In a healthy relationship, two adults come together to build something better. To explore together. To grow, create a family, and enjoy life. But not when someone in the relationship is codependent.
How do you know if you are codependent and what exactly is codependency?
You can go through a detailed questionnaire published by Mental Health America to identify signs of codependency here. But, here are a few quick questions you can ask yourself:
Do I find that I am sacrificing a lot in my relationships, but feel I am getting little in return?
Do I go out of my way to change my schedule and day for my partner and for others?
Do I feel that if my partner isn’t happy that I can’t be happy? Do I get nervous if people are upset with me?
Do I try to “save” my partner, from lots of their mental issues and troubles?
If you answered yes to these questions and those in the questionnaire, you might be a codependent in a relationship. But don’t worry: you can change and in this article, you’ll learn why you might be picking the wrong partners for you, and whom you should go for instead. Codependents always end up miserable or in bad relationships, picking the wrong partners because…
1. They try to re-create familiar dysfunctional family patterns throughout their entire lives, creating miserable relationships.
Codependency starts when you are a child. Some family member who had mental, physical, or addiction issues was covered up. Everyone rallied behind to support this family member. While this can sometimes be good for something like a chronic pain injury, it can also be done for negative issues like alcoholism, to cover up possible embarrassment from the outside world. This hiding only fuels the person further to do their negative behavior if no intervention happens – the family is enabling them to keep on their destructive path while believing they might be “helping or saving them from themselves”.
Codependents, seeing this, learned that this pattern should be replicated in their own intimate and close relationships, and that hiding something is okay.
2. They want to play the savior, it makes them feel good.
Codependents seek out partners whom they can save and get drowned in taking care of their partners while never being taken care of themselves. Like a pair of dysfunctional puzzle pieces perfectly fitting together floating across a sea of misery, codependents attract those who desire caregivers and enablers (vampires). Through childhood, codependents believe that intimacy is formed by taking care of “damaged” people and accepting them. So, if they meet a partner who is reasonably emotionally healthy, they won’t feel the same pull, because they are used to the drama brought on by vampires (how bad is that?).
Without the drama, they don’t feel alive or the attraction hormones they’re used to.
For example, a woman might be attracted to the drug user and think she can save or change him when he comes crying to her, and she says “It’s okay”. But then, he does it again. The woman then complains about always attracting the wrong guys, but will continue the cycle forever unless she realizes the one commonality in all of her relationships that needs to be fixed: Her.
3. They believe that withholding their own needs and emotions will bring them love and affection.
As they were never the center of care or attention, and someone else’s needs were always more important, codependents usually squash down their own needs for love, affection, support, and intimacy to help the vampire out. They believe that as long as the vampire is happy, then they and the relationship are good. Even though deep down they feel a sense of imbalance, like the relationship is hardly 50-50 at all, they saw growing up that giving the vampire all of their care and support was necessary.
In time though, the codependent feels unheard, ashamed, stressed, and alone in the relationship and. They feel fatigued and taxed, instead of energized by spending time with their partner. They never learned how to communicate what they wanted and how they felt in a relationship, and so, they decide to never express their deepest, or even surface level desires of getting a back rub.
Two people aren’t creating something bigger together here. The codependent is only making the vampire worse.
4. They define and establish their own sense of self-worth from compliments.
Because codependents saw growing up that a vampire was the center of care, they strongly associated their self-worth with how they took care of that person. They connect a vampire telling them that they are doing a good job taking care, or others appreciating them, as being good. Their own opinion of themselves matters far less.
So instead of being able to define their own sense of self-worth from what they do and how they act, they must draw it from what they do for others. This is not necessarily a bad thing in terms of giving service, but the codependent will believe much more strongly in others’ opinions of themselves rather than what they believe. They are strongly affected by criticism, and they are sensitive and even needy when it comes to receiving compliments and re-enforcement. This can actually drive healthy people away, who don’t understand why the codependent seeks so much approval or requires so much attention.
5. They believe they need a relationship to feel useful and good.
Codependents draw a great deal of self-esteem and self-respect from taking care of vampires. In this sense if they don’t have a vampire relationship, they don’t feel good. They have problems being single, alone, and happy, and as such, would rather take a crappier relationship or stay in one rather than feeling useless, or abandoned and left alone.
While codependents don’t have the easiest time in life, they can begin to change their beliefs and heal to find healthier partners. You attract what you put out and what you are looking for, and if you are always looking to re-create the dysfunctional relationships of the past that’s all you’re going to find.
Going to therapy and fining resources on healthy relationships can help codependents heal, so that they can approach dating and relationships from a much more healthy and guided view. They will learn that two people can take care of themselves, but also for each other.
Featured photo credit: Nattu via flickr.com