It can be a challenge to distinguish between a person who is smitten and one who is codependent. The term codependency is commonly used to describe behavior in a relationship where one or both partners are needy or dependent on the other. There is so much more to codependency than simply clinginess. A person who is codependent on their partner will base every life decision on pleasing the other partner. Below we’ll explore the symptoms of codependency, how it develops and how it may be treated.
Codependency does not only exist between partners. It can also exist between family members and friends There is a big difference between dependency and codependency in a relationship. In dependent relationships, two people equally rely on one another for love and support. Both feel valued in the relationship. If codependency exists, the codependent partner may carry feelings of worthlessness unless they are making sacrifices for the enabling partner. The codependent person may neglect things that are important in their life while showing extreme dedication to the happenings in their partner’s life. This codependency can lead to other relationships being damaged and career opportunities being passed up.
The enabler may be aware of the sacrifices being made on their behalf and be completely comfortable with the dysfunction. A person who relies on someone else will likely not learn how to have an equally dedicated relationship because they likely have grown accustomed to relying on the sacrifices and neediness of the other codependent person. Friends and family members may attempt to speak with the codependent about their concerns.
Even if it is acknowledged that the toxic connection exists, they will likely find it extremely difficult to leave the relationship. In simple terms, a relationship where codependency exists reveals that one partner’s self-worth and self-esteem may often involve sacrificing themselves for their partner.
How Does Codependency Develop?
Codependency is a learned behavior that often stems from past emotional difficulties and unhealthy behavioral patterns, such as growing up with an alcoholic or drug addicted parent. Children who grow to become codependent adults may have had challenges with their parental relationships during childhood or adolescence. As a child they may have been taught to never think of themselves and were consumed with the needs of their parents or caregivers leading to gaps in emotional development.
An individual in a codependent relationship may need to take small steps toward embracing some distance in the relationship and learn how to set boundaries. They may need to find a hobby or other activity they can enjoy without the partner to establish independence. It also helps to spend time with supportive friends and family.
The person who is enabling must acknowledge that they are hurting their codependent partner by allowing and maybe even encouraging the sacrifices. Group therapy can be extremely helpful. A trained clinician can help find ways to express and acknowledge the deep-rooted feelings that led to the codependent behavior. Healing from codependency and making a conscious effort to stop the behavior is not easy but is well worth the effort. It can lead to a balanced, two-sided relationship where everyone feels valued.