6- Codependent Relationships
Codependents develop certain characteristics inadvertently to protect themselves as children growing up in addicted or dysfunctional families. Although these traits such as caretaking, people pleasing or rescuing helps them survive an unhealthy childhood, it can lead them to have codependent and dysfunctional relationships in later life. This article describes some of these characteristics to raise your awareness on this type of behavioral addiction.
1. Disconnected from self
7. Lack of trust
9. Dependent on external cues
10. Relationship difficulties
11. Weak Boundaries
12. Sex Problems
13. Poor Communication
14. Other characteristics
1. Disconnected from self
- Have learned to disconnect from their inner emotions in order to protect themselves from feeling any feelings.
- Do not feel confident, certain and strong because they suffer from low self-esteem and worth.
- Are not aware of their needs, wants or what is in their best interest due to focusing their attention on others.
- Lack of awareness of their own needs and wants, or if aware of these desires, they are dismissed as unimportant or as unattainable.
- Unable or unwilling to acknowledge the effects of being raised in an addicted or dysfunctional family has had on them.
- Have lost touch with their own thoughts and desires, along with feeling empty and incomplete, to the extent of existing merely as an extension of others.
- Live their lives on the basis of fear, shame and guilt.
- Never learned how to enjoy life, and then feel guilty when experiencing pleasure or having fun, along with the certainty that any good times are destined to be short lived.
- Are critical of how they feel, look, act or behave.
- Deny to themselves that they have been victims of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, or of neglect, abandonment or addiction.
- Blame family members for their unhappiness in life.
- Get angry, defensive, self-righteous, and indignant when others point out their codependent behaviors.
- Tell themselves they can’t do anything right, and have an irrational and paralyzing fear of making mistakes.
- Believe they are different from the rest of the world and are never good enough.
- Lack a rational and objective perspective of life and take things personally.
- Feel like victims or martyrs, and are invested in the belief that life is about suffering.
- Find it difficult to make decisions and put a lot of pressure on themselves to be perfect.
- Think their lives aren’t worth living, and as a result expend their energy helping others as a way of bringing meaning to their lives
- Experience low self-worth, embarrassment and a sense of failure when their loved ones have problems or fall victim to addiction.
- Find it easier to feel and express anger about injustices done to others, rather than injustices done to themselves.
- Believe that if other people approve of them, then they are worthy and validated.
- Constantly try to prove they are good and capable.
- Feel most alive when they are being needed.
- Believe that it is other people who are responsible for the state of their life.
- Ignore problems or pretend they don’t exist.
- Minimize problems by pretending they are not as bad as they really are, or that they will pass away without any intervention needed.
- Stay busy — often by helping others – to avoid having to face their own problems.
- Feel confused, depressed or sick, and then seek medication to help stay in denial.
- Resort to substance or behavior addictions to avoid reality.
- Lie to themselves or believe the lies others tell them, preferring to live in illusion and fantasy.
- Often wonder if they are going crazy as a result of living in constant denial.
- Spend their time obsessing about other people to avoid confronting the reality of their own lives.
- Use people and relationships like addictions as a means of escaping their own life problems.
- Feel buoyed when helping someone, and then feel down and depressed when these efforts at help have failed or not been appreciated or reciprocated.
- Obsessively help others despite the adverse consequences this behavior has had on their life and that of others.
- Are compulsive helpers and people pleasers.
- Are in constant state of worry and anxiety, exaggerating the gravity of the smallest matter.
- Have been shamed when growing up for feeling any emotion, especially anger.
- Unable to identify their feelings and or to express them in a healthy manner.
- Repress their own feelings and behave contrary to what they actually feel.
- Are scared, hurt, and angry but remain out of touch with these feelings because from childhood have learned to comply with the image of being “nice and uncomplaining” people.
- Believe they will be abandoned if they show their true feelings and identity.
- Are frightened of other people’s anger and run away rather than asserting themselves or setting boundaries with others.
- Feel helpless and intimidated in the face of demands by someone who is angry.
- Cry a lot, get depressed, get sick, do malicious things to get even, act hostile, or have violent temper outbursts.
- Repress their feelings for long periods that end with a breakout of extreme emotion over a small matter.
- Take their anger out on themselves via self-harm, self-punishment and self-degradation.
- Believe that other people treating them abusively is somehow their fault and that they deserve it.
- Think and feel responsible for other people — for their feelings, actions, choices, wants, needs, well-being, and ultimate destiny.
- Experience anxiety, pity, and guilt when other people have problems.
