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Last Updated on September 16, 2021

10 Signs You Are in a Codependent Relationship (And What To Do About It)

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10 Signs You Are in a Codependent Relationship (And What To Do About It)

Codependency has become a buzzword in our society, stemming from the field of addiction. It remains unclear in the field of Psychology as to what the symptoms of codependent relationships are, how to define it, where it originates from, and what you can do about it.

Read on to learn more about codependency and discover the 10 signs that you are in a codependent relationship and what you can do about it.

What Is Codependency?

Research has attempted to quantify, categorize, and define codependency since it seems to permeate so many different types of relationships and many people worldwide.[1][2] However, because a clear definition ceases to exist, it is difficult to get a true number of how many people struggle with it.

Organizations such as Codependents Anonymous point to codependency being a “disease” and provide a safe place for those struggling in their relationships. However, they make it clear that they provide no clear definition or diagnostic criteria to identify codependency. The one common denominator appears to be that those self-identifying as “codependents” often come from a dysfunctional family and exhibit “learned helplessness” characteristics.[3]

10 Signs You Are in a Codependent Relationship

If there’s no clear definition, how do you know if you are in a codependent relationship? Codependency can be identified by evaluating your own behaviors rather than the behaviors of someone you are in a relationship with. By identifying certain thoughts, feelings, and behaviors you tend to engage in, you can start to identify any trends that exhibit codependent characteristics.

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Here are the 10 signs that you might be in a codependent relationship.

1. It’s Hard to Say “No”

Codependents have a hard time saying “no” in their relationships. They often are afraid of being rejected or abandoned, so they say “yes” to their partners because they don’t have the confidence to say “no.” This can manifest in all areas of the relationship, whether it be financial decisions, co-parenting, delineation of tasks, or sexual intimacy. Codependents will default to being “walked all over” or “bulldozed” by their partner and lack the ability to empower or assert themselves.

2. You Find Yourself Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do

Codependents are afraid of abandonment by their partner. They end up doing things they don’t want to do just to keep their partner from leaving. They are in desperate need of validation, attention, and acceptance by their partner and are willing to do anything to avoid jeopardizing their partner leaving them. They lack the ability to self-evaluate. They hold their partner’s opinions and judgments above their own belief about themselves. This can lead to codependents compromising personal morals and values to gain the approval of a controlling partner.

3. You Feel Compelled to Help Your Partner Solve Problems and Be Needed

Codependents need to be needed. Their entire self-esteem is dependent on bringing value to their relationship partner. If they can be helpful, then they are valued. Codependents will often give way more than expected and try to be “helpful” and solve their partner’s problems. They end up caring more about their partner’s life than their partner does. This leads to their partner judging them even more because a codependent will try harder if they fall short.

4. You Think and Feel Responsible for the Other Person

As codependents try to solve their partner’s problems, they take on the responsibility of their partner’s life. This leads to feeling responsible for everything that happens or doesn’t happen to their partner. This over-involvement releases their partner from taking responsibility for their own life and puts the blame solely on the codependent for anything wrong that happens. Taking responsibility for something that you have no power to change perpetuates the cycle of codependency by creating a feeling of “if I could just do more or do it better, my partner will love me.”

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5. You Tend to Anticipate Your Partner’s Needs and Over Give

Codependents who take responsibility for their partner’s life must be on the alert all the time. They must anticipate their partner’s needs before their partner can ask for anything. This leads to hypervigilance and a hyper response towards their partner. This builds resentment from their partner who is constantly being scrutinized, often leading to withdrawing from the relationship.

6. You Seek to Please Your Partner Before Yourself

Codependents don’t think much about themselves and their own needs. When constantly putting their partner’s needs before their own, their only source of approval comes from pleasing their partner. Oftentimes, a codependent is unaware of what they truly want and feel because so much of their life is focused on someone outside of themselves. Thus, there is no benefit to pleasing themselves. In fact, they feel as though they are being selfish or wasting time that they believe should be spent focusing on their partner.

