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What is Co-Dependence?

Co-dependency is an emotional condition that affects someone’s behavior and ability to have healthy and mutually satisfying relationships. People who struggle with co-dependent traits often have many relationships that are one sided or even emotionally abusive. They may also struggle to maintain relationships due to the inequality of power. These types of relationships are common in families of -ics and the emotions and behaviors can be learned and passed down generations. These one-sided relationships can occur in any type of relationship but tend to affect spousal relationships the most. These relationships are quick to become unhealthy and recognizing them early is key to fixing the unhealthy traits and behaviors and learning to form healthy and equal relationships. Here are some signs of a co-dependency:


  • People Pleasing: this is exactly what it sounds like, a desire and tendency to act in ways that pleases others. Most people feel this to some extent; however, in co-dependent relationships it becomes over the top and the person feels like they have to please the other. This leads to extreme difficulties saying “no” even when it is detrimental to one’s own health or happiness.
  • Poor Boundaries: these relationships are one sided and unequal, leading to poor boundaries. Boundaries refer to emotional and physical needs, financial situations, and even social areas and are the line between what is yours and what is someone else’s. People who are co-dependent have weak or blurred boundaries in one or more areas. Occasionally, it will swing the other way and a co-dependent person will have rigid boundaries, not allowing anyone to be close to them or needing to protect themselves. These boundaries often lead to taking on the responsibility for someone else’s happiness or blame when they are not happy.
  • Low Self-Esteem: because of the tendency to form unhealthy relationships that often do not live up to expectations, co-dependent people will find things wrong with themselves to justify why the relationships do not work, leading to low self-esteem. For example, taking on all of the blame for fights because it must be that they are not good enough. Low self-esteem can also cause co-dependency because they will need constant validation from their spouse and do anything to get it.
  • Care-taking: this means care-taking to an extreme and giving up yourself to care for someone else. While it is natural to want to care for someone, it is unhealthy to consistently put them before yourself. This can also include becoming angry or feeling lost if someone does not want your help.
  • Reactivity: this means reacting to everything someone thinks, feels, or says and taking it on as your own. You take on what others believe to please them or you take personally a blanket statement because you are so entwined with them that you believe it has to be about you. It is an extreme emotional reaction to someone’s opinion, especially if it differs from your own.
  • Poor Communication: often times people who are co-dependent struggle to express what they want, feel, or need because they in fact are unsure of what they want, feel, or need. Or, in some cases they fear sharing this because it could potentially disappoint the other person which is one of their greatest fears. This leads to dishonest or manipulative communication and expression.
  • Unbalanced Control: people who are co-dependent tend to want either all or none of the control. This leads to the need to rely on someone else to make all of your decisions or having someone who will obey all of your decisions. Either way, it creates an unhealthy and uneven power dynamic, which tends to lead to a quick unraveling of relationships.
  • Dependency: co-dependent people need other people. Whether it is needing people to need them, depending on a person to meet all of their own needs, or just needing people to like them, they always need something. They are almost always in a relationship and fear being alone. This leads to the potential for them to remain in dangerous or abusive relationships too long due to the fear of being alone.
  • Obsessive Thinking or Actions: people who are co-dependent spend a large majority of their time thinking about other people and relationships. They may obsess about finding a relationship, keeping a relationship, or over a mistake and whether or not it will have consequences to a relationship. They may obsessively call or need to talk to someone.They may daydream about relationships excessively.
  • Strong or Painful Emotions: due to the need for relationships and the often unhealthy nature of relationships, co-dependency often leads to dangerous or strong emotions. This can be fear and anxiety of abandonment, anger at perceived hurts, loneliness, or hopelessness. They often ruminate on these emotions and the unhealthy relationships they desire endlessly result in them.
  • Inappropriate Levels of Intimacy in Relationships: having too much or too little level of intimacy in relationships often results when one person is co-dependent. They will interpret more intimacy in superficial relationships due to needing that higher level.
  • Denial: unfortunately the factor that gets in the way most of people improving on co-dependent patters is denial. The result of their co-dependence is often times what they need so it is not seen as problematic. Also, since one of their strong desires is to fix people they can often see problems as the result of the other person needing help. They also struggle to read social cues due to intense feelings leading to continued denial. And most detrimental, admitting that their is a problem would result in giving up the unhealthy relationships that they so desire.



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