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What is Codependency?

Updated: Sep 6, 2021

You can be codependent in ANY relationship: with a parent/child, lover, sibling, friend, co-worker, etc.

Codependency is defined as, “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one who requires support on account of an illness or addiction.”

You can be codependent in ANY relationship: with a parent/child, lover, sibling, friend, co-worker, etc.

What you should know, first and foremost, is that codependency is a dysfunctional or unhealthy relationship with the self.

When we ignore, sacrifice, or mistreat ourselves, deny our feelings, needs, thoughts, and desires, we are NOT caring for ourselves the way we should. Codependents do for other people what THEY wish others would do for them.

You might be codependent IF:

  • you struggle to enjoy anything if it doesn't directly involve helping another or if others are unhappy around you.

  • you remain in unhealthy and/or abusive relationships.

  • you continually do things for others to the detriment of yourself.

  • you constantly worry and feel anxious about how other people are doing or if you know they have problems or crises going on.

  • you give others so much that you have nothing (time, energy, etc.) left for yourself.

  • you feel guilty whenever you do anything for yourself or in asking for things like your basic needs to be met.

  • you ignore their own needs, wants, desires, values, or morals to do what someone else wants.

Codependency can, most often, be traced back to someone’s childhood.

Codependency, for many people, started based on how they were raised, how their parents loved and cared for them (or didn’t), which negatively impacted their ability to set and enforce appropriate boundaries with themselves and others.

A lot of children who develop codependency later in life were over- or under-parented.

If you were over-parented (think if one or both of your parents was a helicopter parent), then you were likely not able to learn to do things by yourself. You weren’t allowed to take safe risks or build your confidence by trying things and potentially failing. You may even have moved out of your parent’s house with little idea of how to wash your own clothes or cook meals.

Most overparenting parent/child relationships involve a high degree of enmeshment. You may have been treated like a friend more than a child. You were most likely encouraged to be overly dependent on your parent(s) and likely felt helpless and/or guilty whenever you may have attempted to set and maintain healthy boundaries.

If you were under-parented (if one or both parents were physically or emotionally absent or had an untreated mental illness or addiction/alcoholism), you likely were not able to trust your caregivers, so you relied only on yourself.

You also may have learned that you could get love or attention by being needed.

The more you took care of your parent(s), home, sibling(s), etc. at the expense of your own needs, the more you found the validation you so desperately craved.

It then makes sense that you would later have relationships where you could continually sacrifice yourself for another.

You may also become codependent later in life.

You may begin dating someone who has an untreated mental illness, alcoholism/addiction, etc., and as their issues worsen, you take on the burden of sustaining that relationship. You take on more and more responsibilities, for both connecting as a couple, but also maintaining your shared lives.

Eventually, you have sacrificed so much that you feel empty, bitter, and resentful.

**Not sure whether you’re codependent? Fill out this quiz to find out!**

book recs:

Interested in learning more about codependency? Here are some books to check out. All links are affiliate.

If your relationship isn't what you want it to be and you need some guidance, book a FREE 15-minute consultation with me!

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