- Feel compelled — almost forced — to help that person solve the problem, including giving unsolicited (and often unwelcomed) advice, rescuing the person from their difficulties, and also trying to fix their feelings.
- Feel angry when their help isn’t accepted or appreciated.
- Get angry and indignant when others fail to help them to the degree they have helped.
- Assume they know what other people’s needs and wants are without checking with them first.
- Find themselves saying yes when they mean no, doing things they don’t really want to be doing, doing more than their fair share, and taking responsibility for what others should be doing for themselves.
- Feel safest when giving to and helping others.
- Feel insecure and guilty when somebody is helping them.
- Find themselves attracted to needy people, such as addicts or those who are ill.
- Feel bored, empty, and worthless if they don’t have a crisis in their lives, a problem to solve, or someone to help.
- Abandon their routine and their priorities in order to do something for somebody else.
- Overcommit themselves to work and tasks because they find it difficult to distinguish their responsibilities from those of others.
- Believe they have the power to change how another person lives or behaves.
- Believe they are responsible for other people’s happiness — and vice versa.
- Imagine themselves martyrs and victims, often feeling unappreciated and used.
- Help their addicted, ill or problematic loved ones in ways that actually cause harm by making it easier for that person to continue in their predicament. Are enablers.
- Often have a deep sense of powerlessness because they live with, or grew up with, people who are out of control.
- Feel victimized or controlled by others because they try to fulfill other people’s needs rather than their own.
- Try to control how other people live under the guise of helping or fixing their problems.
- Are afraid to allow their loved ones to experience the consequences of their actions. They often control the situation by trying to rescue them.
- Cannot trust life to happen naturally, often interceding to control outcomes and make things go the way they believe they should.
- Are under the illusion that they know best how life should turn out and how people should act.
- Try to control events and people through caring, coercion, threats, advice giving, manipulation, love, punishment or domination.
- Often fail in their ostensibly pure intentions to help others.
- Having their efforts at helping others end with angering the recipients of their uninvited assistance — and then becoming resentful themselves.
- Carefully and manipulatively choosing their words to achieve a desired effect or outcome.
- Feel threatened and insecure in the belief that other people are trying to control and manipulate them.
7. Lack of trust
- Don’t trust themselves.
- Don’t trust their feelings.
- Don’t trust their decisions.
- Don’t trust other people.
- Trust untrustworthy people.
- Have no faith in God and trust Him.
- Think God has abandoned them.
- Have been shamed as children for expressing angry
- Feel scared, hurt and angry yet keep it repressed
- Live with angry people
- Are scared of other people’s anger
- Don’t show anger in fear of getting rejected or abandoned
- Feel guilty or shame when expressing anger
- Feel safer to feel anger than to acknowledge their pain and hurt
9. Dependent on external cues
- Are fearful of being abandoned, ignored, or shamed, so they continually look to others for cues regarding how they should act or what they need to do.
- Change themselves to conform to what they think other people want them to be.
- Have difficulty loving themselves and often find it difficult to allow others to love them.
- Don’t feel happy, content, or peaceful with themselves, and spend their lives waiting and imaging that something or someone will bring them the happiness they lack.
- Are terrified of losing the people on whom they believe their chance for happiness depends, and they will do anything to keep those people in their life.
- Desperately seek love and approval from people who are incapable of offering it, people such as an addict or a narcissist.
- Stay in relationships that are destructive, unhealthy or abusive.
- Leave bad relationships and then form new ones that don’t work either, often feeling trapped.
- Feel inadequate and incapable of taking care of themselves, and therefore are Dependent on others for a sense of security.
- Cannot separate themselves from other people and are often enmeshed in their problems.
- Have little sense of their own identity or purpose in life, often taking cues on how to live by what they think others want for them.
10. Dysfunctional relationships
- Their relationships are one-sided, lacking a healthy mutuality and intimacy.
- Codependents don’t understand some of the most basic aspects of interpersonal intimacy because they look on relationships as the means to fix how they feel about themselves.
- A cornerstone for intimacy and healthy interpersonal relationships is a basic respect for one another’s freedom to be who they are and allowing them to take responsibility for their lives. Codependents create dysfunctional relationships because they believe they have the power to change another human being, and therefore they fail to give those they love the basic respect and freedom to be who they are.
- Because of their controlling attitudes towards others, Codependents very usually find themselves in unhealthy relationships that are marked by conflict.
- Codependents feel intimidated or threatened in their interpersonal relationships. They do not perceive themselves as equals.
- Codependents do not trust themselves, their feelings or their decisions. Their relationships are marred by their sense of insecurity and instability.
- Codependents don’t trust other people, often believing others are out to hurt them.
