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How To Know If I am in a Codependent Relationship – 4 Experts Share Totally Awesome Insights

by Kelly Schinke – PhD, Randi Gunther – PhD, Amy Sherman – M.A., LMHC, Amanda Patterson – LMHC

How To Know If I am in a Codependent Relationship

“Co-dependency is using a relationship to fill a bottomless void due to not feeling whole and loved as an individual. It’s not the need to be loved that’s the issue; it’s the inability to love one’s self that causes the dysfunction.”

~ Graham White

Graham White Codependency Quote
Amanda Patterson

One of the ways I often describe codependency, especially to my clients, is through the usage of my hands. 

I will describe three types of relationships that there are, distant, interdependent and codependent. 

Distant is two fists far apart from each other. 

Interdependent is to hands supporting each other, with palms facing each other. 

For codependent, I use both hands holding into each other, fingers intertwined. 

The visual shows that there is little separation between the two hands. That is the defining factor of a codependent relationship, being unsure where one person begins and the other person ends.

There are some definite red flags that can signal codependent behaviors.

  1. If you are putting the other person’s feelings ahead of your feelings on a regular basis.
  2. If you do not express your needs and wants on a regular basis.
  3. If you find yourself giving unsolicited feedback, even if it is amazing advice and feedback.
  4. If you make decisions for the other person, without consulting them.
  5. If your identity becomes surrounded around the other person.
  6. If you stop taking care of yourself in order to take care of the other person.
  7. If you are feeling pulled between your responsibilities and your relationship, and you pick your relationship.
  8. If you find yourself doing things for the other person, only to please them and do what they want.

The list can go on and on but the bottom line is you are engaging in codependent behavior if you put the needs of someone else in front of your needs, especially when they are capable or should be capable of taking care of their needs.

If you are interested in learning more about codependency, I would recommend the book “Codependent No More” by Melodie Beattie. 

It is the premier book on codependency, how to spot it and what to do about it. It’s an excellent resource and a highly recommended read.

Amanda Patterson, LMHC – www.amandapattersonlmhc.com

Amy Sherman

How often have you asked yourself why you become so dependent on your beaus, relying on them for many things and getting caught up in their complicated lives? How can you stop that pattern?

Sounds like the issue is really about self-esteem, autonomy and personal self-confidence. You are becoming co-dependent and that’s not a good place to be in your relationship or in your life.

Co-dependents often:

  1. Lose themselves and become too enmeshed in the other person’s life
  2. Are afraid of being alone
  3. Look to the other person for gratification and confirmation
  4. Have low self-esteem and therefore depend on others to affirm their value
  5. Are skeptical and fearful of change

What you need to do is focus your attention on your own personal growth, interests and individual concerns. 

Ask yourself, “What do you need, what do you want, what do you deserve?” Allow your partner to do the same. This will nurture the development of a healthy, fulfilling and lasting relationship while creating a healthier, more satisfied YOU.

Your goal is to be an independent, free-thinker, a person who knows how to take care of herself, without questioning if she’s doing things right or doing things well. 

Your relationship is there to enhance what you already have and who you already are, and not make you into someone else to satisfy his needs. 

Keep in mind that you are very important in the relationship and are an equal partner, worthy of feeling special and valuable.

Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com

Randi Gunther

When Melody Beattie first coined the expression “co-dependent” in her book, “Co-Dependent No more,” she clearly defined that behavior as being self-destructively attached in an overly-loyal, enabling relationship with an addict. 

More clearly stated, she described people (primarily female) who were dysfunctional in their attachment to partners who were dysfunctional in their attachment to their preferred drug.

The co-dependent woman tracked her man 24/7 in an attempt to be the person who was more important to him than his “destructive self-indulgence” and would save him from the demon who was destroying him. 

Because of the addictive triangle of victim/rescuer/persecutor, she would alternately be seen by him as the rescuer when he wanted off his drug and the nag/persecutor when he preferred it to their relationship.

The term has now been widely expanded. 

A co-dependent partner is still one who makes his or her significant other the center of the universe, doting, watching, controlling, indulging, and sacrificing, to the loss of personal integrity and often self-respect. 

Though these sacrificial, over-giving people’s intentions and desires are rarely meant to be harassing or invalidating, they often end up feeling responsible for their partner’s survival (usually without that person’s request or need sometimes with their resentment). 

They over-accommodate, over-indulge, over-forgive, and over-love. In short, they spoil a partner who is already more attached to something more important than they will ever be.

Other than the traditional love addicts attached to drug addicts, the people who often attract co-dependent partners are usually those who still live in relationship triangles, however with different points. 

They are often self-centered, self-promoting, and self-preserving people, who struggle with their success and seem to need a partner who will keep them on track without the concomitant power that is needed to make that possible. 

Those who want to “rescue” them from the situation, person, or substance that appears to be both attracting and destroying them, are willing to give up pretty much anything that matters to them if they are offered the job.

Once a co-dependent relationship starts with this kind of imbalance of devotion, it has very little chance of ever changing. 

