Codependency is a Relationship Addiction


Melissa Killeen

Codependent was a term used to describe the partner or spouse of an addict. The reasoning was a person had to be codependent to tolerate the destructive behaviors and actions of an addict in a relationship. But this definition has changed.

What is codependency?

Codependency is known as a “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. The disorder was first identified over twenty years ago as the result of years of studying interpersonal relationships in families of alcoholics. Codependent relationships are a type of dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement.

When someone is codependent they tend to spend the majority of their effort in their relationship, monitoring, controlling and attempting to enhance the feelings of someone they love. If a person is in a codependent relationship, there exists an imbalance that is both unhealthy, and ultimately destructive to the codependent whose self esteem, needs and self worth are sacrificed for that of the other person’s. A codependent relationship can be with a child, a parent, spouse or even with a non-addict.

How does codependency show up in your relationship?

You might believe that your child, a parent or spouse can’t cope on their own without you, that you are their only chance of survival. You may feel that if you can just keep helping them, they will find their way eventually. Or you might believe that you have done things that make them angry, destructive, and emotionally distant. Or you may think your actions made them act out, want to drink, take drugs or gamble. You truly believe that if only you were a better partner, mother, daughter, or spouse they might not get angry at you or exhibit other destructive characteristics. You diminish or deny your feelings about their love, attitudes or problems, and you minimalize the effects codependency is having on you.

Your aim is to keep them happy, and make life as simple and stress free as possible for them, in the hope that it reduces the need for them to face life on life’s terms, in others words you don’t want them to face life without you. Without you hovering over them like a helicopter, without you picking up their clothes, without you showing up every Saturday to take them food shopping. Nothing that you need to do to keep the peace or provide for your partner, mother or child is considered too much. The more you can do, the more validation you hope for. But it tends to backfire as your efforts are unappreciated or seldom noticed by someone whose prevailing thoughts are self-centered.

So you are probably failing miserably on all accounts and that makes you try even harder. You are in a cycle of codependency. And isn’t going to save anyone.

Every narcissist needs a codependent and every codependent needs a narcissist

Codependents believe that they are acting out of compassion and often become martyrs to a narcissist. Their intentions are good. But in fact, if anything, they are enabling and protecting a family member from facing life, denying them from learning about the impact of their actions. Narcissists use codependents as their source of esteem or comfort while giving them nothing in return.

Codependency can be hard to identify because we often think we are just being selfless, caring and loving. We feel noble for loving someone who is at his or her worst. It is known through research that a codependent person was raised to think that setting themselves aside for others is humble and part of being in a relationship. Messages of this ilk can be strong family messages, particularly if you were raised by an addicted, overly religious or narcissistic parent. We codependents learn to keep quiet, make peace, do what they ask and work around their addict/narcissist/children in any way possible. But we are giving away who we are, for the sake of a sick relationship.

Is this you?

  1. Desperate for approval
  2. Uncomfortable being strong or assertive
  3. Wanting to control others
  4. Basing self worth on the approval of others
  5. Denying or diminishing feelings
  6. Struggling to make decisions in fear of upsetting others
  7. Giving up interests, friends or hobbies for the sake of others
  8. Feeling unnecessarily responsible for your loved ones actions
  9. Mistaking the need to rescue someone, with loving them
  10. Confusing being needed for being loved
  11. Giving more of yourself than the people you love give back to you
  12. Feeling upset when people don’t notice how much you are giving
  13. Avoiding abandonment by staying in unhealthy relationships

It is time to reset the habits that are causing you harm

You are not wrong in wanting love, validation and respect. We all want these things. But you must look within to find them. An addict/narcissist/child is certainly incapable of giving you these things. Your best guarantee of being given the appreciation you deserve is to give it to yourself.

Shed codependency and become the director of your life dreams and goals. You can not, and do not need to, control any other life except your own. When you redirect the energy you have been giving away to someone else, the energy and possibilities are endless and incredible.

You are the most honest, loving and loyal person you know. You can be happy and give yourself gifts. You still can be a loving spouse, daughter, son or parent and be a healthier spouse, daughter, son or parent because you are not displaying codependent characteristics. And today is the first day to begin getting to know that fabulous person.


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