Characteristics of Codependency
addiction communication family parenting

Characteristics of Codependency

Characteristics of Codependency

Addiction doesn’t discriminate, neither does codependency or feelings of unworthiness / not being good enough and wanting to lose yourself (even if it’s unconsciously) in others.  I’m on the journey too – just a few steps ahead since my hubs has 6 years clean. I’d say the last 3 years I’ve been consciously working on focusing on my own betterment.  It takes some work, but the results are always worth it. When we do the work on ourselves, it opens us up the possibilities to heal dysfunctional patterns from way before our time, and hopefully prevent them from recurring in our children, and generations to come (breaking the cycle).

Recently I’ve been doing a bunch of reading about codependency and thought you may appreciate this list. You may want to take note of how many of the following you have – not to have more things to be down on or feel sorry for ourselves – but to see them as opportunities to improve your daily life.

Here’s a list of some common codependent characteristics –

  1. Caretaking – in 12 step groups – we say enabling is doing for others what they can and should do for themselves – babies can’t change their own diaper, but for example, my 7 year old doesn’t know how to tie shoes.  This is an area where I could teach him to be more independent and not rely on velcro! When my hubs was using, I’d call his job or make an excuse or pay a bill when he ‘couldn’t’ – just one of the most obvious ways I would caretake.

  2. Low self-worth – most of us don’t immediately recognize this in ourselves. Not saying every codependent has low self worth, but in my experience the vast majority do. When we discount our own needs and don’t place as much value on our happiness as others it’s a red flag. The definition of “selfish” is that you don’t think of anyone else. Since we’re 99.99% focused on everyone else all the time, it’s statistically impossible for us to be selfish!

  3. Repression – I struggled with this for a long time – if you ‘can’t remember’ things – like (sometimes huge) chunks of time where you don’t have memories, this could be another characteristic. Personally, I had big chunks of elementary/middle school that I’d repressed. It can be difficult when you do start recalling. You know something happened, but feel like maybe they’re fake memories.  Please work with a therapist or counselor – someone with specific background in this topic. Usually we’ve repressed these things for a reason – like we weren’t equipped to deal with whatever it was at the time.

  4. Obsession – Do you go through your addict’s stuff?  I did – and sometimes better than a K9 unit. I still catch myself obsessing and thinking “what if”. I’ll even catch myself wanting to go through his phone and he’s got 6 years clean!  I have to remind myself that we’re different people than we were back then. 

  5. Denial – This is one of the biggies – it seems like it’s easier to act like everything is OK -I thought I was doing a good job masking the madness in my head/heart/home. I can spot an addicts wife 100 miles away. We’re only as sick as our secrets. When you’re unpacking your suitcase of shit, you need your tribe.  You need a safe place to share and process what you’re feeling and to hold you up while you do it. That’s why 12 step, therapy, coaching works – a safe container to break yourself open and heal.

  6. Dependency -I always claimed to be independent, but in all reality – I was scared to death to be alone – so I would stay in unhealthy relationships, jobs, etc.  Perhaps you’re dependent on family, or a job (stability) or your kids (which is easy) – when we focus 112% on things like that it allows us to NOT focus on us.

  7. Poor communication– Up until recently, I’ve had a really hard time being direct – but boy I could be quick to lash out to hurt the other person in the heat of the moment. I’d say the thing I knew would hurt the other person the most. Being clear by saying “I don’t know how I feel about this right now” or “I’m venting and just need you to listen – there’s nothing to fix”. **Listen to how you speak to your spouse/partner and see if there’s opportunities to be more direct, and on the flip side – to be more kind.

  8. Weak boundaries – this one’s HUGE – Do you find that you can be weedled down? Like he’ll just keep asking until you get so frustrated you give in? Addicts, and our kids too – KNOW where there’s a weak boundary. They’ll find that button and just push it until you’re so frustrated you give in.  If you set a boundary, make sure you can stick with it!

  9. Lack of trust – (similar to #4 -Obsession)This is a gaping wound in the relationship. You will snoop, or worry about other women, relapse, or other behaviors that seems “not normal” to YOU – and you’ll hyper focus.  You could consider some separateness in certain areas like finances or if they’re unfaithful you require protection to have intimate relations until trust is rebuilt, if rebuilding is something you are both willing to do!

  10. Anger– if it’s not obvious it’s probably lingering just under the surface like a volcano waiting to explode. Something mundane like a dish in the clean sink will set you off – I did … no one has respect for what I do around here – etc. I would go OFF about stuff that seemed small to those around me, but it was really the tipping point of a bunch of feelings I’d not allowed myself to feel.

  11. Responsible/irresponsible – usually one extreme or the other – I felt like I was the most responsible one (he was the one drinking/drugging) but when I get totally honest, I was doing some irresponsible things too. I may have been paying the bills, but I’d left my kids with someone who I knew was actively drinking and/or doing drugs.  Not to judge myself, but to be honest and look at my part.

  12. Hard time connecting with others – I would get vulnerable with the wrong people, like backstabbing friends, people who would twist what I said into something else. Unsavory characters. Not the people I should have been connecting myself with. When you want to connect, but fear hurt/being alone – sometimes you settle. No judgement – I’ve been there. Some people I called friends, but never should have associated with. But I was so scared to be alone.

  13. Hard to have fun/be spontaneous – Can’t get ‘out of their head’ or worry about what others think – feel like they want to have fun, but don’t know how.  You’re afraid to have fun because your experience is that when you let your walls down, something horrible comes crashing in. Find joy with people you trust so you can let loose without fear that you’ll get hurt. 

Do you recognize any of those in yourself?  

I sure did. And a few new ones! The good news is – I can see these as areas I can improve in. No one just starts running marathons – there’s some practice and training involved. So start small. Recognize the things you can improve in, and then decide to take action! It doesn’t have to be a big change either. Committing to be more kind, or to spend a few minutes a day in gratitude can be a huge shift. Remember – “Better has no finish line”!  

Please accept this as your personal invitation to heal your codependency and learn how to implement healthy boundaries.  Want to THRIVE? Check out EMpowerME – a brand new program that starts April 1. You only have until March 31 to register, so be sure to check it out today – click HERE

Erin Hill is a writer, speaker, and healer. She resides on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with her husband and children, who are her greatest teachers. She is currently working on her first book.

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