What Is Codependence?

What does codependence mean?

The term codependence can be very confusing because the word its self just means mutual dependence or two people relying on each other, which is not necessarily bad or unhealth. However, when the term is used to describe a person as being a ‘codependent’ or a relationship of ‘codependency’, it is referring to a particular type of relational cycle with a pattern of unhealthy dependence. To avoid confusion, I will use the term healthy codependence to describe the ideal type of mutual dependence and the term unhealthy codependence to describe the unhealthy pattern of dependence.

What is unhealthy codependence?

In relationships of unhealthy codependence, all members of the relationship rely on each other to meet their needs, but in ways that are not very effective and can even be harmful. Members are not able to express their needs in healthy ways or set personal boundaries, so personal needs are rarely fully met. Members may refuse to take responsibility for their own responsibilities while other members may be too busy trying to take care of other’s responsibilities that they neglect their own. Members often do not know how to communicate about issues effectively, so attempts to address issues may cause a large amount of conflict or issues may just not be addressed at all. Unfortunately, emotional and verbal abuse are also common in these relationships.

Who is considered a ‘codependent’?

The term ‘codependent’ is used to describe someone who has been conditioned to accept and relate with others in a way that creates or reinforces relationships of unhealthy codependence.

When research on codependence first started, it was mainly used to describe the spouse of someone with a chemical addiction, such as the wife of an alcoholic, but now research has shown that codependency can develop in a range of different kinds of dysfunctional families or relationships.

Often this process starts in childhood, when a child is raised in a dysfunctional family. They may learn this way of relating to other because they watched their parents/guardians model unhealthy codependence or because their parent/guardian started to depend too heavily on the child and the child was pulled into the caregiver role. However, it can also develop in adult relationships.

Below are a list of traits that describe a typically “codependent’ experience. However, keep in mind that each individual’s experience is unique, so this list in no way defines all the possible experiences nor will every ‘codependent’ identify with every single trait listed.

Traits list:

You feel-

  • Preoccupied if anyone around you is unhappy or having problems

  • Selfish if you do not put others’ needs first

  • Useless/worthless if you are not helping someone

  • Responsible for anything that does or could go wrong

  • Powerless when you realize a situation is unhealthy or needs to change

  • Resentment towards those who depend on you

  • Guilty for nearly everything

You may notice-

  • You find yourself in one unhealthy relationship right after another

  • You have difficulty identifying and expressing your own needs and wants

  • You try to control or manipulate others for their own good

  • Your self-worth and happiness are directly related to how others treat you

  • You have a hard time making decisions

  • You are not sure how much to trust others

  • You make threats, but rarely follow through on healthy boundaries

How can counseling help?

Counseling can help you gain a better understanding of what is healthy vs unhealthy, how your codependency developed, and what you can do to stop the cycle. You can work through this process in individual sessions or in couples sessions if you are currently in a relationship.

Learn how to:

  • Stop codependent behaviors patterns

  • Communicate effectively

  • Help others without enabling

  • Set effective boundaries

  • Improve your self-esteem

  • Identify and express your needs and feelings

  • Manage unearned guilt

  • Heal from past abuse

  • Chose healthy relationships

When you are ready I can help you recover. I teach you how to understand your emotions, through practical tips, tools and personal experiences, so that you can feel powerful in who you are and live the life you want. Enrollment is closed. To get on the wait list contact us. Next enrollment starts January 2022.

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