What is Codependence?
Codependent people are very likeable people.
They go out of their way to be pleasant and make those around them happy. They put on a happy face and are bubbly, warm, and giving people.
There is nothing wrong with this unless the giving becomes so one-sided and excessive that it starts to weigh upon the giver.
If the giver is giving away a great deal more than he/she is receiving then that is a sign of codependence.
A healthy partnership between people involves giving and take. This pattern is referred to as interdependent. Of course, if your partner is having difficulty it is not unhealthy to give a little more knowing that your partner would reciprocate if the tables were turned.
People in an interdependent relationship will not give until it hurts.
In a codependent relationship, one partner will do nearly all the giving and the other will do nearly all the taking.
Codependent people using giving as a way to avoid negative emotions. To them, it gives them a sense of self-worth and makes them feel useful.
Codependent people need the approval of others in order to feel good about themselves.
They often struggle to receive anything from other people because their low self-esteem leaves them feeling that they do not deserve anything.
Maintaining codependent behaviour requires a great deal of effort and causes emotional pain. People with codependency often struggle with low self-esteem, depression, guilt, and other unpleasant thoughts and feelings.
Codependents are usually highly self-critical and judge themselves very harshly even if they are very forgiving of those around them.
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Codependent people find it difficult to express anger when they should. They tend to store it up and let it erupt at times when they shouldn’t be angry.
They are often disconnected from their emotions because they experience these as being painful and unwanted.
They maintain a facade of enthusiastic and happy behaviour rather than allowing their inner pain to the surface. They look after people around them to the point of ignoring their own needs.
Codependent people can be found in terrible relationships where they are verbally, emotionally, and physically abused.
They put up with this because the idea of being alone is scary, empty, and depressing.
Without somebody to tell them they’re okay the codependent will have no self-worth and so they cling to the abusive partner even though the relationship is a disaster.
Being alone and not having somebody else to look after would mean the codependent would be forced to look at his/her own inner life.
The codependent will go to great lengths to excuse the bad behaviour of his/her partner. They will rationalize, ignore, and excuse behaviour so that they don’t have to look at making the decision to be alone.
The codependent person endeavours to “understand” and ignores the hurt that the behaviour causes. It seems never to occur to the codependent to stand up to the partner and lay down boundaries.
Because the codependent spends so much effort excusing the partner’s behaviour he/she may not even feel abused. They do not feel worthy enough to deserve proper treatment.
This could be as a result of childhood experiences growing up. The codependent person may have grown up in a difficult emotional climate and so the partner’s behaviour may seem normal and familiar.
A codependent will not feel worthy of respect and if somebody treats them badly they will assume they did something to deserve it. They will not think that even if a person is angry they should still be responsible for their behaviour and should be respectful to others.
Because they don’t stand up for themselves codependents often experience increasing abuse and neglect from those around them.
When the codependent starts to feel angry because he/she is being mistreated instead of getting angry at the right person they will try to distort things and avoid this.
They feel that they cannot be angry with the person they are reliant on for feeling good about themselves. Codependents will try to rationalize their feelings and blame their reaction on over-sensitivity.
Anger is a healthy emotion if it is dealt with appropriately. It is a sign that something is wrong and needs attention.
If you do not express anger then the people around you will not know that you are unhappy and require something to be adjusted.
Codependents turn their anger towards themselves and become sad and depressed. Rather than facing up to their partner they blame themselves and look for ways as to how they might have caused the misbehaviour.
If anger is kept in and suppressed it may lead to resentments. These simmer inside the codependent until they eventually can’t handle them anymore. They then have an aggressive blow-up or use passive-aggression to lash out at people.
Codependents struggle to assert themselves appropriately and are often hurt that other people are unable to know what they need. They spend a huge amount of effort in trying to understand other peoples needs and feelings and are hurt if this is not reciprocated.
Codependents often believe that they have conveyed their desires when in actual fact they have simply been unable to properly express them.
Codependent people are very control-oriented and tend to be very responsible. They are eager to please and do their work thoroughly which makes them great employees. They tend to help out their coworkers wherever possible. They will do anything for approval.
In other areas of life, some codependent people lack in responsibility.
They often won’t take care of their own basic needs, especially if they can get affirmation for looking after somebody else.
Codependent people are at a greater risk of developing addictions than the rest of the population. They may drink too much, shop too much, eat too much, work too much, etc.
Codependents find themselves unable to experience true intimacy in a relationship. They discover that to be intimate with somebody else requires a certain level of familiarity and comfort with one’s internal world. Codependents often regard their ordinary human needs as “base” or somehow shameful and embarrassing. They dismiss their needs and choose superficial relationships that are safe (but unfulfilling).
Control is of key importance to the codependent person. They attempt to control their self-esteem by catering to others’ needs for the pay-off of affirmation.
They attempt to control others by taking responsibility and picking up where other people have slacked off. They attempt to control their partners by avoiding intimacy.
Codependents work very hard to control themselves and everybody around them.
Codependency can be treated in clinics in South Africa. We have a number of specialist programs that address a spectrum of behavioural problems.
If your partner is attending drug rehab in Cape Town or South Africa then we can help you to make arrangements to attend family sessions that will help you to assess whether you have a problem with codependency.