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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Barsky

What Does Codependency Mean?

Codependency is a term used to refer to a relationship in which partners are reliant on each other in big ways to get specific needs met. Platonic, spiritual, and familial relationships can all be described as codependent. In this dynamic, one person is usually the caretaker or giver while the other person relies heavily on their partner to get emotional needs met.

Being codependent is not a clinical diagnosis or an aspect of any other condition. It’s simply an attachment style that presents in certain relationships. By acknowledging and recognizing your codependency, you’ve already begun to take the first step in forming a healthier relationship.

Defining Codependency

A codependent partner has a desire to be needed and approved of, and so they offer support and caretaking to their partner. Oftentimes, this gets in the way of getting their own needs met and they often have difficulty setting boundaries and being assertive in expressing their own needs and desires.

Codependent relationships are very common in situations of substance abuse. If one person in the relationship suffers from addiction, they might rely more heavily on the other person in the relationship. The highly functional member of the relationship will provide support or enable the destructive behavior. This cycle creates a need to please within the provider and a desire to take from the dependent.

Being in a prolonged codependent relationship has consequences for each member of the relationship. It might raise your levels of anxiety or depression. Additionally, you might feel physical symptoms, such as high blood pressure or gastrointestinal issues. Therefore, breaking the cycle of codependency is in everyone’s best interest.

Signs of Codependency

Sometimes, you may not be able to tell if your relationship is codependent. There are many ways to decipher if you are in a codependent relationship. Below, we have outlined some common signs of codependent relationships.

  • Lack of boundaries: Both parties of a codependent relationship likely have issues recognizing and respecting boundaries. One person in the relationship might not acknowledge boundaries and overstep. Similarly, the other person in the relationship might allow the overbearing behavior and allow themselves to be controlled.

  • Poor self-esteem: In a codependent relationship, both individuals probably have fairly low self-esteem. Codependent partners need constant approval and to feel needed. Your confidence will suffer by having your self-image wrapped up in someone else’s happiness.

  • Reactivity: If your identity is completely dependent on someone else, you may react to the situation without thinking. Acting defensively is a common sign of reactivity. This also might make you lose sight of your own wants and needs, pushing you further down the hole of codependency.

  • Poor communication: Being codependent will make effective communication more difficult. In certain situations, your opinion of the other person may be negative, and expressing your thoughts could hurt their feelings. If you are codependent, your happiness relies on their happiness, and hurting their feelings would be like hurting your own.

Reducing Codependent Tendencies

Focusing on self-awareness is the first way to reduce your codependent tendencies. By becoming your own biggest fan, your confidence will soar. This way, you can gain satisfaction through your own life, not through your partner’s.

Creating separation within your relationship is also key to reducing your codependency. Setting boundaries and following through with them will help create space between you and your partner. Try taking up activities outside of your relationship to foster your own interests.

Being codependent is something that you and your relationship are more than capable of recovering from. If you realize that your relationship might be codependent, counseling might be a good option for you. Get in touch today to start down the path to a healthier, happier relationship.


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