When we think of codependency we think of relationships. Many people believe codependency is literally being overly dependent on our significant other, and while this can be one characteristic in certain types of codependent situations, it’s not the only one. Did you know codependent relationships can be between friends, family members, co-workers, or bosses? One or both people in the relationship can exhibit codependency. In fact, even those of us who have healthy boundaries and relationships may exhibit codependent behaviors.
How do codependent behaviors come about? Codependency is a learned behavior that comes from past trauma, behavioral patterns, and emotional difficulties. This could happen through living with a mentally or physically ill parent, experiencing a damaging or abusive family relationship, or any situation where a person’s self-worth may form around being needed by another person. If this is the way you learn to give love, it could turn into a damaging behavioral pattern down the road.
Have you ever caught yourself feeling low or unsatisfied unless a certain relationship fills a need for you? One common codependent behavior is receiving self-esteem and fulfilling deep emotional needs from another person. Maybe you believe you aren’t doing a good job at work unless your boss specifically recognizes you for a certain task. Instead of being confident in your work ethic, a codependent behavior will make you feel like you need affirmation from another person.
Taking on another person’s problems as your own is a classic codependent behavior and one that is extremely common when we interact with people we care about. Have you taken responsibility for another’s problems? Maybe you’ve thought to yourself something wouldn’t have happened or occurred in a certain way if only you had said or done something different. Additionally, blaming others for your own problems could be another way you’re exhibiting codependent behavior. Perhaps you can’t take responsibility for a mistake or situation because it’s too scary to think you might lose your job, relationship, or reputation. People-pleasing is a form of codependency that often goes unnoticed as a codependent behavior.
Have you ever been in a relationship where one person’s needs are constantly met at the determinant to the other? Again, this could be a romantic relationship, but doesn’t have to be. This is could be between family members, friends, or even employer and employee. In this form of codependency, one person gets their needs met more, while the other builds resentment while they keep on giving in to the needs of the other. This isn’t sustainable because the person who is giving will need more and more energy to devote to the relationship and at some point, they will become depleted. It’s difficult to pinpoint this time of codependent behavior because we often rationalize that we are just being good people, friends, or employees, and we don’t want it to reflect badly on us, if we aren’t being our best selves. Codependency is tricky in that way.
The antidote to codependency is self-empowerment. In order to avoid engaging in codependent behaviors, we must recognize what they are, and understand that only we can fulfill our self-esteem and self-worth needs. Of course, it makes us feel good to be there for another person, to offer support and help someone solve their problems. However, it’s when we start to believe that we have no worth as a friend, partner, or employee if we don’t provide enough support or solve their problems that it begins to harm us. Empowering ourselves to know our own boundaries and our own worth, as well as empowering others to solve their own problems and being their own best advocate, will enable a healthier and more fulfilling relationship long-term.
Remember, only you can change yourself and your codependent behaviors. You can’t change others and you can’t make them care about you or love you more, no matter how much of yourself you sacrifice for your relationship or their needs. Putting yourself first is healthiest for you and the other person. Awareness is the first step, adjusting course and committing to constructive relationships that make you feel good is the goal.