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Codependency is a learned behavior that can be easily passed down from generation to generation. This behavioral and emotional condition can affect a person’s ability to develop healthy and mutually satisfying relationships with others. Also known as relationship addiction, people with codependency often form one-sided relationships that quickly become abusive and emotionally destructive.

Identified almost ten years ago, codependency disorder may seem insignificant and harmless. However, it can deeply affect the persons experiencing it by draining them emotionally and physically. Hence, it is critical to understand the most common signs of codependency and learn how to overcome this issue once identified.

In simplest terms, codependency refers to an imbalance in a relationship pattern. In such a pattern, one person takes on responsibility for meeting another person’s needs while excluding the acknowledgment of their own feelings or needs. All codependent relationships are based on inequity of power that only tends to promote the taker’s demands. As a result, the giver keeps on giving, often at the sacrifice of their comfort and desires.

There are multiple signs that may confirm if someone is in a codependent relationship. These include:

  • Feeling like walking on eggshells to avoid getting into a conflict with the other person
  • Feeling the need to check in with the partner or ask their permission to do everyday tasks
  • Feeling sorry for the other person, even when they are hurting you
  • Being the one who apologizes, even if you have not done anything wrong
  • Regularly trying to rescue or change your addicted, troubled, or under-functioning partner whose problems go beyond your ability to fix
  • Putting someone on a pedestal even when you know that they don’t merit this position
  • Doing something for the other person, even if it makes you uncomfortable
  • Struggling to find time for yourself, mainly because all your free time consistently goes to meeting the needs of the other person
  • Feeling the need for other people to like you so that you can feel good about yourself
  • Feeling like you have lost a sense of yourself

The word “codependency” was initially coined to describe someone who is in a relationship with an addict. Such people may abuse substances or have a behavioral addiction, such as shopping or gambling addiction. A person with codependency may quickly take on the role of a caretaker for their addict partner. The partner, in turn, may also start relying on their codependent caretaker to handle the finances or manage everyday household chores. If the addiction causes issues outside their relationship, the caretaker may extend their role and cover for their partner wherever possible. For example, someone who abuses alcohol frequently may skip work, and their caretaker may call the partner’s boss on their behalf and insist that their partner is ill.

A codependent caretaker usually takes care of their addict partner out of a sincere desire to help. However, their helpful behavior primarily enables their partner to pursue their unhealthy addiction. This is especially true when the caretaker attempts to save their partner from the consequences of their addiction which forces the partner to lose any motivation to change. They may refuse to seek professional help, and their addiction worsens with every passing day.

It is essential to remember that in a codependent relationship, the caretaker is not to blame for their partner’s addiction. While their codependent behavior can contribute to their partner refusing treatment, it is not the only justifiable cause of addiction in this case. Remember that someone can’t force others into rehabilitation. On the contrary, being in such a relationship is likely to harm the caretaker as they commonly ignore their own needs to care for their partner. Their codependent habits continue to worsen and affect their mental health.

The very first step for overcoming codependent tendencies involves focusing on self-awareness. One can easily do it independently; however, it is better to seek professional help to make the process easier and more beneficial. Despite the importance of seeking professional help, many who struggle with codependency do not ask for support until their life begins to fall apart. However, once you have established the need to seek help, try the following tips:

Pay Attention to Yourself

While this tip may seem simple and easy to follow, it can be highly challenging for someone with codependency traits. Learn to speak positively and lovingly to yourself while resisting the impulse to self-criticize.

Take Baby Steps

Once you have identified that you are stuck in a codependent relationship, try to create some distance slowly. Seek activities outside of your relationship by investing in new friendships or taking on new hobbies. Focus on activities that help you understand who you are and then expand on them. Remember that you do not have to suddenly make a major change. Keep things slow and take baby steps towards distancing yourself from your taker partner.

Keep Control of Your Attention

As someone with a codependent personality, you may often think or worry too much about your partner or someone else. When this happens, try to turn your attention inward and focus on yourself and your needs first. This habit may take some time to develop, so be patient and kind to yourself along the way.

Take a Stand for Yourself

Take a stand for yourself every time someone tries to criticize or undermine you or attempts to control you. For this purpose, it is important to build your self-esteem to find more strength in yourself and to speak up when you are being neglected or undermined.

Learn to Say No

Learn how to refuse others when you do not want to do something they ask you to. This is extremely important as it gives you peace of mind and allows you to prioritize your needs above others.

Seek Professional Help

If you find it difficult to overcome your codependent tendencies on your own, do not be afraid to ask for help. Many highly qualified mental health professionals can help you overcome these negative traits and support you in developing good self-esteem and personal strength. Different types of psychotherapy are also available to make this transition easier. Moreover, you can search for and join local support groups to meet other people with similar issues and draw on their experience and tips. Codependents Anonymous is a famous organization that helps people with codependency learn healthy ways of living and building relationships.

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