Codependency – What is it? What to do?


Codependency is a circular relationship in which one person needs the other person, who in turn, needs to be needed. The codependent person, known as ‘the giver,’ feels worthless unless they are needed by — and making sacrifices for — the enabler, otherwise known as ‘the taker.

It involves the desire to fix/save people and feels needed. Putting others’ needs before their own. Problems with confrontation and decision-making. Doing anything it takes to keep relationships afloat.

Codependency Cycle: When you are codependent, you tend to always put yourself last, constantly seek approval from others, and try to manipulate situations to your benefit. Because the cycle of codependency often repeats itself, you can find it challenging to break the cycle without professional codependency treatment

Codependency prevents us from having healthy, balanced relationships where the needs of both people are recognized and met.

Being in a codependent relationship will leave you frustrated, exhausted, and unfulfilled. And it reinforces a belief that you’re not good enough or unworthy. To break away from a codependent relationship, the first step is to recognize if you’re in one.

Codependency can occur in any type of relationship that involves your parents, children, spouse, friends, or even co-workers. But what makes a relationship codependent?

Some of the most typical signs of a codependent relationship can be:

  1. You’re overly concerned about what the other person is doing, thinking, and feeling—and you want to fix or rescue them from their problems. In doing this, you lose sight of yourself, of your needs!
  2. Your life role centers around catering to the other person’s needs, etc. You even get to worry that if you don’t take care of them, something bad will happen.
  3. You have a sense that the relationship is consistently one-sided. You keep giving, being responsible, and working hard. But the other person has a “license” to slack and avoid consequences. You create and feed a cycle of enabling and justifying the other person’s unhealthy behaviors and choices.
  4. In focusing on the other person, you notice that your basic needs of health, balanced life, happiness, financials, friendships, etc. become a far, low priority.
  5. You “walk on eggshells” trying to avoid triggering the other person or avoiding conflict. You become quiet, keep your opinions to yourself, and constantly attempt to please others. You get lost!
  6. You continue to feed the dynamics of this unhealthy relationship and even increase your emotional investment to keep the calm. Indirectly, this becomes a form of relative control (“controlling the other person’s behavior”). Worst, you stay in the relationship!
  7. You fear being rejected, criticized, abandoned, or left alone.
  8. Deep down, resentment builds. In the worst cases, the resentment is directed at yourself (“why do I take this?”, “why I’m still here?”) and this makes you more depressed.

The question is then, how to change a codependent relationship?

At the core of a codependent relationship is how you feel about yourself, your self-esteem, and your self-confidence. Also, combined with possible eroded self-esteem (resulting in adverse effects of a codependent relationship) is focusing on the other person excessively (their thoughts, feelings, behaviors, etc.).

So, the answer is based on both, improving your self-worth and focusing on yourself (your needs, thoughts, feelings, etc.).

Recovering and building your self-esteem is viable but will require some discipline and focus. These are some self-esteem-building steps:

  • Reflect, and write on a list of some of your positive traits or characteristics (review and update the list daily for 30 days).
  • Identify 5 unmet needs (e.g., spending time with friends, reading, exercise, etc.) and start fulfilling these.
  • Take care of yourself! Exercise, eat healthy, sleep well, live a balanced life, and surround yourself with healthy relationships and people.
  • When interacting with others (especially with “takers”) catch yourself focusing on them (their needs, what they are thinking or feeling, how they might react, etc.), stop it, and focus on you (what you need, think, want, feel, etc.).

These are just some simple but proven steps. In addition, it can help to enroll some good friends with whom you can confide for support and perspective.

Finally, contact a qualified psychologist that can facilitate your journey to recovering your confidence and to fulfill your potential. For more information, reach out to us and we can discuss your needs and outline your personalized plan for freedom and happiness!