Have you ever caught yourself saying ‘I’m just a relationship person’ ‘I’m happier in a relationship’ ‘I hate being single’? I know, seemingly innocent statements, but have you considered you may actually have codependency issues?
Codependency is where you rely overly/almost completely on another person to meet ALL of your emotional needs. Relationships of this nature are usually biased, dysfunctional and emotionally destructive. Originally it was seen as something only related to people who supported another person in some form of addiction, making them an enabler. However, more recently it has become more recognised on a broader spectrum.
It is learned mostly in childhood through being exposed to emotionally unstable parents, perhaps also with codependent tendencies. Maybe when you were younger your parents were emotionally absent and your personal needs weren’t met. As a child we develop coping mechanisms in order to deal with feelings produced such as; rejection, abandonment, neglect or feeling unloved. We then internalise those feelings and manifest them subconsciously as actual beliefs such as ‘I’m not good enough’ and ‘I’m unlovable or unworthy.’ This can have a detrimental effect on your self-esteem/self-worth.
Through these experiences and as you grow up these coping mechanisms no longer serve you any purpose, as they are misconceptions of who you are as a person and what you are worth. In adulthood we attract relationships that reflect those distorted beliefs about ourselves. As you can imagine, it is difficult to differentiate between our ACTUAL beliefs and the ones we developed in childhood as a byproduct of our environment.
Here are some examples codependent traits:
- Feeling empty or extreme boredom
- You are unable to be alone
- Relying on the approval of others
- Obsessed with pleasing others
- Difficulty setting boundaries
- Putting other people’s needs before your own
- You believe you are completely selfless
- You project your issues onto others
- You don’t realise you attract people who are emotionally unavailable
- Being in a relationship where there is a victim/saviour theme
- Expecting others to change THEIR behaviour to prevent feelings of anxiety in yourself
Until you are aware of which codependent traits it is you have you may be blissfully unaware of the damaging effects it is having on your personal growth! What can you do to recognise that you are potentially in a codependent relationship? First of all, it is about accepting the idea. Secondly, look for traits or common themes around your relationship that cause feelings of rejection, abandonment, make you question your self-worth or make you feel like you can’t live without the other person.
Try this exercise!!!
Grab a pen and piece of paper. Make 2 lists; a good and a bad. Sit and think about your childhood, your experiences, places you visited, family life, what your home was like, relationships with parents/siblings; anything you can think of! When you think of a particular thing that creates a feeling, write it down in whichever column it belongs i.e good or bad. I found this the easiest way to get me thinking of how I was as a child and how I actually felt on a regular basis. It’s sort of like working back the way to then move forward. Don’t worry if it takes you a few tries, some people may actually be in denial about their family life or just have rose coloured glasses on when they try to paint a picture. This can make things a bit more difficult, but persevere.
When you have identified your codependent traits, and when you have acknowledged that these traits do in fact attract people who mirror a similar experience that you had growing up, you can begin to open the door to self-awareness. This will give you clarity on what thought processes you are carrying around like a huge weight and preventing you from attracting the reciprocal, healthy relationship you deserve!
Written by Abbey Stirling