What’s to know about codependent relationships?
The term ‘codependency’ is often used casually to describe relationships where a person is needy, or dependent upon, another person.
There is much more to this term than everyday clinginess. Codependent relationships are far more extreme than this.
A person who is codependent will plan their entire life around pleasing the other person, or the enabler.
In its simplest terms, a codependent relationship is when one partner needs the other partner, who in turn, needs to be needed. This circular relationship is the basis of what experts refer to when they describe the “cycle” of codependency.
The codependent’s self-esteem and self-worth will come only from sacrificing themselves for their partner, who is only too glad to receive their sacrifices.
Fast facts on codependency:
- Codependent relationships can be between friends, romantic partners, or family members.
- Often, the relationship includes emotional or physical abuse.
- Friends and family members of a codependent person may recognize that something is wrong.
- Like any mental or emotional health issue, treatment requires time and effort, as well as the help of a clinician.
In codependency, one person has their needs prioritized over the other’s.
It is important to know the difference between depending on another person — which can be a positive and desirable trait — and codependency, which is harmful.
The following are some examples that illustrate the difference:
Dependent: Two people rely on each other for support and love. Both find value in the relationship.
Codependent: The codependent person feels worthless unless they are needed by — and making drastic sacrifices for — the enabler. The enabler gets satisfaction from getting their every need met by the other person.
The codependent is only happy when making extreme sacrifices for their partner. They feel they must be needed by this other person to have any purpose.
Dependent: Both parties make their relationship a priority, but can find joy in outside interests, other friends, and hobbies.
Codependent: The codependent has no personal identity, interests, or values outside of their codependent relationship.
Dependent: Both people can express their emotions and needs and find ways to make the relationship beneficial for both of them.
Codependent: One person feels that their desires and needs are unimportant and will not express them. They may have difficulty recognizing their own feelings or needs at all.
One or both parties can be codependent. A codependent person will neglect other important areas of their life to please their partner. Their extreme dedication to this one person may cause damage to:
- other relationships
- their career
- their everyday responsibilities
The enabler’s role is also dysfunctional.
A person who relies upon a codependent does not learn how to have an equal, two-sided relationship and often comes to rely upon another person’s sacrifices and neediness.