A codependent relationship is a variation of the interaction of loved ones based on an exaggerated feeling of one person’s passion for another. Naturally, any significant relationship generates a certain percentage of emotional codependency, as people begin to adapt to the way of existence, needs, habits of partners, become attached to them, empathize.
In healthy interaction, there is always sufficient scope for meeting individual needs, achieving personal goals, and self-improvement. But, in a codependent relationship, there is no room for personal self-development. Human existence is wholly subordinated to significant loved ones.
Definition: What is A Codependent Relationship?
Deep absorption and intense emotional attachment to another person are called codependency. In other words, a codependent relationship is an interaction in which a person stops considering his aspirations and needs, and all his thoughts are devoted only to the subject of passion.
Such interaction jeopardizes personal self-improvement and self-development since a person is overly emotionally involved in a partner’s being. As the involvement in codependent relationships escalates, people are increasingly losing their individuality, which leads to the impossibility of close healthy relationships based on partners’ autonomy and mutual respect.
At the same time, it is quite natural that any close interaction of people implies some emotional involvement, a bit of dependence, attachment. Still, in a healthy relationship, partners do not encroach on personal space and provide an opportunity for another to realize their own needs.
Psychology initially applied the term codependent relationship to couples and families, where one participant in the interaction suffers from some harmful attraction, for example, gambling addiction, alcoholism. Here, codependency was understood as a bond in which there is an addictive partner and another psychologically dependent subject.
Thus, addiction is an irresistible craving, a relentless desire to possess someone or something. Such a desire is beyond the control of a person; the need for an object of addiction shifts any other needs to the background.
And codependency means a state when one person is preoccupied with the existence and problems of another. She seems to dissolve in the chosen one, completely forgetting about herself, personal issues, individual needs, desires.
Controlling a dependent subject, supporting him, serving him are made the meaning of being a codependent participant in relationships.
However, today the concept of codependent relationships has acquired a broader meaning. It implies an unhealthy addiction from another participant in close interaction, more often of an emotional orientation, less often of a physical or financial one.
This interaction model is called the Karpman triangle. The subjects involved in the described model of relationships choose for themselves one of the following roles:
- the victim, who is an unfortunate weak person suffering from the acts of the persecutor, seeks to shift responsibility and feels the need for help;
- a savior who rescues the victim, protects her, and feels like a hero;
- a persecutor who terrorizes the victim, constantly pointing out his mistakes, shortcomings and getting pleasure from such acts.
At the same time, in a codependent model of interaction, participants can alternately play the listed roles. So, for example, the tyrant first beats, humiliates his spouse, then transforms into a victim, convincing his wife that it was she who brought him to such behavior; the finale of this play is the role of the savior, when the spouse consoles the chosen one, giving flowers, various trinkets, swearing-in love.
In this way, codependency is formed. Subjects are locked in such a triangle, endlessly playing their chosen roles. Codependency scenarios may be less dramatic but still painful.
Codependent Relationship: Warning Signs
No matter what model of codependency is present in the interaction, they are all characterized by a common foundation: the codependent subject is endowed with low self-esteem, and the behavioral pattern of the addict resembles the behavior of a child; he is characterized by infantilism.
Codependent relationships in the family are characterized by the presence of the following feelings in a codependent participant in such an interaction:
- self-denial, self-hatred;
- feeling of guilt;
- aggressiveness and anger (often suppressed);
- the need to win love through custody and care of the addict;
- inability to sensibly accept compliments;
- subordination to the opinion of others;
- lack of own position;
- the desire to experience the need, significance, and demand;
- absolute suppression of oneself.
Both members of a codependent relationship have depressive tendencies. A gradual decline in sexual activity characterizes codependent relationships between a man and a woman until the complete cessation of intimate relationships. Both partners are emotionally cold, secretive, and do not know how to interact with each other calmly verbally.
The relationship model under consideration includes the addict directly (a subject suffering from some variation of addiction) and a codependent individual:
- A cohabitant
- Lover or mistress
- Spouse or partner
- Parents of the addict
- His children
Typical features of the analyzed interaction variation include the following:
- Discomfort in Relationships – people feel bad in the absence of the chosen one, as well as when he is around;
- The Impossibility of An Open Dialogue – any communication between participants in codependent relationships more often occurs with the help of hints, manipulations;
- The Need to Earn Love – to receive love, to attract the attention of the chosen one, a person must comply with the established rules, fulfill the conditions;
- All a person’s thoughts are only about the chosen one, all emotions are focused on his person and activities, and personal needs, personal goals are pushed back, since they are considered insignificant;
- Absolute Control – the partner needs to constantly know about the place of stay of the chosen one, his momentary occupations;
- The crime of personal boundaries, which consists in the absence of individuality, two separate personalities cease to exist, one thing in common appears instead of them – we, the landmarks are lost, where is alien and where is our own, the boundaries of a separate autonomous personality are blurred;
- Anxiety that arises for no reason in the absence of an objective threat and has features of obsession and totality;
- Constant conflicts arising and growing according to the same type of scenario; they differ in intensity and indifference to the views of the partner;
- A firm conviction that the source of problems is in the chosen one, that if he changes, then everything will instantly improve;
- Family Scenarios – often, there is a similar model of relationships in the parents’ families of one or both partners.
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How to Get Out of A Codependent Relationship?
The problem of the considered format of interaction lies in the maturity of the individual, or rather, in its absence, which does not obey external circumstances. Often, striving to solve the problems of the chosen one is a distraction from one’s difficulties.
Overcoming codependent relationships in the family is possible only after realizing one’s stay in such an interaction model. It is the key point for the maturity of the individual. When an individual feels inner freedom, he begins to respect and value the freedom of a loved one.
Below are guidelines for getting out of a codependent relationship.
- The first step is to kill all hope for possible change. If it has been repeatedly told to the chosen one that it does not suit the relationship, but no changes have happened, you need to leave. Love develops, improves people, and does not drag them to the bottom.
- A person can change only if he wants to. No appeals in the absence of desire from the roommate will not force him to change.
- We must strive to find new meanings so as not to plunge into another addiction (for example, food or a new connection). It is recommended to have a clear vision of the desired “healthy” future.
- Of particular importance here is the ability to become aware of oneself, determine one’s own needs, and develop sensitivity to oneself and what is happening in life.
- Codependent relationships can be broken off precisely with the help of sensitivity and awareness to learn to notice your own needs, identify personal goals, and understand what you want to live outside the boundaries of the codependent relationship.
After all, the described model of interaction is often characterized by fusion, when it is impossible to separate one’s interests and needs from a couple’s desires.
To determine your personality and personal boundaries in such relationships, you should work with yourself. You are not striving to change the chosen one but directing efforts to self-development and personal transformations.
Sometimes the analyzed format of the relationship does not have to be completely broken; it is possible to transform the codependent relationship into a healthier model by setting boundaries.
Often, participants in the described variation of relationships feel responsible for the actions of others or are convinced that they are doing more than they should. Therefore, it is necessary to determine the boundaries of activities that a person will agree to do and which will not.
It is also recommended to distance yourself physically, that is, to minimize spending time together. You should not neglect your desires for the sake of satisfying the needs of the chosen one. You can even move temporarily, as coexistence only exacerbates the need for care. Doing so will allow you to distance yourself and reduce your need to care physically.