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Breaking Free of Codependent Relationships

by Roseanna Medrano

What is codependency?

A codependent person bases their actions on the needs and wants of another person to the detriment of themselves. They have trouble knowing their own true feelings, they have poor self esteem, they are compliant with "special people" in their lives, and they see their role as essential helpers to their "people".

Oftentimes codependents are drawn to troubled individuals as spouses, or significant others. Codependents are often linked with alcoholics or drug addicts as well as people who are mentally ill, verbally, emotionally or physically abusive or simply irresponsible. When in these dysfunctional relationships, a codependent person is often seen as an enabler. Instead of helping the special people in their lives do better, they enable them to stay stuck in their dysfunctional ways.

Most codependents work very hard to attempt to control their environment for the sole purpose of keeping others happy. They are addicted to pleasing. Pleasing others is their drug of choice. The codependent gives little to no effort or thought to what they themselves can do to change a bad situation. Instead, they give control of their destiny to the whims of a person or persons who are not interested in meeting the codependents needs.

What motivates codependency?

One of the reasons a person becomes codependent is because of fear. They begin a pattern of giving in (acquiescing) in order to avoid conflict and please others. This strategy works in the short run. But, in the long run it actually reinforces the negative patterns of behavior in others.

How do I break the pattern of codependency?

In order to break free of one of these relationships, a codependent must first see that they have the power to control their own destiny, say no and mean it, and tolerate the inevitable conflict that will follow. In other words, to break the pattern of codependency an individual must face their fears and take responsibility for their own decision making.

This change is not easily made and almost always requires the support of a therapist and/or support group. But, the benefits can be tremendous. The codependent individual will begin to value themselves and practice independence. They will learn to recognize the difference between helping and enabling. Their decisions will start to be based on what is best for them. They will formulate goals for themselves, and if necessary repair or end dysfunctional relationship(s).

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depressionanxietydivorceanger managementsubstance abuse