The core characteristics of codependency are diverse and complicated, and symptoms can be obvious or subtle. Two opposite behavior scan each be symptoms of codependency, and sometimes the same person will exhibit both extremes. For instance, a person may switch from being overly dependent and smothering in their interactions with their partner, to being distant and indifferent.
Codependency has a lengthy list of symptoms, but the core characteristics include:
- Extreme feelings of inadequacy; lack of self-confidence
- Pleasing one’s partner to the extent that one’s own needs go unmet
- Agreeing to things when you really don’t want to
- Weak or non-existent boundaries
- Overly defensive or reactive to other’s opinions or comments
- “Caretaker” mentality – constantly trying to fix the other person’s problems
- Controlling or manipulative behavior
- Inability to communicate clearly and truthfully
- Constantly thinking about, even fantasizing about one’s relationships
- Obsession with being liked and accepted
- Inability to break off a damaging relationship
- Inability to admit and face one’s own problems
- Thinking the other person is the one at fault
- Intimacy issues; inability to be open and close with another person
- Fear of abandonment; feelings of despair
Codependency is common, but if left untreated, it can generate addictions to drugs and alcohol, unhealthy eating patterns, dysfunctional relationships, and uncontrolled anger. Codependents have usually experienced an unhappy childhood; consequently, they lack self-acceptance and have difficulties receiving love and nurture from others. They rely on other people or substances for fulfillment and worth in an unhealthy way.
Hallmarks of a codependent relationship
Codependents attract people into their lives that are likewise codependent and/or have other significant issues – usually addiction. As a result, a codependent person exists in an endless, exhausting cycle of care taking and attempting to fix the needs of others, while unsuccessfully trying to have their own needs met.
Codependency is complex and will manifest in different ways in various relationships. However, you may be in a codependent relationship if:
- You are laser focused on meeting your partner’s needs and fixing your partner’s problems.
- You feel inadequate, despite investing huge amounts of effort into your relationship.
- You have an incessant need to please others.
- Your current partner is abusive and/or struggles with addiction
- Most of your past partners have been abusive and/or addicts.
- You are emotionally repressed for fear of agitating others.
- You have lost your own identity in your relationship, but are too afraid to leave.
- You have difficulty identifying and expressing your own feelings; you become enmeshed in your partner’s feelings and moods.
- Your partner belittles you and rarely shows appreciation for all your help.
- Your partner’s needs are always more important than yours.
- The boundaries between you and your partner are blurred.
- You often feel anxious or depressed because your life is out-of-control.
Do these symptoms or relationship patterns sound a lot like you? If so, there’s good news!
- You’re not alone! Many people have issues with codependency.
- You can recover! Treatment is highly successful in breaking codependency.
Through Christian counseling, you can end harmful attitudes and habits related to codependency, and develop serenity and self-worth through intimacy with God.