The term “codependency” can mean different things, but we think it can be best defined as “An emotional disorder that can cause a person to ignore their own needs to fulfill the needs of others.” A traditional example of this could be a wife enabling her abusive husband to continue to drink so that she can take care of him and avoid conflict. Additionally, the term codependency can also be used to describe individuals in many kinds of dysfunctional relationships, not just ones dealing chemical dependency.
Studies over the past ten years have shown that the emotional and behavioral condition of codependency can greatly affect an individual’s ability to have mutually satisfying and healthy relationships. This is because unhealthy, codependent relationships do not have the communication skills to talk through things, but instead influence individuals to repress their emotions, disregard their own needs, and simply become “survivors” who believe they are deserving of mistreatment.
Codependent people may mean well, but the problem becomes clear when caretaking of others emotions becomes compulsive and desperate. The enjoyment of the relationship for a codependent person with low self-esteem is founded upon the feeling of “being needed” by the other person(s), not because of mutual love or respect.
The first step in changing behavior is to understand it. Codependency is a learned trait, usually from critical early childhood relationships. Thankfully, it is possible to recognize the role that you play in allowing the cycle to continue. Starting now, here are some questions to ask yourself to see if your relationships involve codependency:
- Do you stay quiet to avoid arguments?
- Do you constantly worry about others’ opinions of you?
- Do you think people in your life would be able to survive without your constant efforts?
- Do you have trouble saying “no” when others ask something of you?
- Do you feel a sense of purpose after making extreme sacrifices to satisfy others’ needs?
The bottom line is: A person with codependency tendencies is suffering from a mental illness. If the disorder continues unaddressed, codependent individuals can tend to turn to other unhealthy behaviors as they try to cope. The good news is that this mental illness is not irreversible. Individuals can expect to recover and change their destructive thoughts and behaviors, starting with ongoing treatment by a trained professional. The following are a few valuable tools that individuals will learn while involved in a safe, Christian based program such as Revival Recovery Services.
Identify Root of Destructive Behavior
Individuals must explore early childhood experiences to find the root causes that may have influenced a codependent belief set. It is only by identifying these issues and how they influence current destructive patterns can one start to heal from them.
Move From People-Pleasing to Healthy Assertiveness
Change has to first start from within. Treatment should provide practical advice on how to become less of a people-pleaser and more in touch with asserting one’s own feelings/desires. An important aspect of this is learning how to say “no” without fear of repercussions.
Accept Nothing Less Than Respect From Your Relationships
We teach other people how to treat us. When you truly know your self-worth, you will learn not to minimize or overlook abusive behavior from others. In therapy (group or individual) you will start to understand your God-given value, and begin to learn what it means to be kind to yourself.
Maybe you have heard of these concepts before, or maybe this is all new to you. No matter where you have come from or how bad the situation is, you can decide today to pursue a new, healthy relationship with God and yourself that in turn pours out into every other relationship.