- Because they do not trust their gut instincts, they end up in relationships with untrustworthy people.
- Because of their distorted view of relationships, Codependents don’t trust in God and perceive Him as an unloving, uncaring, judgmental and punishing entity.
11. Weak Boundaries
- Find it difficult to establish boundaries because they lack awareness of their own needs and are instead focused on what others expect of them.
- Are unable to set standards on how they expect others to treat them.
- Allow others to hurt or abuse them, while also letting others talk them into taking on too many responsibilities or activities because they are afraid to say no.
- Are unaware that as an adult they have the power and the right to set limits on what they will and will not tolerate in a relationship.
- Other people’s needs and wants take precedence and priority for a codependent.
- Because they are confused about their own identity, they have learned to view the world through the eyes of those they are in relationships with. This results in an enmeshment that makes it difficult for a codependent to separate themselves emotionally from others.
- Say they won’t tolerate certain behaviors from other people but then contradict themselves by putting up with that behavior.
- Complain, blame, and get depressed whilst allowing the abuse to continue, because they have no strong sense of their rights. They fail to see that their integrity has been violated, on top of which they lack the ability to put into words their well-based feelings of hurt or betrayal.
- Go through long periods of putting up with abusive behavior until they finally blow up and react in an extreme manner.
- Having no knowledge of how to set healthy boundaries in their relationships, they wonder at their inability to confront disrespectful and abusive behaviors.
12. Sex Problems
- Cater to the needs of their partner and are caretakers in their sexual relationships.
- Find it difficult — and believe it shameful — to request that their own desires be satisfied.
- Lose interest in sex, but engage in it nevertheless as a means of pleasing their partner.
- Withdraw emotionally and develop sexual revulsion towards their partner.
- Have sex when they’re angry or hurt.
- Reduce sex to a technical act, believing it is their duty and because it is something their partner demands.
- Have strong sexual fantasies about other people and contemplate having extramarital affairs.
13. Poor Communication
- Don’t know what they mean, don’t say what they mean, and don’t mean what they say.
- Blame, threaten, coerce, beg, bribe, and advise others when unwarranted.
- Do not ask directly for what they want, but instead only indirectly hint at what they desire, hoping that others will pick up the cues and cater to them. A form of manipulation.
- Talk in a manner designed to please people regardless of how they truly feel towards that person. A form of dishonesty.
- Cannot say no to people. This is often referred to as the “disease to please.”
- Avoid talking about themselves, their problems, feelings, and thoughts, but rather shifting the focus of attention on others.
- Fail to take themselves seriously, and then wonder why others don’t respect them.
- Blame themselves for other people’s problems, often believing they are the cause of others’ distress and that it is their responsibility to play the rescuer.
- Believe their opinions lack value and so don’t speak their mind for fear of being ridiculed or challenged.
- When expressing an opinion or a preference, the codependent makes sure it conforms to that of others.
- Lie in fear of other people finding out their true nature. They mistakenly believe they are weak and unworthy people.
- Lie to protect people they love because they believe this is what good and loyal people should do.
- Have difficulty asserting their rights or expressing their emotions honestly, openly, and appropriately, preferring to please others. In doing so, they disrespect their authentic self.
- Communicate to people according to how the codependent has categorized them.
- Talk in cynical, self-degrading, or hostile ways, often believing what they have to say is not important.
- Constantly thank or apologize, thinking they are bothering others or that what they are saying might be upsetting.
14. Other characteristics
- Feel extremely responsible or irresponsible
- Become martyrs, sacrificing their happiness for causes that don’t require sacrifice.
- Find it difficult to have fun and enjoy life
- Find it difficult to feel close to people.
- Respond passively to people and situations
- Laugh when they feel like crying.
- Stay loyal to people to their detriment.
- Cover up or lie to protect a problem.
- Do not seek help because they don’t feel worthy enough.
- Feel ashamed about family, personal or relationship problems.
- Don’t understand the nature of their codependency.
- Wonder why they feel resentful and miserable all the time.
With the passage of time, as the above characteristics take root and infiltrate their lives, Codependents become more miserable and dysfunctional in their relationships.
Some of the characteristics in the later developmental phase of Codependents are as follows:
- Feel depressed, lethargic, isolated, hopeless and withdraw from life
- Experience a complete loss of daily routine and structure
- Abuse or neglect themselves, their family and their responsibilities
- Plan their escape from relationships they feel trapped in
- Become seriously emotionally, mentally, or physically ill
- Become addicted to substances or to other behavior addictions
- Become violent or think about suicide or homicide