A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior. Through it all, I’ve seen a few common denominators: If you struggle with self-love, perfectionism, or chronic People Pleasing, you might be a codependent. If you’re an obsessive worrier with control issues, then yep, you might be a codependent. If you’re a master at gauging how other people feel, yet your own feelings are a little fuzzy…(you get the idea).
It might be most obvious to look at it in a romantic relationship or marriage. See if you relate to any of these:
1. You’re dating or married to an alcoholic or addict (any kind of addict), and/or you have a history of attracting damaged people into your life.
2. You do things for your partner that he or she can and should be doing, all in the name of love. In fact, maybe your mother or sister repeatedly tells you that you help this person a little too much.
3. You let your partner have his or her way, and then feel overwhelmed with anger and resentment. “Look at all I do for you!” Is a common phrase in the codependent’s vocabulary.
4. You feel responsible for your partner’s actions and behaviors, because LOVE.
5. You’re always talking about/worrying about your partner’s issues, making them your issues.
6. You’ve allowed irresponsible, hurtful behavior in your relationship—not just physically, but emotionally or financially. Instead of walking away, your deep compassion for this person makes you want to stay and help.
7. Your partner’s mood affects your day.
8. You always want to know what your partner is doing or thinking, and you often get involved in his or her business.
9. Your partner’s needs always seem to be met, while your needs and wants are ignored.
10. You have trouble pinpointing your own feelings and thoughts, or you diminish/deny how you feel.
And if any of this makes you say, “Oh my gosh! That’s so my mother!” then that’s another sign of some deep codependent programming, as this is a learned dynamic. Codependents (and addicts for that matter) are almost always children of codependents, passed down like a family legacy.
Of course the roots and symptoms of codependency are individual and nuanced. Some codependents have next to no boundaries around things like their health and happiness (hand raised!), while others have developed walls so tall and thick that no one can get in. And some codependents are also dealing with addictions, known as “Double Winners,” and so their experience is different than mine. All in all, though, codependency is an emotional dysfunction that affects so many aspects of life.
Taking care of our needs—really loving ourselves—isn’t selfish or narcissitic, it’s actually incredibly healthy. Expecting reciprocity and respect from our partners isn’t unrealistic, it’s LOVE. And allowing someone to hurt us, like an addicted husband, says more about our self-respect than it says about them, because we’ve allowed it into our lives.