Why Codependent Relationships Should Be Avoided

March 10, 2015

Two women with a knotted string between them

When two people are in a relationship, they will naturally want what is best for the other person. Since the foundation of a healthy relationship is an even amount of give and take, it is normal for both people to compromise their own desires on occasion to help the other person get what she wants. But this kind of compromise can become a problem if it is unbalanced. For instance, if one person gives more than the other, a co-dependent relationship can easily form. Co-dependent relationships can hurt everyone involved in them, and they can even lead to life-threatening situations, so learn to recognize and address these problems at all costs.

What Is a Co-dependent Relationship?

Shawn Meghan Burn describes co-dependent relationships as “a specific type of dysfunctional helping relationship.”

This kind of relationship occurs when one person enables another person’s shortcomings, including the following problems:

  • Addiction
  • Immaturity
  • Irresponsibility
  • Poor physical or psychological health
  • Procrastination
  • Underachievement
Burn also explains that a dysfunctional relationship can turn into a co-dependent one if most of the relationship’s intimacy is created when one person experiences distress and the other person rescues or enables him. When this situation occurs, the love that both people feel in the relationship forms only out of these moments of giving or receiving assistance. This problem creates situations where both people become dependent on each other: the helper wants to feel needed and stays in the relationship out of fear of abandonment, and the other person continues needing help.

It is sometimes hard to tell if someone is in a co-dependent relationship or not, so it helps to know the following signs of co-dependency, as explained by Darlene Lancer:

  • Control: Someone in a co-dependent relationship yearns to control every aspect of life
  • Denial: The needy person often denies that a problem exists
  • Fear of abandonment: She will enter into or stay in a relationship, even if it is unhealthy, because she fears being rejected and alone
  • Low self-esteem: She feels inadequate compared to those around her
  • People-pleasing: She wants to accommodate the needs and wants of other people, because saying no gives him extreme anxiety
  • Poor communication skills: She finds it hard to express her feelings, thoughts and needs, and she fears telling the truth because of its potentially negative effects
  • Problems with boundaries: She either has a difficult time separating her life, feelings and emotions from those of others, or else she is completely closed off from everything around her

If you take action against these problems, then you can heal.

How to Correct Co-dependency

Co-dependent relationships can be dangerous, because they perpetuate problems (like addiction or abuse) instead of addressing them. If left alone, one or both people in a co-dependent relationship can be physically or psychologically harmed, so it is essential to avoid this type of relationship. If someone is already in a co-dependent relationship, Darlene Lancer suggests the following changes to correct the problem:

  • Acknowledge that a problem exists: Since most people who struggle with co-dependency deny that anything is wrong, it helps to begin with admitting the problem and identifying how it is at work in their lives
  • Reconnect with your inner self: The helper should focus on himself and act according to his own thoughts, feelings, needs and values
  • Learn self-acceptance: He should accept who he is, and understand that he does not have to please everyone
  • Act on new self-worth: The helper should take risks, try new activities, do tasks alone and create clear boundaries for himself, which often includes learning when and how to say no

With help, recovery is possible.

Find Out More About Correcting Co-dependent Relationships

Being in a co-dependent relationship can be physically, psychologically and emotionally draining. It can also cause long-term damage to everyone involved in it. Ending co-dependency or avoiding it altogether is the best way for someone to regain or maintain their personal well-being. If you or someone you care about is in a co-dependent relationship and wants to seek help, give us a call at 615-490-9376.

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