Defining Codependency

Do you find yourself constantly considering your own self-worth in light of someone’s perception of you? Do you observe people interacting in ways that seem inappropriately intimate and exclusive?

Both of these examples highlight a tendency towards codependency, a relational style that traps us from truly loving one another.

Codependency Defined

What exactly is codependency? It’s an unhealthy way of not only relating to people, but the world: money, work, church, shopping, social media, etc. But for the sake of this blog, I will stick mainly to talking about codependency as it relates to relationships. I have pulled from several sources and come up with this definition:

Codependency is a style of loving and relating in which one gives in order to receive. It looks like sacrificial love, but in its unhealthy form, it’s motivated by a need for love or a need to be needed, and is ultimately self-serving.

Simply put, when it comes to codependency in relationships, codependents are people addicts.

Healthy loving isn’t a new problem to the human race, but one we have struggled with since the beginning of time. To a certain degree, we are all on the codependent-independent spectrum. Perfect marriages or friendships having no codependent patterns simply don’t exist. A relationship does not need to be completely mutual to be healthy, nor does a person who struggles with codependency need to be perfect in interpersonal skills before they can consider themselves healthy. But, to what extent do we allow the love of others to determine our value as a person? How much do we look to others as a source of strength or to give our lives meaning? This is an important question for everyone.

I would dare to say, people drawn to work such as missions, social work, teaching, parenting, pastoring, counseling, and the medical field are more susceptible to engaging in unhealthy patterns of caring and giving for the wrong reasons. Not always, but its worth having a close look. The need to be needed can be a powerful motivator. In this way, codependency takes the form of not caring for ourselves, all the while trying to care for everyone else.

How do I know?

Here is a list of relational characteristics you can use as a measuring stick to determine the degree of codependency within in a relationship:

  • Do you consistently give, care, and love more than the other person?
  • Do you “tiptoe” around the person for fear of what may be said or felt?
  • Do you have difficulty being honest, direct, and loving in your communication with the person?
  • Do you spend time second-guessing their motives, needs, or actions?
  • Do you cover, lie, excuse, or justify others’ behavior to yourself or someone else?
  • Do you find yourself being regularly critical, blaming, or negative about or toward the person?
  • Do you feel the need to fix the person or to convince the person that you are right and he or she is wrong?
  • Do you constantly feel the need to give in or give up just to keep the peace?
  • Do you have trouble maintaining a steady emotional life when another person goes up or down?
  • Do you worry, obsess, or become tormented about that person or your relationship?

Also very important, here is an extensive list of the different types of traits, roles and characteristics of codependent people. Before moving on, click on the link and see if any of this really hits home.

Don’t miss part two of this series on codependency by subscribing for the free weekly email below (you can opt out at anytime)

Part 2: “4 Ways forward from Co-dependency” which will be posted here (the link won’t work until that one is posted)

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