Co-dependent people often tell me that they are caught between fear of abandoning their struggling partner and being remiss if they do not grant every need. 

Underneath, they are often terrified that all of their caring and support, at any minute, will be reduced to zero success, and that they will have failed in their attempts to “save” their partners. 

Along the way, they have usually given up what is important to them, put money in a psychological bank with a hole in the bottom, and trusted reciprocity-on-the-come that is never likely to happen.

So, are you co-dependent?

  1. Are you attracted to partners who cannot fully reciprocate your love?
  2. Do you believe that, if you just love your partner deeply enough, that he or she will eventually realize how important you are to them?
  3. Do you willingly sacrifice your own needs to make your partner happy and feel grateful to have that opportunity?
  4. Do you constantly make excuses for why your partner alternately accepts and then denies your influence?
  5. Do you exaggerate your partner’s good qualities and consistently deny the ways he hurts you?
  6. Does your partner keep telling you how important you are, but never listen to what you say or change his behavior?
  7. Have you been in a series of relationships where you are not loved as much as you love?
  8. Does your partner frequently resent your pushing him to change his behavior?
  9. Do you feel abandoned and insecure when your partner chooses his other priorities over you?
  10. Do you end up feeling “ripped off” at the end of your relationships?

These are just some of the questions that will help you define whether you create no-win relationships because you don’t make your partners earn your love and devotion and seem to not need anything until you are falling apart out of neglect. 

The lie about co-dependency is that your partner needs you as much as you need him. In reality, he can usually replace you much more easily than you can replace him.

Dr. Randi Gunther – www.randigunther.com

Kelly Schinke

What is Codependency?

Codependency is a maladaptive and pervasive pattern in relationships that can lead to detrimental complications such as depression, anxiety, and trauma.

A codependent relationship is often very one sided.   Typically one partner puts in all of the effort, while the other contributes little to nothing.

People experiencing codependency are in denial of their self worth.  They may not recognize what is truly most important in their lives, and do not behave in accordance with their values.  This can result in feeling meaningless and hopeless.

People who are codependent, may base their identity on their role in the relationship, letting other important areas of life take the back burner.

How do I know if I’m codependent?

If you are experiencing codependency in your romantic relationship, chances are good that you place your partner on a pedestal, while devaluing your own needs.

You may easily dismiss your partner’s undesirable behavior, often making excuses, covering for, and rescuing him or her.

You probably feel like you are the only one contributing to the success and happiness of your relationship.  The burden of resolving an argument may fall on your shoulders.

And often, it likely means you having to “let it go,” without any real solutions.  You may feel as though you are walking on thin ice around your partner, and avoid conflict.

On the other hand, you may feel the need to control the relationship.

Common traits of codependency include the following:

– Fear of abandonment   
– Belief that you are someone to be rejected
– Identity defined by your relationship
– Difficulty trusting people
– Feelings easily hurt
– Need for approval might believe you do not deserve happiness 
– Might believe life dealt you a bad hand
– Low self esteem/low self worth
– Keeps feelings to self
– Difficulty identifying and expressing needs
– Conflict avoidant
– Make excuses for or cover up partner’s undesirable behavior 
– Doing things for your partner at your own expense
– Blames self for partner’s unhappiness
– Personalizes other people’s problems
– Feels misplaced guilt
– Difficulty coping with anger
– Controlling behavior
– Perfectionist beliefs
– Poor boundaries with partner
– Feel misunderstood

Where does codependency come from?

If you believe you may be codependent, it is likely that you were exposed to other codependent relationships at a young age.

You probably observed signs of codependency in your parent’s relationship, or in other members of your family of origin.

People often assume that codependency is related to addiction.  

The truth is, a codependent relationship may or may not involve substance abuse, physical, mental, or sexual abuse, or mental illness.

However, if you are codependent, chances are good one of your parents may have been controlling, and one emotionally distant.

You may have grown up with rigid beliefs and unspoken family rules that include ideas such as “it is weak to show emotions, bad to make mistakes, and conflict should be avoided.”

These are examples of distorted thinking.

Distorted thinking involves buying into thoughts that are not necessarily true about a situation.

If you are codependent, chances are good you received a negative message from your parents, or drew conclusions about a situation to mean something negative about yourself.

Your interpretations may be based on false or unreliable information.

This phenomenon is difficult to recognize, particularly as a child, and can affect your present life including your view of yourself and relationships.

What can I do about codependency?

You can educate yourself about codependency.  

  • Learn to recognize your needs and be assertive about them.
  • Discuss your feelings openly with your partner, and let him or her know what you would like to see differently.
  • Recognize your enabling and controlling behavior.  Discover and challenge your distorted thinking.
  • Set appropriate boundaries for yourself with your partner.   
  • Get in touch with your values, and expand your roles to encompass more than just your relationship.

Know that it is your human right to do things for yourself that bring you happiness.  You can be in a deeply satisfying relationship and also have independence.

Dr. Kelly Schinke – www.alternative-pathways.com

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