Tag Archives: co-dependency

Co-Dependency – what does it mean? and what are the consequences?

Co dependency – part of the answer?

This is a post by a contributor to the site, who wishes to remain anonymous but who tweets as @DVhurts. It arose after conversations on Twitter about what we can do to help parents when their relationships have broken down and their children are caught in the middle. Is it the primary responsibility of the family courts to fix this? Or do we need to take more ownership of the relationship choices that we make?

Sarah has been busy arguing on Twitter again, this time about why women have children with men they dislike. (Er, engaging in profound debate surely? Ed) Unfortunately I ran out of time to join in but it did start me thinking and this is what I believe is part of the answer. I am a codependent myself who is in recovery. This is only a very brief overview, please look at the resources listed to find out more.

Who is codependent?

Anyone can be is the short answer. More often than not though co dependents are adults who as children felt responsibility for a dysfunctional family member or a situation that was not their fault. They may have an addicted father, or be a young carer or simply they may be the first person in the family to be clever enough to go to university when that was their parents ambition. They take on too much at a young age and looking after people becomes their default setting.

Fear shame and guilt drive them. It can run in families and recovered addicts can be codependent themselves for instance as parents . They are overly serious and the responsibility for the world rest on their shoulders. They will give you the coat off their back and catch pneumonia themselves.

They form relationships with more laid back and sometimes downright irresponsible and try to change them. When they can’t they don’t quit, but try another tactic until they are worn out, bitter, broke etc… A codependent does not learn the lesson, unless they get help but tries again with the same type of partner.

Melody Beattie’s book explains their behaviour :

Codependents are reactionaries. They overreact. They under-react. But rarely do they act. They react to the problems, pains, lives, and behaviors of others. They react to their own problems, pains, and behaviors.

They react out of fear, they rescue people this may be a partner, a child, a client a relative or friend. They pay off debts that are not theirs, they make excuses about another’s unacceptable behaviour,they put up bail, they worry obsessively . They are attracted to “sick ” people , alcoholics, addicts, over eaters or a mentally or physically ill person because they are caretakers.

Their self worth is completely intertwined with the other person. A codependent can tell you everything about what the significant other needs but has no idea about what their own needs are. They have very low self esteem and even self hatred, they are over tolerant of abuse and unacceptable behaviour towards them. They can be angry, bitter, anxious, depressed and have significant mood swings:

Ever since people first existed, they have been doing all the things we label “codependent.” They have worried themselves sick about other people. They have tried to help in ways that didn’t help. They have said yes when they meant no. They have tried to make other people see things their way. They have bent over backwards avoiding hurting people’s feelings and, in so doing, have hurt themselves. They have been afraid to trust their feelings. They have believed lies and then felt betrayed. They have wanted to get even and punish others. They have felt so angry they wanted to kill. They have struggled for their rights while other people said they didn’t have any. They have worn sackcloth because they didn’t believe they deserved silk.”

Melody Beattie, Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself

Codependents can be male or female, though probably a higher percentage are woman as culture expects women to be carers

Could I be codependent?

Do you finish your partner’s sentences but don’t know what you think yourself?
Do you reject “boring” partners for the more risky ones and when they display risky behaviours forgive them time and again because it will be better next time?
Have you ever pretended that serious problems caused by your partner are not happening?
Are you being physically, emotionally,financially or sexually abused?
Do you ever feel abandoned by your partner and keep tabs on them?
Do you have unexplained physical problems, chest pain, stomach pain, numbness, headaches or sleep problems?
Is your partner the centre of your world and your think and talk endlessly about them?
Are you bottom of the queue when it comes to spending your money yet you splash out on others?
Do you constantly criticize yourself and reject praise.
Do you only feel truly alive when helping others?
Have you settled for being needed?
Do you have great difficulty saying no?
Have no trust in yourself?
Is your relationship chaotic and you daily feel out of control?
Is your head like a washing machine on spin cycle?
Do you have a life script: if I can make them go to rehab,stop them seeing certain friends ,get them a decent job we WILL live happily ever after.
Is it difficult to sit quietly?
Are you living with something that you would normally find unacceptable such drunkenness?
Are you lonely despite being in this very intense relationship?
Do you prefer to live in a dysfunctional relationship because you are too scared to live by yourself?
Have you sent your partner/parent/child/friend to counselling/rehab/hypnotherapy etc thinking this would be the solution and been enraged when it wasn’t?
Do you put your partners needs above everyone else including your children?
Do you constantly excuse and lie for your partner/child etc?
Are you ashamed of your feelings of anger , sadness?
Do you struggle to stay in the day but have thoughts of they should and what if constantly running through your mind?
Is your partner similar to your mother, father, brother etc?

It requires a hard look at what is, rather than what you hope will be. As you let go of managing and controlling, you must also let go of the idea that “when he changes I’ll be happy.” He may never change. You must stop trying to make him. And you must learn to be happy anyway.

Robin Norwood, Women Who Love Too Much

If you are ready to admit you need help.

Codependents rarely seek help until they are the bottom of a very deep hole, after all they are resourceful, and have numerous mechanisms for coping with what life throws at them. At some point though, normally after some years, the penny starts to drop.

The good news is there a lot of help for codependents and most of it is provided by charities who don’t charge but are run on voluntary contributions.

A number of those who identify as codependents will be in a relationship with an alcoholic, a gambler or someone else who has addictive traits. Many are 12 step programmes based on the original AA concept.”Hi I’m Joe and I ‘m an alcoholic.” That’s about as much as most people know about AA and other 12 step programmes.

In 2012 research from the Children’s Commissioner indicated that over 62% of care proceedings involved alcohol misuse. That’s without taking drugs into account.

It is said for every alcoholic six other people contacted with them are affected, It is said only an alcoholic can understand an alcoholic likewise only someone affected by a family member’s alcoholism can understand how their personality has adapted to deal with the circumstances. These family members can seek help through the Al Anon family groups and younger family members through Alateen. Likewise those affected by a family members drug addiction, gambling or eating disorder can also find strength and hope amongst those who have been in the same situation .

I would also recommend courses that increase self esteem and assertiveness. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) can turn off that washing machine head and offer options for what can seem to unsolvable problems.





This is not an extensive list but a start. There is help, but it is the co dependent who has to put their needs first and start to look for it. They cannot change another person (came as a revelation to me!) but they can change their own lives for the better and that also leads onto healthier relationships.