Codependent: Good, Bad or Normal?
The term codependent gets a bad rap, because some people have a black-and-white view of what codependency is. The truth is, we are all somewhat codependent. In fact, there is even such a thing as healthy codependence in a relationship, because we are social by nature and rely on each other for survival.
We are all helpless when we are young babies. As children, we are vulnerable and completely dependent on our caregivers for food, safety and emotional regulation. As infants, our ability to bond and attach to one or more caregivers is critical for emotional and physical survival. Some of us had present, stable caregivers whom we could depend on to be there for us, and some of us had experiences of caregivers that could not give us a stable environment to thrive in. Without this kind of stable experience, we can experience stress and trauma as baby or child, which we then carry into adulthood.
The Path to Unhealthy Codependence
Understanding all caregivers are human, and cannot be perfect, means we all have some degree of trauma in our systems from childhood. Growing up with unreliable or unavailable caregivers—even if it’s short-lived—means, in adulthood, we respond by taking on the role of emotional caretaker. We all have some degree of unhealed dependence or co-dependence we bring into our adult relationships. We are usually not aware of this trait in us until it causes problems in our various relationships, whether family, work or with our significant other.
As adults, we get into relationships with an unconscious agenda to get all of our needs met that we didn’t get successfully met in childhood. We project our needs onto our partner with the expectation they will give us what we need in the way we need it. We may use coping skills we learned in childhood to try and get these needs met, but that often backfires.
Ending the Codependent Cycle
Working with a good therapist to heal some of these early childhood wounds is crucial to developing successful relationships. You will know you are on track to a healthier relationship with yourself and your partner when:
- You no longer seek outside validation and you can nurture your own wants and needs and develop a deeper connection to your inner world
- You can see yourself as lovable, smart and capable
- You respond, rather than reacting, to your partner and others
- You can set firm yet loving boundaries and say no when you need to
- You can tolerate others’ opinions of you and not take it personally and not get defensive when you disagree
- You recognize that your reactions are your responsibility and stop blaming
- You develop a healthy view of yourself and your self-esteem does not rise or fall depending on others
- You can accept hearing the word, ‘No’
Working through this issue can take years. It is a process that we all have to work on and you deserve to love yourself and have compassion for yourself and the ways you and your partner are dependent and codependent with each other.
I have developed this checklist so that you can use it for growth and awareness of yourself, not to use as a weapon against yourself or someone else. If you want to do a self-review, click below to get the checklist!
Learning new skills to help you reframe the way you approach your relationships can be helpful. We understand your experience and have the expertise to help you meet your relationships goals and challenges. If you’re interested in learning more, please contact us to have a conversation about how we can best serve your needs.