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Unhealthy relationships can come in many shapes and forms. I will however be addressing just one, which is becoming a norm among young people; and I am hoping to nip it in the bud by writing this article. My focus today is on codependency – a kind of relationship you should avoid totally
The concept of codependency has been around for a long time. It was initially used to describe the unhealthy relationship with someone who had an addiction to alcohol or drugs. Many people in this kind of relationship have a tendency to become enablers who lose their sense of self in an effort to save and protect the alcoholic or drug-addicted partner. But more recently, the definition of codependency has been expanded to include other types of dysfunctional relationships. I will explain below.
From a distance, it can be difficult to distinguish between a loving relationship and an unhealthy one. Helping someone that you love would ordinarily not seem bad but the problem occurs when helping someone causes you to lose yourself in the relationship and that invariably makes the other person to become helpless and dependent. This form of relationship is what is called codependency. A lot of people are getting into relationships where they lose their own self in order to accommodate their partners’ weaknesses, addiction or excesses. Some call it ‘True Love’, but it is actually called codependency.
There are many other kinds of unhealthy relationships built on the helpless and often self-destructive behavior of one partner and the inability of the other to separate themselves from it. Classic examples are the dysfunctional relationships based on addiction of one partner to substances or gambling. But people also get into relationships that puts them at a disadvantage or high risk, because they think they want to help. For example, I know a friend in the UK who got into a relationship with a guy who does not work because he frequently loses or quits jobs and he would not even pay his own bills! She stayed on, hoping her love for him would change him. I don’t need to tell you how she ended things with him, but she suffered a lot in that relationship.
Some other people are emotionally unavailable, chronically angry or depressed; socially withdrawn; or display a myriad of other behaviors that are unhealthy for themselves and certainly for anyone in a relationship with them.
Mind you, codependency is not restricted to romantic relationships. It is extended to regular friendship and platonic relationships we cultivate with friends and colleagues. Hence, you need to check yourself and ask ‘Am I in this kind of relationship?’
It may seem quite hard to answer right now, because sometimes our thinking is beclouded by the strong emotional attachments we have as humans to those we love. But hey! I have come up with some helpful stuff that might help you understand if you are in an unhealthy codependent relationship or a healthy and loving relationship.
Here are a few things you should pay attention to; they may be pointers to an unhealthy relationship:
• Do you set few or no boundaries? If you allow others to take advantage of you, and you feel guilty if you don’t help them, If you accept verbal, emotional or physical abuse and mistreatment and may even think that you deserve it, you are in an unhealthy relationship of codependency!
• Do you let him/her define your self-worth? If you only see yourself as worthwhile when you are meeting the other person’s needs and you are overly concerned about what he/she think of you, check it; you may be in an unhealthy relationship.
• Are you always people pleasing? If you avoid confrontation at all costs because you fear hurting the feelings of your partner or fear their rejection and you let your partner hurt you in some way and make excuses for his/her behavior, please run for dear life. This is an unhealthy relationship.
• Do you ignore “red flags”? If you ignore the “red flags” that signify a problem such as your partner’s patterns of dishonesty, unfaithfulness, possessiveness, irresponsibility, abuse or disrespect; what are you waiting for?
• Do you Overinvest? If you give too much to the relationship to the point of ignoring your own needs and you are angry and defensive when someone points this out to you; take a chill pill and think about it. You may be deeply sunk into an unhealthy relationship.
• Do you frequently feel anxious, depressed or lonely? If you consistently feel anxious, depressed or lonely about the relationship and you know that it is unfulfilling, but you see no alternatives. Perhaps you feel trapped or afraid to change or leave, it is a sure sign that the relationship is unhealthy and the best option is to LEAVE without looking back.
• Do you always have to rescue your partner: If you are frequently rescuing your partner from his/her own self-destructive behavior and poor judgment by making excuses, paying fines and bills, apologizing, and otherwise taking responsibility for his/her behavior; don’t let it get too late before you sign off.
Unhealthy relationships can take more than one form. In some cases, you may serve as the caretaker/rescuer/helper, and this may fill your need for self-worth and self-importance by being the competent one in the relationship.
Of course, your dependent partner benefits from the care and attention they get from you for being irresponsible and self-destructive. In this type of relationship, rescuing, enabling and dependency are defined as love and intimacy.
In some relationships, both people may be too dependent on each other and describe themselves as “incomplete” when they are not in a relationship. They may believe they cannot make a decision or cope with life without the significant other. This behavior can become so natural that neither recognize it as dysfunctional.
I ordinarily should stop here, but I have a feeling I should explain something to you. Okay, here you go.
Healthy relationships are not based on codependence, dependence or independence, but on interdependence.
Interdependent relationships are marked by mutual caring, sharing and support. Each partner sets reasonable boundaries and has a sense of who they are. Each has their own unique personality and neither disappears inside the relationship. They work together for the mutual benefit. Communication is direct, clear and open. Each person has friendships and social support outside of the relationship.
HOW CAN I SOLVE THE PROBLEM OF CODEPENDENCY?
If you discover that you are in an unhealthy relationship it can be very difficult to change it. You can first try to change the relationship dynamics. Begin an honest discussion with your partner about what you see and how you feel and listen to their concerns. Make it clear that you expect your partner to invest in the relationship and act responsibly, and that you will no longer assume responsibility for them.
It will also be necessary to change your role in contributing to the problem. Start by reconnecting to the extended support system that you once had. This will allow you to get perspective, define yourself outside of the relationship and gain a separate identity.
Resume some activities that you enjoyed but stopped when you got into the relationship. Set some goals for yourself that are separate from the relationship. Recognize when your care for your partner has turned into treating him/her as a child instead of an equal.
Think about what your interests are, pursue them and talk about them with your partner. Encourage your partner’s interests. Develop a realistic view of relationships. Recognize what needs they can reasonably expected to meet and those that they cannot.
This attempt to change the status quo and create healthy interdependence in your relationship may not always be well received by your partner. Old patterns are hard to break, and your attempts to change may be perceived as abandonment or rejection. You, too, may experience fear at the prospect of change. You will ultimately need to decide what is best for both of you.
Know when you should stay and when it is necessary to move on. If you leave this relationship, avoid making similar mistakes by spending some time learning about yourself, your values and your needs before starting a new one.
Thanks for reading, I hope you have learnt from this.