Codependency in Relationships

Love is usually associated with the feeling of being needed and desired by someone speical. And yet too much of this can also be a bad thing. One of the conditions marked by an excess of neediness is codependency in relationships which in turn can signify deep-rooted emotional and psychological issues. Here is more about codependency in relationships, how to recognize the signs and how to overcome it.

What is codependency?

At its simplest, codependency is a condition when a relationship becomes more important to you than you are to yourself. The terms invites some confusion since the presence of the prefix “co” suggests a mutual process whereas in reality, codependency indicates an entirely one-sided relationship. This is a situation when you are trying to make the relationship work with someone else who is not emotionally available.

Types of codependency in relationships

The concept of codependency was first applied to couples in which one partner suffered from an alcohol or drug problem. The other partner who is forever taking care of the alcoholic or keeping the relationship together falls into the trap of codependency so that in a skewed way the extra effort, the immense strain fulfills a certain compulsion in his/her own personality.

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Even when both partners are physically healthy, codependency can be seen in relationships where one partner is self-absorbed or uninterested and the other is forever asking to get together or making moves toward the former. It may be perplexing to imagine what could possibly hold the codependent partner in the relationship when signs of disinterest are so obvious from his/her partner. The codependent partner finds a sense of control in this setup. Since the uninterested partner plays the out-of-control person, the codependent partner gets to be the person who is in control and thus is respected.

He/she feels satisfied in the illusion of being thought of as the better person, the smarter person, above all as the person who is recognized as having it all together. The codependent person glories in the false assumption that he/she is strong enough to deal with adverse circumstances, when actually he/she needs to realize that maybe he/she should be taking care of him/herself instead of proving his/her strength.

According to yet another type of codependency, just the recognition of being in a relationship acts as a powerful reward, whether or not the person’s affections are returned. Such people are usually characterized by extremely low self-esteem so that any relationship, even one which is unhappy and one-sided, makes them feel wanted and thus gives them a misplaced sense of assurance.

Mental health experts note that childhood environment is one of the most important factors which influence codependency in relationships. People who are codependent often grew up in a household with the same issues. For instance, a girl with an alcoholic father could grow up to be attracted to people who drink too much; despite her having witnessed first-hand the devastation alcohol can bring, she is willy-nilly drawn to people with alcohol issues. Whereas well-adjusted personalities will not put up with the consequences of such addiction for long, codependent personalities grow up with the impression that love is sacrificing for a partner and putting up with whatever the partner inflicts,  and thus they are the ones who get caught in the cycle of codependency and find it difficult to get out.

Now that the meaning and various types of codependency in relationships is clear, if you suspect yourself to be in such a relationship, you can look out for these signs.
 

  • The relationship is more important to you than your own self. Even though love has an element of selflessness and sacrifice, it does not require destroying yourself for the sake of another. If you feel yourself so much in love with someone that you are willing to neglect your own well-being and personal growth, then it could be a sign of codependency.
     
  • You are paying too high a cost in the relationship. If being in the relationship involves you incurring a high emotional or material cost, it probably means something is off. For instance if your partner has anxiety disorder and as a result you cannot ever go for a vacation to a fun place since it entails taking flights, then you may be caught in a codependent relationship. Partners of various kinds of addicts, whether related to alcohol, betting or sex, often end up cleaning the mess left behind, both in terms of emotional and financial costs. If you cannot leave such a partner despite the many things you have to deny yourself or have to put up with, it is likely you are victim of a codependent relationship.
     
  • You are the only one putting energy into this relationship. If you find yourself all the time asking questions and keeping up the conversation without any response from your partner or planning dates and initiating love-making without him/her making any move on their own, then the sooner you get out of such a one-way relationship the better.

However that may be easier said than done for a person caught in a codependent relationship. For this you need to first recognize that you are in an unhealthy relationship and that you deserve better. If you remain under the mistaken assumption that you have love enough for the both of you or that by working hard at and sacrificing for the relationship you will make it succeed, you can never get out of such codependency. Like in case of an alcoholic, the desire to get better has to come from him/her so in your case, you have to decide that you have had enough.

Seeking the help of a counselor or therapist is often the best way to treat codependency in a relationship. This will not only help you to recognize why you felt compelled to go on with an unhealthy relationship but in case your partner needs attention, like for alcohol abuse or personality disorder, therapy will guide him/her on how to get better. Ultimately it is granting yourself the value and worth that you deserve that will put you, and your relationship too, back on track to healthy recovery.