives. They are very guarded about their own emotions and cannot share this with others. There is a wall of protection that is penetrable from the outside.
  • Painful emotions – Shame and low self-esteem create anxiety and fear about being judged, rejected or abandoned; making mistakes; being a failure or feeling trapped. When the feeling get too much, they simply feel nothing, go numb.

So what do we do about this?

There is help for recovery and change for people who are codependent. The first step is getting guidance and support. These symptoms are deeply ingrained habits and difficult to identify and change on your own. 

However; change is possible. With the proper support, you can learn to understand your own core values, create safe personal boundaries and love yourself first.

Where to start

  1. Understand that you are a product of your environment. You were not born this way; all of this is learned behaviour – which means that it can also be unlearned!!
  2. Surround yourself with positive influences – build a tribe of people who will support, nurture and encourage you through this new journey.
  3. Seek professional support – connect with someone who has been there, survived and learned from the experience.
  4. Believe in YOU!! – you have the power to choose. You life is your story and you should be the author.
After A While - Recognizing Codependency

Andrea has survived narcissistic abuse in a variety of forms; mother, 2 long-term relationships and several employers. She has learn how to overcome the negative effects of abuse to live a full life surrounded with love & encouragement. As a Life/Empowerment Coach, she works with women who have a strong desire to heal the devastating wounds of abuse and learn to live Your Life on Your Terms. She currently shares her life with her husband and 2 daughters on a farm in Southwestern Ontario.

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