Lately everyone’s talking about codependency, narcissism, and toxic relationships. Relationships with partners, family, coworkers, or peers. We often are much better able to see our partner’s faults than our own in these situations, especially when there is an actual Narcissist involved. The problem though, is that we do not see our role in the codependent relationship. Over time, and in order to cope or keep the peace, we develop ways of responding and reacting to a toxic partner. Some of us are even guilty of becoming codependent because of interactions and responses we learned from a prior toxic relationship. In this case, our own codependent behaviors can result in starting old patterns again in a new relationship.
So how do we know we are codependent? The following are typical behaviors:
We often don’t voice our disagreement. Codependent partners can be overly agreeable even when their opinion is totally the opposite. When it is happening, its often been justified as “in order to keep the peace” or “its just not worth the argument.”
We blame ourselves for negative outcomes but not positive ones. Because we have learned, in life or in relationships, that our behavior is responsible for the bad behavior of our loved ones, we project that thinking on almost every negative event we encounter. Even when most people would simply see a bad as happenstance, a codependent person would take personal responsibility for anything negative they were unable to prevent. On the flip side, we do not take credit for positive consequences of our actions or achievements.
We turn into Genies! Codependent people often try to anticipate what their loved ones want and fulfill all of their wishes and expectations. Although this is an impossible mission, we base our self-worth on being able to take care of those we are enabling, even when they are unable or unwilling to take care of themselves. Further, we allow them to believe that it is our job to grant their wishes.
We need approval! Codependent people can be seen as attention-seeking and people pleasing because of the need for others to accept and love us. We are often unable to see our own value or worth, so we look for others to approve and validate us. Although it can bring a small, momentary happiness, we usually don’t fully believe it, so we continue to require more and more.
We just don’t want to be alone! Although many codependent people have said “I like being alone” or “I am most productive/happy when I am by myself”, we also have an inner drive to connect, couple, and caretake. We find worth in having others to help, often because its easier to fix others rather than ourselves. Most codependent people experience heightened anxiety and overthink situations when we are left alone. Because we blame ourselves for bad things and not for good things, we believe that nothing good can come from being alone for long. We, therefore, need others in order to be happy. Unfortunately, this codependency usually attracts another, more dominant, codependent type, The Narcissist. The only way to break the cycle of codependent relationships is to learn new perspectives and behaviors conducive of a healthy relationship with another healthy person. Fix yourself so you don’t need to fix others.