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How to Keep Clear of Codependent Relationships

Updated on November 22, 2012

Healthy and loving relationships are defined by the "give and take" of each individual that benefits both members and develops a deep trust overtime. In a co-dependent relationship, one person gives and the other one takes. Co-dependents use self-sacrificing behaviors that ensure their relationship will not end. To the co-dependent person, it is better to be in a bad relationship than alone.

Signs of a Co-Dependent Relationship

All loving relationships have a selfless quality, but are you lacking compromise and "going along" with the demands of your partner on most, if not all, issues concerning the relationship?

  • Do you try to "fix" all your partner's problems and sacrifice your own needs to do it?
  • Does your life revolve around your significant other and cause you excessive anxiety?
  • Do you have an intense fear of losing your relationship?
  • Has your significant other lost some interest in the relationship, and you are abandoning your own health and well-being to restore his attention?
  • Do you lack an identity when you are not in a relationship?
  • Do you gain control of your significant other by caring for them, worrying about them, and obsessing about their happiness?

The Recognition of Co-Dependence

About ten years ago, the mental health community began to notice the similar characteristics of people raised by alcoholics and parents with substance abuse problems. After some studies and research into the co-dependent person, a pattern emerged in situations that did not always include substance abuse. It appears that co-dependence behavior is the result of a child not getting their needs met in a dysfunctional family, and the behavior sometimes practiced in families with substance abuse issues may be seen in parenting that does not have addiction components. Co-dependent relationships most often contain the "taker" and the "caretaker."

A Definition of Co-Dependent Relationship

“Codependency, by definition, means making the relationship more important to you than you are to yourself,”

Illustrations by eHealer
Illustrations by eHealer | Source

The "Taker" in a Co-Dependent Relationship

The codependent personality generally attracts people that are "takers." These takers seek out the codependent, and are usually very good at recognizing them. Their need to control their partner, spouse, children or friends is met by their involvement with the codependent. The taker uses anger, blame, guilt or violence to get their needs met. Most likely, the taker has learned these manipulative behaviors through an abusive or neglected childhood, but this is not always the case. Takers are usually narcissistic, selfish, and demanding. Many may use violence when challenged by a partner who has attained some strength or personal growth in the relationship, and will do anything to maintain control.

The "Caretaker" in the Co-Dependent Relationship

Although the co-dependent may feel like a victim, or someone who is controlled by someone else, there is an underlying form of "control" that takes the form of excessive caring that co-dependents perform to maintain the relationship. If their significant other has problems in controlling their impulses, addictions or behavior, the co-dependent will protect them and enable their partner to continue the dysfunction and rely on them. For example, the partner that repeatedly bails their mate out of jail for DUI, protects their partner when they are violent to them or others, or rescues them from a behavior that continues to get them in trouble.The denial of their significant other's abusive behavior is the hallmark of a co-dependent person.

Illustration by eHealer
Illustration by eHealer | Source

Children of Uniformed Parenting

Children born in a dysfunctional household that practices abuse, neglect, and solves problems with anger and violence, may create co-dependent children. Parents who don't teach their children the skills to handle stress, deal with conflict, and fail to show them positive problem solving skills, often leave their offspring to wander in a complex world without the knowledge to navigate their lives successfully. The resulting low self-esteem in this child may permit their significant other to mistreat them in several ways, rather then finding this behavior unacceptable. Co-dependents "co-exist" with the other in a relationship. They "live for" the significant other and devote most of their time to excessive caretaking and solving all their partner's problems.

The Characteristics of a CoDependent Personality

Characteristics of CoDependent Personality
Example of Reactions to Significant Others
CoDependents' Rationale
Denies own needs to make their significant other happy
Always puts the needs of the significant other first
Poor management of conflict and fear of anger that will threaten the relationship
Excessive caretaking
Takes care of the significant other and tries to fix all problems
Attempt to gain control of the relationship
Low Self-Esteem
An obsessive need to be needed
The need to feel valuable by "being needed"
Stress related health complaints
Frequent headaches, depression, weight loss or weight gain, asthma, high blood pressure and others may occur
Pressure of control over another produces health concerns
Continues to believe the relationship will get better if they continue to love the significant other
Fear of being alone is better than living well
Addictive behavior
Frustrations and anger is suppressed with alcohol and drugs
Addictions may develop over time
Lack of boundaries
The significant other may be abusive, selfish, angry or harmful
Co-dependent personalities may allow to be mistreated, as if this is normal or acceptable behavior

