ARE YOU CODEPENDENT?
In short, codependency in a relationship is when two people become so intertwined and reliant on each other that they can’t function independently anymore. This is often talked about in the context of addiction but can be broader than that. Think you might be codependent? Read on.
Codependency vs. Dependency/Co-Regulation
Sometimes we think it’s not okay to be dependent upon others based on our view of relationships and our painful past experiences (see “What’s Your Attachment Style?” blog from last week). We live in a society which favors individualism, or the idea that you are more valuable as a person if you can take care of your own needs and not rely on others. This is a “jack of all trades, master of none” mentality. Eastern culture favors an opposing viewpoint called collectivism, or the idea that your value lies in your ability to support and help others. This is a “for the good of the whole” mentality.
I think it’s okay to have a mix of both. You can be a self-sufficient person in many ways while choosing to rely on others in other ways. You don’t need to do it all by yourself. Humans are pack animals, so we need a bit of people in our lives. The idea of being completely on your own island is tempting but most likely not realistic because we need some kind of social belonging.
This brings us to the definitions of dependency and co-regulation. Dependency is when you are able to function independently and healthily rely on the other person when appropriate. Relying on each other includes a balanced give and take, feeling secure in the relationship, and being able to express yourself fully and honestly. Co-regulation is when you are able to support each other in times of distress. This can include reminding each other of coping skills used for trauma and anxiety and creating an environment of safety and security (i.e., having the knowledge and understanding to coach your partner through an anxiety attack).
Signs of Codependency:
No balance of give and take (i.e., always putting your partner’s needs above your own)
You don’t have separate interests
Constant need of reassurance, low self-esteem
You want to fix or change the other person
Poor boundaries and passive communication
How to Have a Healthier Relationships
If any of this sounds familiar to you, maybe it’s time to have an honest conversation with your partner about what you think might be going on. Get selfish – start taking time for yourself and practicing some self-love. And, easier said than done, work on healthy boundary-setting and assertive communication. How do you learn to do these things? It takes awareness, commitment, elbow grease, and some counseling. A counselor can help you identify the growth areas in the relationships, teach you (and your partner if you choose) healthy communication skills and boundary-setting, and help you form a more secure attachment. However you choose to begin, keep in mind that change happens when we can start on our side of the fence.
That’s all for now – hope you learned something and as always, have a fantastic Mindfulness Monday!