One way everyone measures the quality, depth and meaning of their life and happiness is tied to relationships- both past and present. We’re humans. We can’t help it.
Your relationship with your significant other, as well as your relationship with family members, such as siblings, parents, children, caregivers, or guardians, all have the potential to affect your peace of mind.
Your bonds with others should make you feel safe, happy, and loved. If they don’t, they may be unhealthy relationships or relationships that are not conducive to your growth or satisfaction in life.
Perhaps you feel unhappy, end up in bad situations, or do things you know are not right for you. And if you’re reading this, you might be wondering if these behaviors deem you one thing: a codependent person.
Codependent people all seem to have some commonalities. You don’t need to exhibit all of the following to be codependent, but if you feel like codependency is a possibility for you, you might want to ask yourself:
- Do I have trouble with boundaries? Boundaries are the theoretical limits you place between yourself and others. They help you know what is and is not permissible. They apply to everything, including your body, the things you own, the things you are willing to do, and the things you will let others do to you. Perhaps you even have the opposite problem—that you are too rigid with boundaries, causing you to close yourself off from others. Over-rigid limitations are a way of overcompensating so that people cannot take advantage of you.
- Do I have low self-esteem? Maybe you feel you are not good enough or that you are incapable of doing anything right. You compare yourself to everyone else. Or perhaps you think way too highly of yourself because you are trying to overcompensate for actual feelings of low self-esteem. Maybe you think you are not worthy of being loved, or that you are always inadequate.
- Am I overly sensitive or defensive in disagreements? When you don’t agree with what someone says to you, you react by questioning and doubting yourself. You being to dwell on what they were saying long after they have forgotten about it. Your trouble with boundaries has also caused you to be too sensitive or to be too quick to defend yourself and your perspective may have narrowed so much that you feel threatened by a conflict with someone long after they’re over it.
- Am I a people pleaser? If you have trouble saying the word “no” to people, and you feel that you can never say “no” to people, then you are probably a people pleaser. Codependents often go out of their way to please others, forfeiting their own needs.
- Do I play “custodian”? Perhaps you’re cleaning up after everyone’s messes. Someone has a problem and asks your opinion or asks you for help, but you end up cleaning up the mess they’re responsible for taking care of. A codependent goes beyond the healthy boundaries of helping someone and becomes selfless to a fault. If someone wants you to back off yet, you can’t, or if you feel you have to fix that other person and be responsible for being their caretaker (even when your fixing hasn’t helped them), this could be a sign of codependency.
- Is control a problem for me? If you need to control everything to the point where you are unable to take risks, then your controlling behavior may be a sign that you are codependent. Again, this goes back to being a boundary issue. You feel you must control all outcomes that may otherwise not go as you planned or happen in a way with which you are comfortable. Codependent behavior, indeed.
- Do I have trouble communicating with others? Codependents often have difficulty expressing themselves. This is linked to the ability to be honest with yourself and with others, and being afraid to be judged or rejected.
- Am I obsessed with thinking about others or my relationships? Obsession with relationships stems from feeling dependent on others’ need of you. Or, it may stem from a fear or anxiety you have about being alone.
- Am I in denial about my role in a relationship? You refuse to realize that you have a problem. Instead, you focus on somebody else or blame everything on the situation. You won’t stop to realize that you might be the problem. Instead, maybe you just complain or keep trying to fix the other person, or you might jump from one bad relationship to another, reenacting the same bad mistakes and getting into the same situations over and over.
- Do I have issues with intimacy? Intimacy doesn’t necessarily mean sex- what we’re talking about here is the ability to be truly open with someone else about who you are. This may be due to the fact that you feel the other person will laugh at you, reject you, leave you, or judge you harshly. This will lead to you not wanting to get too close to someone, or maybe that you think they are asking too much of you when they complain that you seem distant and unavailable.
As a codependent, your common fears may include:
- Feeling trapped or smothered
- Loneliness/being alone
- Being judged
Codependency could be preventing you from being happy and from having healthy, normal relationships. However, there are many ways to deal with your dependency.
Seeking the help of a mental health professional or attending a codependency support group will grant you the ability to work through codependency issues and steer you into healthy, happy relationships.
Beyond codependency lies a more authentic, more satisfied you. With the right help, freedom is possible and within your grasp.