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It’s About Give and Take: How Codependency Hurts Us Like Other Addictions Do

It’s About Give and Take: How Codependency Hurts Us Like Other Addictions Do

Does any of these situations sound familiar to you?

Your boyfriend smokes cigarettes, so you want to help him quit. You know he couldn’t possibly do it without you. You’re the only person who understands him enough to help him become a better person. You let him know all the time that you can help fix him, that without you, he’d fail.

Your girlfriend hasn’t called you yet to let you know she made it to work okay. Maybe she’s not really going to work, you think. You two did get in an argument last night. You start thinking that maybe she’s leaving you, abandoning you without warning. You’ve always been worried that might happen, in fact you tell her all the time .

If so, you might be experiencing codependency.

Codependency is also called “relationship addiction”.

Codependency is called “relationship addiction” because in these relationships often display physical, psychological, and emotional reliance on their partners.

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A person with codependency issues will often try to sacrifice their own needs and desires to meet the needs of their partner. Codependency is rooted in feeling of low self-worth shame and insecurity. It was first identified after experts noticed codependent behaviors in families dealing with drug abuse and alcoholism.[1]

Other experts believe that codependency begins during childhood, when a child is constantly required to look after the needs of others first. Children who grew up with alcoholic, drug-addicted, abusive, or emotionally negligent parents are likely to experience codependency in their future, adult relationships.[2] Children who grow up in these situations learn to believe that they are not important and sometimes, that they are the cause of their family’s problems.[3]

For people who are not relationship experts, codependency may look like an intense amount of love. That love, however, comes from a place of fear. This fear may be a fear of criticism, fear of being abandoned, fear of losing control, fear of disappointing others, or fear of making somebody else suffer.

Codependency could be seriously affecting our adult relationships.

These codependent adult relationships become unfair, unhealthy, emotionally damaging, and sometimes abusive – mirroring the person’s childhood.[4]

This is why codependency should matter to you. Because if you want to have a healthy adult relationship, you have to understand what codependency is and how it could be affecting you. If you can identify your codependency, you can work toward making it better. You deserve that and so does your partner.

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The biggest clue to identify codependency is an unsatisfactory relationship.

One of the biggest clues that you might be experiencing codependency is that you can’t find satisfaction in your life without your partner. Rather than being an independent individual in the relationship, you have come to rely on the other person for your personal happiness and identity.

According to Scott Wetzler, PhD and Chief of the Psychology Division at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine,[5]

“Codependent relationships signify a degree of unhealthy clinginess…. One or both parties depend on their loved ones for fulfillment.”

People with codependency may have low self-esteem and feel that they aren’t good enough for other people. They may constantly seek approval through people-pleasing activities. It is difficult for them to say “no”.

Additionally, codependent individuals have blurry boundaries with others and may feel responsible for somebody else’s problems.[6]

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Some other signs of codependency may include:[7]

  • Being sensitive to criticism
  • Needing to control others
  • Taking care of somebody who abuses drugs or alcohol
  • Denying personal problems
  • Feeling helplessness inside

So you’ve looked over the signs and symptoms of codependency and you’re starting to feel like maybe it describes you. Now what?

First of all, don’t worry. This is not the end of the world. In fact, it is the beginning of a journey of learning and self-development.

There are steps you can take to fight codependency in your current or future relationships.

To have healthy love in your life, try the following tips[8]:

  • Imagine yourself in a healthy, loving relationship where all of your needs are met. What does that look like?
  • Start to question why you doubt your self-worth. The only person you need to prove your self-worth to is …. you!
  • Practice being kind to yourself instead of focusing on being kind to others.
  • Don’t forget that it’s not just okay to accept help from other people, it’s healthy. Knowing and admitting that you need help are signs of strength, not weakness.
  • Don’t worry so much about rejection. The constant fear of being rejected will ultimately stop you from taking the risks that will lead you to a long, healthy, and happy relationship.

Last but not least, recognize the recovery process.

Above all else, do not deny that you have issues with codependency. Recognize it and admit it. The first step to recovery is honesty with yourself. You have spent a lifetime trying to deny your codependency. Now is the time to face it head on. Look to other people who can understand what you’re feeling for help. Support groups are essential in the healing process.[9]

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Look back at your past and try to identify anything from your childhood that may have caused you to develop codependency as an adult. You are not being unloyal to your family by admitting that you have unresolved issues from your childhood. Sometimes this challenge is best approached in professional therapy sessions.[10]

The final step in overcoming your codependency is to let go of unhealthy relationships. If you are too involved in another person or relationship, you will not be able to focus on your healing process. This allows you to free up energy for yourself and break the toxic cycle of codependency.[11]

Remember that as you navigate the difficult process of identifying, coming to terms with, and overcoming your codependency – you are not alone and you are worth it.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] GoodTherapy: Codependency
[2] WhatIsCodepency: Symptoms of Codependency
[3] PsychCentral: What Causes Codependency?
[4] MentalHealthAmerica: Co-Dependency
[5] WebMD: Are You In A Codependent Relationship?
[6] PsychCentral: Symptoms of Codependency
[7] GoodTherapy: Codependency
[8] HuffingtonPost: Overcoming Codependency: Reclaiming Yourself in Relationships
[9] LifeCounsel: Overcoming Codependency
[10] LifeCounsel: Overcoming Codependency
[11] LifeCounsel: Overcoming Codependency

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Amber Pariona

EFL Teacher, Lifehack Writer, English/Spanish Translator, MPA

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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