What Is Codependent Behavior?

Codependent Relationships Explained

Even before we, as a species, became Sapient, our ancient ancestors learned to rely on one another for survival. Examples of this were found in uncovered remnants of prehistoric societies worldwide.

We have evidence showing that hunter-gatherer communities were organized around the principle of reciprocity, where individuals would share resources and provide mutual aid to each other in order to survive (and thrive) in an unforgiving environment.

This shows that the innate need to be a part of a greater whole is deeply ingrained in the very core of our being and, perhaps even hardwired into our DNA. The desire to belong, to give and receive help, to be able to count on others for our physical, emotional, and psychological well-being is what makes us tick.

In other words, it is our dependence on one another that makes us human. However, there is a major difference between healthy dependence (“interdependence”) and codependency in a relationship.

While the former benefits all parties involved, the latter is detrimental to everyone and the relationship as a whole. As such, it is essential to learn to recognize this behavior and how to overcome it with codependency recovery coaching or assistance from a love coach for dependency before it becomes the the norm..

What Is Codependent Behavior?

At its core, codependency is a behavioral pattern where one individual (the codependent) becomes overly reliant on another person for approval, validation, and a sense of self-worth. The codependent can manifest this behavior in many different ways, such as:

  • Putting the other person’s (or people’s) needs before their own, even to the point of sacrificing one’s own identity and well-being;
  • Feeling overly responsible for other people’s feelings and behaviors, which can result in attempts to control them in order to avoid conflict or gain their approval;
  • Having a distorted sense of self or defining own identity and self-worth through the relationship;
  • Exhibiting feelings of anxiety or discomfort when alone, and seeking constant companionship and reassurance from others;
  • Tolerating or even enabling unhealthy or abusive behaviors from others to avoid losing their approval or love.

From the above, we can draw a clear line between codependent behavior and interdependence or caregiving:

  • In a healthy (interdependent) relationship, both parties are able to express their needs, wants, and boundaries in order to support one another in mutually beneficial ways. 
  • In a codependent relationship, one person’s needs and wants consistently take precedence over the other person’s, leading to an imbalance of power that can, and often does, result in emotional harm.

What Causes Codependency?

There are many factors that can contribute to codependency forming, most of which stem from underlying emotional issues, such as low self-esteem, fear of abandonment or rejection, and unresolved trauma or attachment issues. Some common causes include:

  • Childhood trauma: Individuals growing up in environments where there’s addiction, abuse, neglect, or other types of unhealthy behavior are more likely to develop codependency as a defense mechanism.
  • Family dynamics: Codependency can also be a learned behavior. If a person grew up in a family where there was a pattern of caretaking, where personal boundaries are undefined or unclear, or where autonomous growth was hindered or discouraged, they may be more likely to replicate those patterns in their own relationships.
  • Personality traits: Low self-esteem, lack of boundaries, fear of abandonment, and similar factors can form a person who has difficulty asserting their own needs and boundaries, which can drive them to seek validation and security through their relationships with others.
  • Cultural and societal messages: Established norms that prioritize self-sacrifice and/or caretaking over the needs and autonomy of the individual greatly influence forming of different thought and behavioral patterns.

It’s crucial to note that, while these are contributing factors, they are not the defining ones. For instance, two persons with similar childhood experiences or personality traits may respond to the above in vastly different and even diametrically opposing ways.

In addition, codependency is not a fixed trait or a mental health condition. As of now, there is no clear consensus on its diagnosis nor evidence that it is caused by a physical or psychological ailment. Rather, it is a pattern of behavior that can be changed through self-awareness practices, as well as with the help of a professional.

What Is Codependency In Romantic Relationships?

Romantic relationships are particularly susceptible to codependent patterns. Due to the emotional intimacy and mutual reliance that often characterizes these unions, it may be difficult to draw a clear line, maintain healthy boundaries, and prioritize one’s own needs. However, sometimes that line becomes diffused or, even, nonexistent.

This is the point when codependent patterns start to emerge, usually in the form of divided roles. One person assumes the role of caretaker (“giver”), while the other becomes the advantage taker (“taker”). From this alone, it is easy to extrapolate how the relationship becomes dysfunctional and how the balance of powers shifts:

  • The giver prioritizes the needs of their partner (emotional and physical) and, in turn, starts neglecting their own, eventually becoming unable to function autonomously;
  • The taker will often continuously exploit the caregiver’s efforts, even to the point of extreme, where their partner will completely lose their sense of self, becoming completely subjugated to the taker’s ever-growing needs.

This endless circle of exploitation and maladaptation is detrimental to both parties involved, as it effectively robs them of opportunities and means to grow as individuals, as well as develop, improve, or even stabilize their relationship.

However, we must not fail to note that not all aspects of codependency are necessarily negative. In fact, a certain degree of emotional interdependence is a natural, healthy, and necessary aspect of a romantic relationship.

After all, being caring and supportive are definitely positive and desirable qualities in a partner. Provided, of course, they aren’t taken to the extreme or for granted. Therefore, the impact of codependency on a relationship depends on the specific context and the mental capacities of the individuals involved.

How To Overcome Codependency?

Seeing how each individual and each relationship is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. Fortunately, the main takeaway here is that the solution does exist and, if we were to generalize it, it would go like this:

  • Learn to recognize and understand the signs of codependency to be able to identify if it is really what hinders your relationship;
  • Identify the underlying factors that led to this behavioral pattern formation, as it can help you address the issue(s);
  • Establish clear boundaries concerning your own needs, wants, and limits to prevent being taken advantage of;
  • Take care of your own physical, mental, and emotional health, as it will help you build up your self-esteem and sense of self-worth;
  • Learn to express yourself in a clear and assertive manner, while actively listening to your partner, since effective communication is the key to overcoming any relationship problem;
  • Consider ending the relationship, no matter how difficult or painful it might be, as it can be the best choice for your well-being.

Take The First Step Toward Freedom With PIVOT’s Codependency Recovery Coaching

Codependency is a complex issue that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background, as well as arise in any form of a relationship, be it romantic falling in love with a codependent, familial, or professional. Fortunately, it is an issue that can be addressed with a great deal of success, despite the complexity and difficulty of the task and it only takes a little help.

At PIVOT, we offer a comprehensive codependency recovery coaching program, tailored to your individual needs and goals. Our experienced professionals provide personalized support and guidance that will help you reclaim your independence and give you the tools you need to form healthier relationships.

At our transformative and serene Glass House retreat, you’ll experience a combination of one-on-one sessions and group workshops that will aid you in identifying and overcoming harmful behavioral patterns and cultivating a stronger sense of self-worth and self-care.

Codependency does not have to control or define you. Reach out to us today and take the first step toward freedom and fulfillment!

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