What is codependence?
Codependence is the excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, frequently one with an illness or addiction who requires support.
People who are codependent in their relationships are often dealing with issues surrounding denial, low self-esteem, compliance and control. They may have trouble identifying and expressing how they feel, or they remain in unhealthy situations because of a misguided sense of loyalty. Other people who are codependents in their personal relationships have a need to be ‘needed’ and may use gifts or sexual intimacy as a way to control other people.
Signs and symptoms of codependence
People who struggle with codependence often display patterns of denial, compliance, control and low self-esteem.
1. Denial patterns
Minimizing, altering or denying how they truly feel.
pretending circumstances aren’t as bad as they are
ignoring problems or pretending they aren’t happening
telling themselves things will be better tomorrow
staying busy so they don’t have to think about things
getting depressed or sick
going to doctors and getting tranquilisers and anxiolytics
spending money compulsively
watching problems get worse
easily believing the lies of others
wondering why they feel like they’re going crazy
Experiencing difficulty identifying what they are feeling.
Perceiving themselves as completely unselfish and dedicated to the wellbeing of others.
2. Compliance patterns
Putting aside their own interests and hobbies in order to do what others want.
Compromising their own values and integrity to avoid rejection or others’ anger.
Being extremely sensitive to how others are feeling and often feeling the same.
Valuing others’ opinions and feelings more than their own and often being afraid to express differing opinions or feelings to their own.
Bring extremely loyal and sometimes remaining in harmful situations too long.
Accepting sex when they are actually looking for love.
3. Control patterns
Needing to be ‘needed’ in order to have a relationship with others.
Believing that most other people are incapable of taking care of themselves.
Becoming resentful when others will not let you help them.
Freely offering others advice and directions without being asked.
Attempting to convince others of what they ‘should’ think and how they ‘truly’ feel.
Lavishing gifts and favours on those that they care about.
Using sex to gain approval and acceptance.
4. Low self-esteem patterns
Not asking others to meet their needs or desires.
Valuing others’ approval of themselves more than their own.
Experiencing difficulty in making decisions.
Judging most of what they think, say or do harshly and as ‘not good enough’.
Not perceiving themselves as a lovable or worthwhile person.
Being embarrassed to receive recognition and praise or gifts.
Characteristics of codependent people
Some of the common characteristics of codependent people include the following:
They judge themselves harshly and have a low sense of self-esteem.
They have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and it is easier for them to be concerned with others rather than themselves. This in turn enables them not to look too closely at the faults of others.
They have become approval seekers and have lost their identity in the process.
They ‘stuff’ their feelings from traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express their feelings because it hurts too much.
They are isolated from and afraid of people and authority figures.
They are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism.
They live from the viewpoint of victims and are attacked by that weakness in love and friendship relationships.
They are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment. They will do anything to hold onto a relationship in order to not experience painful abandonment feelings, which they received from living with people who will never truly be there emotionally for them. They sometimes become addicted to excitement.
They are reactors in life rather than actors.
They experience guilt feelings when they stand up for themselves instead of giving in to others.
They confuse love and pity and tend to ‘love’ people they can pity and rescue.
They have often become chemically dependent, marry someone who is, and/or find another compulsive personality - such a workaholic - to fulfil their own compulsive needs.
Codependents tend to communication poorly
Codependents frequently have poor communication patterns, often oscillating between being passive and avoidant to resentful and passive-aggressive and even aggressive. Codependent people tend to do some of the following in their communication patterns:
not say what they mean
not mean what they say
not know what they mean
not take themselves seriously
think other people don’t take them seriously
take themselves too seriously
ask for what they want and need indirectly and/or passive-aggressively
struggle to get to the point
become unsure as to what the point is
gauge their words carefully to achieve a desired effect
threaten or coerce
beg or bribe
talk too much
talk about other people
avoid talking about themselves, their problems, feelings and thoughts
say everything is their fault
say nothing is their fault
attempt to say what they think will please people
attempt to say what they think will provoke people
attempt to say what they hope will make people do what they want them to do
eliminate the word ‘no’ from their vocabulary
believe their opinions don’t matter
want to express their opinions only until they know other people’s opinions
have a difficult time asserting their rights
have a difficult time expressing their emotions honestly, openly, and appropriately
think most of what they have to say is unimportant
Talk in cynical, self-degrading or hostile manners
apologize for bothering people
lie to protect and cover up for people they love
Problems experienced by codependents in sexual relations
Codependents people often experience some of these symptoms:
wondering why they don’t enjoy sex
losing interest in sex
becoming caretakers in the bedroom
having sex when they don’t want to
having sex when they’d rather be held, nurtured and loved
trying to have sex when they’re angry or hurt
refusing to enjoy sex because they’re so angry at their partner
having a difficult time asking for what they need in bed
withdrawing emotionally from their partner
feeling sexual revulsion toward their partner
not talking about it
forcing themselves to have sex, anyway
reducing sex to a technical act
making up reasons to abstain
experiencing fear of losing control
wishing their sex partner would die, go away, or sense their feelings
having strong sexual fantasies about other people
considering having or indeed engaging in an extramarital affair