One of the biggest challenges to mental health or addiction recovery is amending relationships.
And that can be difficult if you have poor relationship skills. Fortunately, most family member and friends are willing to make amends because they too want a healthy relationship. Yet, once you’ve made amends, it’s important to continue to give your newly healed relationships some attention and make efforts to keep them healthy. But that can be hard to do if you remain stuck in codependent tendencies.
As author Melody Beattie wrote in her book, Codependency No More, “codependency involves the effects people have on us and how we, in turn, try to affect them.” Codependency is an experience in a relationship where one or both people believe that they need the other to survive (just like a person might believe that they need alcohol or drugs to survive). This loss of power contributes to powerlessness and an unhealthy dependence upon a person in a relationship. Thus a co-dependency develops.
To the extent that powerlessness is woven into the fabric of your daily functioning, it can lead to patterns of caretaking, low self-worth, controlling, denial, poor communication, weak boundaries, anger, and lack of trust in an intimate relationship. The belief in being powerless in your life leads to a dysfunctional relying on others for things that you can and should do on your own. To heal this, you might ask yourself questions about whether powerlessness is playing a role in the way you relate to your partner. You might also see if you can recognize any of the patterns just mentioned in your own life.
To explore whether codependency is affecting your relationships, here are some characteristics of codependency to look out for (adapted from Melody Beattie’s book, Codependency No More):
· Codependents tend to think and feel responsible for others.
- Codependents tend to feel anxiety, guilt, and pity when others are having a problem.
- They might feel compelled to help a person who is having a problem, even if the problem has nothing to do with them.
- They might feel angry when their help isn’t effective.
- They might feel insecure and guilty when someone tries to help them.
- They might find needy people attractive.
Codependents often come from troubled or dysfunctional families.
- They tend to blame themselves for everything.
- They will reject compliments and praise.
- They often feel different from the rest of the world.
- They tend to take most everything personally.
- They often feel like victims.
- They may believe their lives are not worth living.
Codependents can be afraid to let themselves be who they are.
They can push their thoughts and feelings out of their awareness.
Codependents can worry about the smallest things.
- They can lose sleep over other people’s problems.
- They might check up on other people’s problems.
- They may feel unable to keep thinking, talking, or worrying about other people’s problems.
- They may abandon their own life temporarily because they are so upset about the problems of someone else.
Codependents have often lived through events in which others were out of control causing them pain, and as a result, have either become controlling or have no control in certain situations.
- They may avoid seeing their own loss of control and don’t deal with it appropriately.
- They may easily get frustrated, angry, or lose their temper.
- They may feel controlled by other people and events.
Codependents will often look for happiness outside of themselves.
- They often don’t feel happy or content with the life they have.
- They believe other people can’t or don’t love them.
- They may equate love with pain.
- They may center their lives around other people.
- They look to relationships to provide them with good feelings.
One of the benefits of reviewing this list is the opportunity to become more aware of these patterns in yourself. And that’s a great start to changing any co-dependent habits. If you don’t know that you’re codependent in your relationships, how can you do anything about it?
1. So, the first step to change is to become aware of yourself. And you can do that by learning and studying codependency and uncovering whether you have any codependent traits.