Codependent. We hear this word pretty often. What does it mean, really?
According to this article on WebMD, here are some signs you may be showing signs of codependence in an interpersonal relationship:
The article also explains that when people who have codependent tendencies were children, they were often taught to subvert their own needs in order to satisfy a demanding (or impaired/disabled) parent. This process is sometimes called parentification.
However, it is important to understand that anyone can behave in a codependent fashion. Self-awareness is key, as is a willingness to do something about it once we notice ourselves falling into this type of pattern.
The prevailing emotion in this situation is anxiety. In fact people who come see me in this type of situation often complain that they have too much stress in their lives and want to do something about that. In this case, stress is a symptom of more significant issues--a compulsive need to respond to the needs/wants of others while often neglecting one's own needs.
Guilt can also be a major concern for people in this situation. This person may feel compelled to serve the needs of others, and feel very guilty if he/she puts their own needs first. Click here for more on addressing guilty feelings.
Some of the most helpful things someone who is seeing this pattern in their interpersonal relationships can do are
If you know that being codependent is something you don’t want, then it’s helpful to know what you DO want. I would suggest the following concept: Balance.
Nothing is more important in healthy relationships than balance. We maintain a balance in our lives by setting limits for ourselves and for those who rely on us. What does this mean?
Balance in our interpersonal relationships means to know ourselves well enough to know how much time we need for ourselves, to recharge our batteries, in order to be healthy and happy. On the other hand, we must balance this with helping others, especially our loved ones. How important is this?
To quote John Wooden, the great UCLA basketball coach who is widely known as having been one of the best coaches in the history of sports and also one of the happiest individuals imaginable, “Love is the greatest word in the English language. Balance is the second-greatest word”.
Keeping healthy balance in our lives is challenging! But it is a challenge we must embrace, due to its importance to our health and well-being. The following considerations can help:
Finally, it is my experience that many helping professionals struggle with codependent tendencies. The notion of helping others is such a strong part of a professional helpers identity that it’s very easy to lose sight of our own health and well-being. If you are a helping professional who finds yourself in this situation, please read this page.