Have you ever felt like your love for someone was insatiable, that you were so obsessed it felt like an addiction?
Or have you been in a relationship that felt one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive?
Unfortunately, many women and men have been in these types of relationships. My clients come to me to help them break these destructive patterns and attract healthy partners. Mental health professionals call these types of unhealthy relationships “codependent” or “relationship addiction”. When a relationship of this nature ends, it can feel like a part of you is missing. You obsess. You ruminate about what you could have done differently. You miss your partner even though your rational brain knows he/she was bad for you. It literally feels like you’re coming down from a heroine or cocaine addiction.
Relationship addiction and codependency are quite prevalent in many relationships. Countless books have been written about love addiction and codependency. There’s a good chance that you’ve dated a codependent or recognize some of the characteristics of a codependent in yourself.
How does codependency originate?
According to the National Mental Health Association, codependency begins in a dysfunctional home.
“A dysfunctional family is one in which members suffer from fear, anger, pain, or shame that is ignored or denied. Underlying problems may include any of the following:
- An addiction by a family member to drugs, alcohol, relationships, work, food, sex, or gambling.
- The existence of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
- The presence of a family member suffering from a chronic mental or physical illness.”
Behaviors of Codependent People
“Codependents have low self-esteem and look for anything outside of themselves to make them feel better. They find it hard to be themselves. Some try to feel better through alcohol, drugs or nicotine – and become addicted. Others may develop compulsive behaviors like workaholism, gambling, or indiscriminate sexual activity.
They have good intentions. They try to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but the care-taking becomes compulsive and defeating. Co-dependents often take on a martyr’s role and become “benefactors” to an individual in need. A wife may cover for her alcoholic husband; a mother may make excuses for a truant child; or a father may “pull some strings” to keep his child from suffering the consequences of delinquent behavior.
The problem is that these repeated rescue attempts allow the needy individual to continue on a destructive course and to become even more dependent on the unhealthy care-taking of the “benefactor.” As this reliance increases, the co-dependent develops a sense of reward and satisfaction from “being needed.” When the care-taking becomes compulsive, the co-dependent feels choice-less and helpless in the relationship, but is unable to break away from the cycle of behavior that causes it. Co-dependents view themselves as victims and are attracted to that same weakness in the love and friendship relationships.“
Characteristics of Codependents
- An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
- A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
- A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time
- A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
- An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment
- An extreme need for approval and recognition
- A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
- A compelling need to control others
- Lack of trust in self and/or others
- Fear of being abandoned or alone
- Difficulty identifying feelings
- Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
- Problems with intimacy/boundaries
- Chronic anger
- Poor communications
- Difficulty making decisions
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