A lopsided relationship in which one person is always giving and the other is constantly taking is called codependency. If you have a codependent personality, you probably view your self-worth in terms of how you can sacrifice your needs to serve others.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to support your loved ones, pouring all your time, energy and emotional resources into caring for other people will leave you feeling drained and cause you to neglect your self-care. Why is codependency ultimately unhealthy, and how can you recognize the signs of this problem in your relationships?
What Is Codependency?
While a healthy relationship is mutually beneficial to both partners, codependency is an imbalance in which one person routinely allows the other’s needs and wants to take precedent. Even relationships that start as equal partnerships can become codependent over time if one partner becomes overly dependent on help or support from the other.
Some codependent tendencies might be a natural part of your personality, but you might have learned this behavior in childhood if you grew up trying to please abusive or emotionally unavailable parents. Codependency is also a characteristic of families impacted by addiction. In these cases, one partner may believe they can “fix” the other person by making excuses for their behavior. Sadly, this kind of enabling only allows the substance use disorder to worsen.
Warning Signs of Codependent Relationships
If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you might be in a codependent relationship.
- Do you derive most of the satisfaction in your life from one specific person?
- Have you stayed with your partner, even though they are always taking from you without giving anything in return?
- Do you feel responsible for trying to solve other people’s problems?
- Is it difficult for you to talk about your needs and wants?
- Is your mental, emotional and physical health suffering from living up to the unrealistic expectations you’ve set for yourself?
- Have you lost sight of your goals and ambitions?
- Do you wish you could be more independent, but feel torn when you try to make space for yourself in your relationships?
- Have friends or family members mentioned you seem overly reliant on your partner?
- Does your constant effort to conform to other people’s desires make you feel anxious or burned out?
How to Overcome Codependency
When thinking of ways to break free from codependency, your first impulse might be to sever ties with the “takers” in your life. However, if you still love and care about these people, taking steps to change your behavior will allow you to preserve these valuable relationships.
- First, set reasonable boundaries that help you define yourself as a separate person who deserves to be happy.
- Write down your goals and identify what it would take for you to achieve them.
- Broaden your circle of support by making new friends. You can do so by volunteering, taking a class or joining an adult recreational sports league.
Can Long-Term Treatment Benefit You?
If codependency is a hallmark of your relationships, your mental health could suffer. You can eventually develop a dual diagnosis if you drink or use drugs to self-medicate an illness like depression. If left unaddressed, these co-occurring problems will make each other worse, driving a vicious cycle.
At Beach House, we understand how overwhelming a dual diagnosis can be, and we have developed a clinically excellent, client-informed program for adults who struggle with addiction and another mental illness. Reach out to our admissions counselors to learn more about our culture of compassion and the benefits of recovering at the beach.