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What is Codependent Behavior?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2016
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A buzzword of modern psychology, codependent behavior may be one of the most easily misunderstood terms in existence. According to some mental health experts, codependency is a psychological issue where one person sacrifices his or her health or well-being to suit the needs of another person. Examples of codependent behavior are often found in abusive relationships, in which the codependent person submits to poor treatment regardless of the implicit danger or harm.

Almost all healthy relationships involve a measure of self-sacrifice or what is referred to as “caretaking” behavior. Seeing a movie a person doesn't want to see in order to please his or her partner, or helping a work or school friend finish a project instead of going on a fun outing are examples of what may be completely normal and healthy caring actions. If the partner or friend never returns the favor, or is abusive and mean in spite of caretaking actions, this can quickly become a pattern of codependent behavior.

The idea of codependency grows out of the concept that healthy relationships, whether romantic, platonic, or business-related, have a fair balance of power. While each person in the relationship may not have exactly the same responsibilities or requirements, the effort put in by both parties is equal overall. When one person constantly accepts less than he or she offers, it is often considered a sign of codependent behavior.

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Codependent behavior is often related to low self-esteem. People that feel they deserve abuse or to be treated poorly often find relationships that fulfill that unhealthy need. Some codependent people live under a crushing veil of hope, believing that the other person will change and become kind and responsible if the codependent person loves them enough. Not unsurprisingly, people with codependency issues are often the product of an abusive home or one where there was a codependent structure in place. Additionally, codependent people are considered highly likely to stay with and enable substance abusing partners.

Often, the term is linked almost exclusively to women in relationships. Many mental health experts feel this may be a somewhat unfair charge, as women are more psychologically inclined to become caretakers in a relationship, which is often perfectly healthy. In many parts of the world, however, women have long been subject to social standards and laws that standardize inequality in relationships; until the late 20th century in the United States, some regions would not allow a woman to accuse her husband of rape. In some other countries, women are not permitted to attend school, and may have no legal recourse against physical or verbal abuse by a husband or male family member. With such long-standing codifications of inequality, it is far from outrageous to suggest that woman may have historically developed codependent behavior as a means of surviving inescapable abuse.

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GreenWeaver
Post 3

Comfyshoes - Wow I did not know that they had phone and email meetings. That is really convenient.

I think that codependency books also offer some support in learning how to deal with codependency and learning how to be alone for a while.

There is a fabulous book called “The language of letting go” by Melody Beattie. This meditative book teaches you how to deal with anger, fear, and shame associated with letting go of a dysfunctional relationship.

She also wrote a book called, “Codependency no more”. Beattie is really an expert in the field of codependent recovery and is widely respected.

I think that reading a lot about the subject and talking to others that are

experiencing the same thing will help you realize that there is a whole world out there for you and remaining in a dysfunctional relationship will only delay the happiness that you will feel when you finally meet a healthy person that you can have a fulfilling and lasting relationship with.

comfyshoes
Post 2

Anon121223 - I am so sorry about your situation. It is understandable that after being married for so long and finding yourself alone that you are attracted to someone that is attracted to you.

The fact that you recognize that the relationship is not fair is really healthy because you recognize that you deserve more.

I recommend that you look into a great organization called codependents anonymous. They require their members to submit to the twelve promises pact and offer meetings in the United States and all over the world.

They also have meetings in the United Kingdom. The nice thing about the organization is that they offer online and phone meetings in case you can’t get to a meeting physically.

They also offer newsletters and weekly messages that provide words of encouragement. When you become healthier you will see that you will only be attracted to healthy people as well. This is really what codependent recovery is all about.

anon121223
Post 1

i seem to be displaying system of codependency, as after the break up of my 25 year marriage i spent a long five years without a partner because no one wanted to be my partner.

I found that an incredibly hard and lonely time, then out of the blue, i gained a partner. I wasn't even looking. I kind of gave up as everyone i knew was in their 20s to 30s and i was in my 40s. I was so flattered i would have done anything for this girl, and I've done loads out of love and nothing else, but all i seem to get back is abuse if she doesn't get her own way. and like a mug

, i keep going back.

It's the fear of being alone that makes me stay as i know it's never going to change. It's always going to be the same with her as she will not accept that her behavior is unreasonable and hurtful but i guess now I've got to be strong and just walk away unless i want to spend the rest of my life being bullied by her (that's a bit of a sick joke as I'm 5'6" and 13 stone and she is 5'2" and about 10 stone) and i guess I'm just re-enforcing her behavior by accepting it.

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