Codependency is essentially a way of being in relationship with others that minimizes a one’s own needs over the needs, wishes, or even demands of others. This term has evolved over the years to mean many things to many people; however at its core, codependency involves an over-focus on others at the cost of our own well being.
This concept originated from the addiction community to describe the enabling behavior of those who were involved with an addict or alcoholic; however, the characteristics of codependency have been recognized as commonly occurring in relationships where addiction does not exist.
Codependent patterns include being preoccupied with the needs of others (often one person in particular), placing one’s own needs in lower priority position, allowing others to control our behavior, thoughts, and feelings, and accepting others’ versions of reality over our own.
People who have traits of codependency often find themselves in relationships with individuals who may be very controlling or demanding, self-centered, verbally abusive, or addicted to substances. These relationships often have a very lopsided and unbalanced nature. However, despite their painful and difficult nature, codependent people have a very difficult time ending these relationships or taking care of their own needs within the relationship.
Individuals who experience codependent traits often have a very difficult time drawing and maintaining healthy boundaries with people in their lives; whether partners, spouses, family members, work colleagues, or supervisors. They tend to have great difficulty saying “No” and are overly concerned about the responses of others.
Although most individuals with codependent habits are extremely focused on keeping others happy, it is a very difficult and demanding way to live. Those that they try to make happy are typically unable to be or stay happy, and so the codependent often lives a life feeling like they constantly fail at the one thing they strive to do.
The answer to this is to understand that we are all only responsible for our own lives and happiness, and to give up the plight of trying to make others happy at our own expense. This is difficult to do. However, it is very achievable with appropriate treatment and support.
Maria Droste Counseling Center based in Denver, Colorado offers marriage counseling to individuals, married couples or anyone in need of help by providing affordable access to professional counselors.