How Do You Know if You’re in a Codependent Relationship?

How Do You Know if You’re in a Codependent Relationship?

Children of parents with substance use disorders are often anxious, unsure what kind of mood their parents might be in, whether they might be happy, angry, or indifferent. Children in this position often adapt by being extra helpful to try to win the kindness, attention, or approval of her parents. 

This tendency, learned early on, often persists into adulthood, and grown children of alcoholics often find themselves in relationships similar to their parents’. They habitually want someone to take care of, and, as it happens, people with substance use disorders often need someone to take care of them. The result is a codependent relationship in which one person feels validated by caring for someone else but is really just enabling addictive behavior. It’s common for both partners in a codependent relationship to struggle with addiction.

There are several indications that you might be in a codependent relationship.

You need external validation. Everyone likes compliments and everyone likes to feel appreciated. What makes a codependent person different is that you crave that kind of validation and will go to extreme lengths to get it. That often means doing whatever you can to please other people. Despite these efforts, you might constantly feel unappreciated. 

You feel responsible for the other person’s actions. Since you feel it’s your job to take care of everyone, you feel personally embarrassed when the people you feel responsible for make mistakes. You may cover for someone who is struggling with addiction. For example, you may make excuses for a spouse who misses work or a child who misses school. You may pay someone else’s bills. 

You feel like you always have to be in a relationship. When your sense of self-worth is dependent on having someone to take care of, you always need someone to take care of. If you find you are always in a relationship, whether or not the relationship is healthy and satisfying, you may be trying to supply that need for external validation. 

You are always in relationships with people who need to be taken care of. If you seem to only end up in relationships with people who need your help because of addiction, mental health issues, or some disability, you are probably repeating patterns you learned in childhood. 

You put your own needs last. Perhaps the worst part of codependency is that you take care of everyone else’s needs before your own. It’s good to give and help others but it’s not healthy or sustainable if you don’t acknowledge your own needs and take care of yourself. You may especially have trouble saying “no” or asking for help.

You don’t really know what you want. If you are codependent, you have become so used to putting everyone else’s needs first, that you don’t really know what you want. You are only used to responding to the latest crisis that someone else has created. 

Codependency can go on for generations unless you make an effort to do something about it. Changing codependent habits typically requires therapy, often couples therapy, and often one or both partners need treatment for addiction too. 

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