7. Events and Situations in Your Relationship Feel Controlled

If a codependent’s partner’s needs are not met, a codependent will often be controlled by their partner using coercion, advice, or manipulation tactics designed to evoke helplessness and guilt feelings in the codependent. In this way, the codependent’s role is kept in check by their partner, and the dependency is reinforced.

8. You Desperately Seek Love and Approval From Your Partner

The basic needs of connection and approval when not fulfilled as a child continues into adult relationships with the belief that “if my partner gives me love and approval then and only then I am okay”. This false belief creates a situation where a person gives up their power to their partner.

They don’t believe in their own assessment of themselves and their own value. They don’t trust their own feelings and lack the ability to make good choices for themselves. This allows the partner to make decisions but not take any responsibility for the outcome of those decisions.

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For example, if their partner tells them to quit their job, end a friendship, or stop doing a hobby, it will not affect the partner’s life, but the codependent person’s life will become smaller and less satisfying. This perpetuates the cycle because now the codependent has less to focus on and gives more attention and energy to their partner who becomes the only thing they have left in their world. This increases the desperation to try even harder to make sure that their partner gives them approval. It also creates a distorted belief that no one else will ever love them.

9. You Pretend Circumstances Aren’t as Bad as They Are

When a person no longer believes their own feelings and defers to their partner’s opinion,s they can no longer trust their own views and experience. They believe that they are the problem and that if things are bad, they are the reason for it being that way. They minimize reality to avoid having to make changes. If they can pretend things aren’t so bad, then they don’t have to do anything different. After all, if there is no problem then there is no reason to fix it.

The other thing that happens is a codependent will experience time differently. If it is not happening right now, then it never happened. The feeling is “if I am fine now, then I have always been fine and that problem didn’t really happen” or  “it must be my imagination or overreaction.”

The codependent will convince themselves that they even agree with the problem to avoid conflict or change. “It must be okay for my partner to stay out all night and not call or quit their job for the 3rd time this year or spend money and not pay the bills.” Again, this perpetuates the cycle and the codependent will work even harder to pay for everything except being treated badly because they believe that is all they deserve.

10. You Don’t Trust Yourself, Your Feelings, Your Decisions, and Default to Your Partner

Ultimately, codependency is learned in childhood. There is a disconnect between what a person feels and what they have been told to think about their feelings. They are told over and over again that their feelings are not to be trusted in very subtle but consistent ways. They have heard things like “you are too sensitive,” “you shouldn’t feel that way,” “your feelings are ridiculous,” or “no one else feels that way.”

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They believe that there must be something wrong with how they feel and not that there is something wrong with what they are being told. The core of the issue is that there is no authenticity or truth in these messages, and the main point of getting the message to not trust your feelings is to give up your power and keep you off balance.

If someone doesn’t trust their feelings or their worldview, they must default to someone else who they believe is more capable and more knowledgeable about what is best for them.

What Should You Do If You Experience These Signs?

If you experience any of these signs or realize that you are in a codependent relationship, there are many things that you can do.

First, try to find areas of your life that have small emotional risks and start becoming very conscious about what you are feeling, and use those feelings to make small decisions. For example, ask yourself what color of shirt you feel like wearing today or whether you prefer an apple or a banana.

Connect with the feeling first—become conscious and curious. Why do I feel like wearing red? Where did that feeling come from? Now that I am wearing red, does it still feel like it fits with the original feeling? Learn to trust your feelings again. Also, notice how often you don’t say what you really feel or simply don’t tell the truth. Codependency and lying are partners. If lying is the problem, then knowing the truth is the solution, and becoming aware of the problem of lying is the beginning of the way out.

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You can also try journaling. You will be amazed at how much connection you have to your inner wisdom and truth that you lose as you say words you don’t mean or don’t even say out loud, which you can preserve through writing. Moreover, meditation can also be a powerful tool to help rewire your brain to learn to trust yourself again. Lastly, find someone you can trust or a therapist to get a clearer reflection of any distorted thinking patterns that keep you stuck in codependency.

More Articles About Codependent Relationships

Featured photo credit: freestocks via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Ray Kadkhodaian

CoFounder of Couples Synergy and the Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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