A co-dependent relationship is not a healthy one.
Often these relationships start off innocently with one of the partners trying to help the other. Over time the relationship slides into co-dependency. A relationship is co-dependent when one partner is over-reliant on the other either emotionally or psychologically. These are unhealthy and dysfunctional relationships where one or both of the partners are unable to cope on their own, relying on the presence of the other in their lives.
The relationship that started off with the best of intentions often deteriorates to an enabling one. The co-dependent is always there to pick up the pieces when the partner gets into trouble, so they don’t live with the consequences of their actions. The cycle of immaturity, irresponsibility and sometimes substance abuse remains unchecked, because of this.
In these types of relationships, the co-dependents are the caretakers. They may have started out happily in these relationships as they felt needed. Before long they will start to feel the frustration of taking responsibility for all the actions and emotions in the relationship. The co-dependent will eventually find the situation quite distressing. They will feel trapped in a thankless and unhealthy relationship.
Some co-dependents may find themselves repeating the cycle of co-dependency in other relationships and in friendships. It may have started in one relationship and developed over time. They may also have learned the behaviour, the result of growing up in a dysfunctional household.
How do you know if you are co-dependent?
Everyone at some stage in their lives will experience some characteristics of co-dependency. If the behaviour is repeated or carried from one relationship to another, you may be co-dependent. In a healthy relationship, both partners should be capable of living independent lives. If you can’t separate yourself from your relationship you may be co-dependent.
- Feeling responsible for the behaviour or emotions of another
- A need to please other people
- Continually considering the desires of others before your own
- No sense of self
- All desires and prospects are connected to those of your partner
- Stuck in controlling or abusive relationships
- You feel like a victim
- You fear abandonment
- You have a low sense of self-esteem and rely on the acceptance of others
- Your partner comes first in all your decision making often to your own detriment.
You must break free
The rewards of breaking this destructive cycle of co-dependence is a return to happiness, improved self-esteem and a chance to form a happy relationship elsewhere. This is why you have to work on overcoming the co-dependency. It can be done, but it will require determination and commitment.
Evaluate yourself and your relationships to determine which areas of your life and your personality require work to break the shackles of co-dependency. Examine your current and prior relationships so that you can understand what circumstances trigger the co-dependency.
It is sometimes difficult for a co-dependent to accept that they are partly to blame for the dysfunction in the relationship. It is important that you identify the behaviours that have contributed to the situation. Understand that co-dependency does not make you a bad person, it is simply a behaviour that is helping to cause the unhappy circumstances.
Co-dependency did not on its own cause the dysfunction in the relationship. Ridding the relationship of the co-dependency cannot, therefore on its own, repair the problem.
Go your separate ways for a while
By going your separate ways you can break the co-dependency. You can see the relationship for what it was. By taking a break from the relationship you’ll take time for yourself, pick up your hobbies again and connect with your family and friends.
The separation may give you and your partner time to think about the relationship and its importance. You may reconnect afterwards and proceed to develop a healthier relationship without the co-dependence or you could break it off. Either way, you will have broken the chains of the co-dependency.
It is vital at this time that you have support from positive and optimistic friends and family. Taking a break from a co-dependent relationship can leave you feeling vulnerable and intensely emotional. The support of friends and family will help you to get over these hurdles. Slowly but surely you will find yourself returning to a more positive frame of mind as you wrench yourself from the unhealthy relationship.
If you do not have a big support base, you could join a support group to help you to come to terms with your emotions. People who have had similar experiences can provide you with advice and empathy.
Seek counselling from a psychologist who can help you to understand the habits that you have developed in your relationship.
Concentrate on you
For too long you have been immersed in the thoughts, emotions and actions of your partner. Use this time to rediscover yourself. Find the things you love to do. Seek new hobbies. Find what it is that you really enjoy, and then spend time doing what you like most. Keep a diary of your progress.
Reflect on your value systems and discover the limits and boundaries that that system imposes on you. When you start to understand your values and your limits you will know what you want and need from your relationship.
Set personal Boundaries
It is essential that you set boundaries for yourself. If you are a person who is always willing to do anything to earn the approval of others, you should set yourself a limit that precludes you from overlooking your own personal needs to please another. By setting boundaries and sticking to them you set a solid basis upon which to build change. Learn to verbalise your needs rather than suppressing them to please others.
Commit to your boundaries and don’t give in. You may find that others may attempt to manipulate you into doing things that you don’t want to do. They have probably learnt from prior interactions with you that you are open to manipulation. Stick to your guns. Only you can change your life.
Tell others how you feel
Listen to others but don’t forget to let others know how you feel too. Sticking to your values and limits will set a firm foundation for the development of healthier relationships. Sometimes in any relationship compromise is necessary, but remember it should be about give and take and not just giving.
You are not responsible for the behaviour of others and you should not own the problems that don’t belong to you. Accepting responsibility for the actions of others will not help them and will take you back to the cycle of co-dependence.
Love the person that you are
As you examine your values, your likes and dislikes, you start on a voyage of discovery which will help you to start appreciating yourself for unique person that you are. Your self-esteem will return and grow. As your confidence grows you will find the strength to follow your own path. You will no longer need the approval of others.
Once you have completely found yourself and emerged from the cycle of co-dependence you will discover new friendships and relationships. Built off a foundation of truth and self-acceptance you have a strong chance of building happier and healthier relationships.
Disclaimer : This article provides basic information only and is not a substitute for a professional or legal advice. It is prudent to obtain legal advice from a family lawyer.