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What Is Codependency In A Romantic Relationship? How To Tackle The Extreme Desire To Care For Your Partner

Why do we depend on others? - A very basic question that we rarely bother ourselves with.

Well, Humans are social beings and at some point in our lives, we all have depended or relied on others to exist or survive, especially because we live in communities.

Be it asking for help, needing someone or relying on a person, everything is normal and healthy, until it's not.

Lines can become really blurry when it comes to interdependency and codependency and therefore, it is very crucial to understand and detect the signs if you are aiming for a healthy and well-functioning relationship.

How Codependency Is Different From Interdependency?

Interdependency involves giving and receiving mutually from each other in a relationship such as supporting, helping and encouraging in different situations. It helps one to become the best version of themselves and when they rely on others, they do it without compromising on their self-esteem. Due to a strong understanding of self, they become the anchor of their own ship and navigate the world expressing their need. This can be also termed a healthy dependency.

On the other hand, Codependency is an emotional behavioural condition that results in a dysfunctional relationship dynamic and bars them from having a healthy and mutually satisfying relationship. People who are codependent often maintain a relationship that is emotionally abusive or destructive and one-sided. They assume the role of a 'giver' where they sacrifice their own needs and well-being for the sake of 'the taker' or the other. It can happen in any relationship and doesn't have to necessarily be a romantic one. An unhealthy bond can develop even between parents and children, family members and friends. It can be also termed as 'relationship addiction'.

Why Is Co-Dependency Unhealthy?

People who are co-dependent look at external factors to make themselves feel better. They have low self-esteem. Due to this, some become addicted to substances like drugs or nicotine, and alcohol in an attempt to feel better. As a result, they develop compulsive behaviours like gambling, workaholism or indiscriminate sexual activity, mentions the Mental Health America website.

The level of severity can vary from person to person, even though their intention is always to help and take care of people who are in a difficult situation, and when they make extreme sacrifices for their partner or when their partner needs them in everything they do, it makes the codependent partner happy and they feel a sense of satisfaction or reward.

The caretaking that a co-dependent partner provides slowly becomes compulsive and defeating and this creates a very destructive course in a relationship. Over time, the co-dependent partner starts to feel helpless and out of choice, but they get so stuck in the cycle, that they are unable to break away from it. Due to this, they see themselves as victims or martyrs and often get attracted to similar weaknesses when it comes to friendships as well.

Signs That You Have Co-Dependency

When a person develops co-dependency they take care of others' needs without even thinking, considering or acknowledging their own feelings or needs. This results in an imbalanced relationship, due to a lack of self-identity. There are distinct characteristics or signs that can tell if you are co-dependent.

  • They intend to love people but then develop a tendency to pity and help or rescue them. This blurs their idea of love and pity.
  • They develop an unhealthy dependence and will almost do anything to hold on to a relationship to avoid the feeling of abandonment or being alone.
  • They go out of their way to fulfil the needs of others. They develop an exaggerated sense of responsibility for others' actions.
  • They seek recognition and approval constantly and become hurt when people do not acknowledge or recognize their efforts.
  • They develop a compelling need to control others' actions and equate self-care with selfishness. Catering to their own needs first makes them feel guilty.
  • They have difficulty identifying feelings and have a lack of trust in themselves or others.
  • They are not flexible or easily adaptable when it comes to changes.
  • They lack clarity when it comes to creating boundaries and has problems with intimacy.
  • They are unable to communicate properly and have issues when it comes to decision-making.
  • They can be dishonest, take the help of lies when needed and develop chronic anger too.

Healing From Codependency: How To Tackle The Extreme Desire To Care For Your Partner

In order to heal from codependency, one needs to heal themselves first and believe in self-care. The best part of codependency is that it is a behaviour that one can unlearn with time, practice and professional guidance. Following healthy steps can bring your relationship back on track. Read on to know about them!

1. Practice Positive Thinking

Be conscious about your thoughts, while it is essential to practice positive thinking, you cannot neglect the negative thoughts either. Negative beliefs result in low self-esteem, anxiety and stress. Catch them whenever it crosses your mind and then change it. For overall well-being practice mindfulness, which is deeply rooted in meditation. When you change your relationship to thoughts and shift to a positive direction, everything around you changes for the better.

2. Draw Clear Boundaries And Maintain Them

Be clear about your needs and your partner's and draw a clear boundary. This will help you to let go of the dependency and create or build an identity of your own. This will ensure that there is mutual respect and that no one's need is compromised. Also, it will erase the feeling of being guilty when either partner attends to their own needs.

3. Don't Make Everything Personal

Everything around you, be it a situation or people is not broken and is not meant to be fixed. This can be a huge challenge for a codependent person especially when they are in a romantic or intimate relationship with someone. Allow your partner to be themselves and accept them for who they are. This can create a huge positive shift in your relationship.

4. Give Yourself Space And Time When Needed

Attend to your own needs and do not feel guilty about it. There is nothing wrong when it comes to taking care of self and keeping yourself on top of your priority life. It is essential to remember that you are a companion to your partner and not necessarily a caregiver always. This will also allow you to create self-identity.

5. Learn From Others' Experiences

This is one of the effective ways to break free from codependent behaviour patterns. Knowing people who have recovered from codependency can inspire you to have a positive approach towards life and work on yourself. You can share your problems with a person you trust- it can be a friend, colleague or family member. Do not bottle up your feelings and emotions. Acknowledging the problem is the first step to solving it.

6. Get Professional Help

If you are finding it difficult to break the vicious cycle of codependency, then consider meeting a counsellor. Getting professional help will be useful because experts can point out to your the roots of your problems and suggest solutions to break free from your issues. You can also ask your partner to chip in so that you can heal yourself and your relationship faster.

Story first published: Friday, January 20, 2023, 22:30 [IST]
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