Codependency is not a clinical diagnosis, but it’s a word that’s been around for decades. Made most famous by Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More, codependency is now a term that we hear a lot, but what does it mean? How do we know if we are codependent? What’s wrong with being codependent? There are plenty of times in life when we do nice things for others or take responsibility for certain aspects of a relationship. For example, in a parent child relationship, the parent is obviously responsible for making sure the child’s basic needs are met.
However, in a relationship with another adult the dynamic is very different. Both adults are equals in the relationship and are responsible for their own thoughts, feelings, and behavior. The problem comes when one person in the relationship takes on the role of being responsible for the other person’s feelings or behavior. An extreme example of this is in an alcoholic family system. One family member normally becomes the chief enabler in order to try to control the alcoholics behavior, prevent consequences, and “keep the peace” in the home. The problem with codependency is that it prevents the codependent person from taking care of themselves. Many codependent people have spent years taking care of others and not addressing their own emotional, spiritual, and physical needs.
Here are 5 signs that you might be codependent:
· You’re a people pleaser
Have you been told you are a people pleaser? Are you constantly trying to make other people happy? Being a people pleaser is an exhausting role to play. You are constantly having to read people and their behavior in order to try to “guess” what they are thinking or feeling. People pleasing once in a while is not a problem, but if you are always trying to read others and what they might be feeling in order to please them or control their feelings or behavior, you’re fighting an uphill battle. It’s impossible to know exactly what others are thinking or feeling, and no one has the power to make someone feel a certain way, we just aren’t that powerful.
· You put other’s needs before your own
Do you think other people’s needs are more important than your own? Do you sacrifice your own needs so that loved ones can get their needs met? You may not be doing this consciously, but some people are so used to putting other’s needs before their own that they do it automatically. In some extreme situations like an alcoholic home, the stress that the alcoholic creates in the home can be extremely overwhelming and the other family members feel they have no choice but to do what is necessary to control the alcoholic’s behavior in order to prevent consequences. This normally means the family members end up sacrificing their own needs because all of their time spent is directed towards the alcoholics needs.
· You take responsibility for other people’s emotions or behavior
Are you only happy if your loved ones are happy? Do you think that you can control other people feelings or behaviors? Do you think you can make someone feel happy or joyful? Do you feel you can take away someone’s sadness, anger or depression? Taking responsibility for other people’s emotions or behavior is a trait that most codependent people have. Codependent people mistakenly think that they can control the way people feel or behave.
· You don’t set boundaries
Do you stay quiet when someone hurts your feelings? Do you feel like its “mean” to tell someone how their behavior has affected you? Do you avoid conflict at all costs? If you answered YES to any of these questions, it might be beneficial for you to start to set some boundaries with people around you. If you are not setting boundaries because you are afraid of how the other person might respond, this is usually a sign of codependency because you are taking responsibility for how the other person might react. The truth is that you cannot control other people’s feelings or behaviors. If you choose to set a boundary in a healthy and respectful way, you are not responsible for how the other person chooses, yes chooses, to respond. Notice how I emphasized that other people choose how they respond, you do not make them respond in a certain way.
· You harbor resentment towards others
Deep down do you feel resentful towards others because of how they treat you? Do you react in passive aggressive ways in order to try and get what you want in your relationships? If you answered YES to either of these questions, it could be that you are not speaking up for yourself in your relationships and it is leading to you building resentment towards people whom you have not set boundaries or have not been assertive with. One of the consequences of not setting boundaries or standing up for yourself is not feeling heard or getting your needs met. If this is the reason you are feeling resentment towards others it might be helpful to seek the help of a counselor or therapist to help you start to set boundaries and practice assertive communication.
I hope this post has been helpful in determining if you might be codependent. If you think you might have a problem with codependency, it might be helpful to schedule an appointment with a therapist to discuss how to begin to set boundaries in your relationships.