What is Co-Dependency
There is a saying that it takes two to tango and co-dependency can be one of the most toxic dances out there. In simple terms; co-dependency is a negative behaviour pattern where one person enables another and loses themselves in the process. Co-dependency shows up often in romantic relationships but can also rear its ugly head in any kind of relationship dynamic, including when it comes to family, friendships and even work relationships too.
If you are the co-dependent one then it means that whether consciously or subconsciously you allow the other person to exercise control over you, you always put them first (even at the expense of yourself), and you always seek their approval.
What does it look like?
If you constantly find yourself struggling to make decisions in your relationships, not being able to identify or verbalize your feelings, valuing the opinions of others consistently and always feeling the swell of self-doubt, not being able to trust yourself and your choices, and always feeling responsible for the needs and behaviours of others then you could be a prime example of co-dependent.
Where does it come from?
Co-dependent behaviour can come from a lot of places, most notably it is behaviour born from fear. If you have abandonment issues or are afraid of being on your own, then you may be willing to do whatever it takes to stay in a tangled relationship – even if it means losing yourself.
Co-dependency can also come from low self-esteem and being in abusive situations in life. It can also come from a place where boundary setting is a challenge and people-pleasing is a form of compulsive behaviour.
Is it all bad?
Not all co-dependency is bad. Any healthy relationship will sway between people needing to lean and needing to be leaned on. Co-dependency can become hugely problematic when it is highly one-sided or when the person you are entangled in is abusive, has any form of addiction, or is just in general something you consistently seek out and feed off as it is a negative cycle to be in.
How to deal?
One of the first steps to quitting co-dependent behaviour is recognizing that you are following this pattern in the first place. Taking a good hard look at ourselves is a huge challenge, but its time to breathe deep, be honest with yourself and spend some time reflecting on your current and former relationships, along with the relationships you were privy to as a child.
Therapy or counselling can be an amazing way to effectively deal with self-esteem issues and other avenues that lead to co-dependency. Therapists are highly knowledgeable and trained in helping you to unpack certain behaviours that aren’t serving you.
Break it Down
A major thing to understand right now is that not all of you is co-dependent, there is a part inside that wants to make a change. Once you understand this, you are able to recognize that you have the tools needed to break old thought patterns. A good tip is to spend a little time in the evening going back over your day and noticing where and when you gave your power away. Make a mental tweak to rewrite the scene of what you could have done differently to get that power back. This doesn’t come from a place of frustration or feeling bad, but as an acknowledgement that practice makes perfect and mental awareness can lead to physical change.
Big behaviour patterns are hard to change overnight, it’s the small steps that lead us down the path to where we are supposed to be. Start by trying to introduce small changes into your daily routine such as practicing saying no to the small things and seeing that this doesn’t mean an automatic loss of everything, trying to reconnect with your own intuition, spending time planning a date night for yourself, and even things like reading this article on co-dependency are all small steps that all add up to taking a life leap.
How does co-dependency show up in your life? Share your tips for breaking free in the comments.