Codependency is a heavy term. There is not one simple definition. There are many aspects of codependency, and what I mention here may not encompass it all. But, the base of codependency is that you rely on an individual for your psychological and emotional needs.
To break it down, Melody Beattie from Codependent No More, describes codependency as:
“A person who… has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.” ( p.36)
Who is this other person usually?
This person is typically a romantic partner, but could be a son or daughter, a parent, a sibling, a friend etc. This person may also have/ is, but not limited to:
- Drug / Alcohol addiction
- Gambling problem
- Reckless behavior
- Mentally disabled/ ill
- Physically disabled/ ill
- Even a typically healthy individual
So, what does this look like in a real-life situation?
When I started dating, I dated anyone who would take me. I felt like I needed the love from someone outside of myself. I needed validation. Most of my relationships failed with my face planted on the dirt. I latched myself onto others, and they dusted me off. It wasn’t until I met my last boyfriend that I entered a serious relationship. We dove in hard, madly in love with each other. At the beginning of our relationship I didn’t know that I was a codependent. I needed his attention and his love (his behavior) to make me feel happy and secure (affected me). He was also an alcoholic, and I went to great measures to make him stop (controlling his behavior). Of course, none of it worked. And, it always crushed me when he drank and when his drinking negatively influenced his behavior (affected me). Even after he stopped drinking, I was not entirely happy. I felt like I needed constant attention and reassurance (his behavior) to make me feel validated (affected me). It wasn’t his drinking that made me a codependent. I was always a codependent, and I believe it really stems from lack of self-love and low-self worth.
This means that if you are a codependent, there will always be a void that you cannot fill, and you’ll be unable to live to your fullest potential. Your “other person” cannot give you what you have not given yourself. Although this person may love you, and try to give you the validation you need, you will be unsatisfied because you have yet to learn to love yourself. It also puts a huge load of stress and unnecessary strain onto your “other person” and your relationship with him/her. You will also be unable to live to your fullest potential because you are constantly fixated on the “other person” that you have forgotten your desires and needs. This also stifles the “other person” from allowing them to live to their fullest potential. Because you are their crutch, they don’t feel the need to stand on their two feet.
So, it’s not about “the other person.” It’s about you. The problem and the solution lies within you. It is you who is affected by someone’s behavior, and it is you who is trying to control.
Below there is a link that you can download and check off what relates to you. This list is taken from Melody’s Beattie’s Codependent No More text. If you find yourself checking off more than 50% in any of the categories, then take the time to fully evaluate your thoughts and actions to see if you heavily rely on other’s for your self-worth.