Codependency in relationships
To understand the nature of a toxic relationship fully, you must also understand your role in perpetuating it. Codependency is also known as relationship addiction, and it is something you would learn from your family experiences as a child. From this perspective, it is a generational problem.
Codependency was first used to describe partners in a relationship with someone addicted to drugs or alcohol, but the term has been broadened to include people in any dysfunctional family relationship. It describes an emotional and behavioral condition that affects your ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship.
A dysfunctional family is one where its members feel pain, anger, fear, or shame that they constantly ignore or deny. The underlying problems that might be causing these types of emotions include a family member struggling with addiction, the existence of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse in the family, and/or a family member who suffers from a mental or physical illness. The hallmark of a dysfunctional family is that they don’t acknowledge the existence of such problems; instead, family members repress their emotions and come to disregard their needs. They survive the situation rather than confront and attempt to resolve it.
This tends to cause detachment from intrafamilial relationships wherein members don’t talk, touch, confront, feel, or trust each other. Moreover, the attention and energy within the family is focused on the individual who is ill, and the other members sacrifice their own needs to care for that person.
Codependent people frequently have low self-esteem and often turn to external sources for validation and to feel better. That then often results in addiction to substances or compulsive behaviors. Although they have good intentions, they are simply unable to care for the person experiencing difficulties effectively.
They might attempt to rescue the addict, for example, by paying to bail them out of jail, but their efforts simply result in enabling the destructive behavior. The codependent individual believes the person with problems needs them, and they then become compulsive in their efforts to care for them, resulting in them feeling as though they are helpless and have no choice in the relationship. Still, they also feel unable to break away from the cycle of behavior they have instigated. Ultimately, the codependent person views themselves as the victim.
Characteristics of a codependent person include:
- An exaggerated sense of responsibility.
2. A tendency to confuse love and pity – they love the people they pity.
3. A tendency to do more than their fair share every time.
4. A tendency to feel hurt when the people they care for don’t recognize their efforts and sacrifices.
5. An unhealthy dependence on relationships, and they will do whatever is necessary to hold on to them so they don’t feel abandoned.
6. An extreme need for recognition and approval from other people.
7. Feeling guilty when they assert themselves.
8. A compulsive need to control other people.
9. A lack of trust in themselves and others.
10. Difficulty identifying their own feelings.