Support Groups for People with Co-Dependence Issues

Co-Dependency and Unhealthy Relationships

Co-dependent relationships are not healthy ones. The co-dependent personality is considered an anxiety disorder by the mental health community, since the stress of controlling a relationship takes it's toll on the person in a physically, mentally and spiritual manner. The co-dependent relationship may increase the sufferers depression, loss of control, and further damage an already brittle self-esteem. It is important to seek assistance and support from available sources. The support group, CODA, is a loving and caring support group that can help people break the cycle of abusive relationships and learn how to obtain a healthy relationship that shares common goals, and respects the differences that people have in the most loving of bonds.


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    • Gail Meyers profile image

      Gail Meyers 5 years ago from Kansas City - United States

      I think this is excellent and I would like to post it on my Narcissistic Personality Disorder Mother FB resource page. Voted up and useful.

    • profile image

      lovedoctor926 5 years ago

      Happy New Year eHealer. Another excellent hub here. I have been reading, haven't left comments though. Voting up!

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Excellent advise Kathryn, thanks for stopping by!

    • Kathryn L Hill profile image

      Kathryn L Hill 5 years ago from LA

      If they (parents) were informed, they would care. Maria Montessori can help with that. She brings the Instruction Booklet for having and raising a child. Secret of Childhood, and Absorbent Mind are two good books by Dr. Maria Montessori. Read up, Parents!

      BTW Great Hub.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks Phil, childhood is a very important part of who we are, unfortunately, many parents are uninformed, or just don't care. Thanks!

    • Philanthropy2012 profile image

      DK 5 years ago from London

      So interesting and at the same time so thorough - impressed! It's always interesting to read about the childhood related causes of people's problems - I find it gives me a broader perspective and better understanding that I can rely on! Pinned and liked! :)

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      That's too bad, but if you recognize a pattern of relationships that aren't your ideal, that means that you can change them. Try CODA, if your a hermit, you can join online. Share your feelings and experiences with others that may help you to find the healthy relationships you deserve. Thanks for sharing your personal experiences and good luck to you.

    • That Grrl profile image

      Laura Brown 5 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

      All my relationships seem to be like this. Probably why I love being a hermit.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hello My dear friend, thank you so much for all your concern and your wonderful "warm wishes." I just love your work and I present it on my FB and Pins with pride! You are such an talented and creative poet, you are a real talent, one that comes along once in a while, and I am so glad that you did! See you soon, Epi.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 5 years ago

      Once again dear Deborah you inspire me with your insight and expertise with another very thought provoking hub seminar - I would say I am definitely a 'giver' over a 'taker' in any relationship - but I will 'take' your hubs anytime - they so hubawesome - and are you feeling much better once again - I was sincerely concerned for your health and here I sit sending you good thoughts and energy from lake erie time ontario canada 5:02pm

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      thanks Mhatter! CODA has helped many people find loving relationships

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Well written. Thank you for raising our awareness about this.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hi Mary, thanks for stopping by! Always nice to see you at my hub.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      I have never experienced codependency, but I have friends who are these kinds of relationships. I have seen firsthand the destruction made.

      Voted UP, etc.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks Mellony y! Have a great holiday!

    • Mellonyy profile image

      Mellonyy 5 years ago

      Interesting and useful hub! Voted up!

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hi Writing Owl, so nice to see you as always. Thanks for the support and happy thanksgiving to you too!

    • thewritingowl profile image

      Mary Kelly Godley 5 years ago from Ireland

      Happy Thanksgiving and another great article.

    • profile image

      lovedoctor926 5 years ago

      Happy Thanksgiving to you too eHealer.. I really like your hubs

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hey LoveDoctor! Happy thanksgiving! Thanks for the support, and yes, it is a miserable way to live. Here's to more happiness in the world.

    • profile image

      lovedoctor926 5 years ago

      voted up....

    • profile image

      lovedoctor926 5 years ago

      Co-dependency is not healthy. thank you for spreading awareness.

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hello JM, congrats to you for improving your life and a cheer for your dedication to healthy and loving relationships! Thanks for the support and see you soon at the hubs!

    • JMcFarland profile image

      Elizabeth 5 years ago from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions

      I'm a former coda stepper. This was great and gave very good advice. Voted up and useful


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