Co-Dependent Love Relationships

Tonja Weimer

With a Masters in Human Development, Tonja is an columnist, coach, speaker and author. Her latest book 'Thriving After Divorce', offers insight on how to become a better person and getting through after a break up.

Do you have a history of going from one bad relationship to another?  Do you think you are just unlucky in the love department?  If you are someone who expects others to love you and give you what you want because you take care of them, luck 'or a lack of it' has nothing to do with it.  Attempting to earn the love of another by attending to their neediness, sadness, or misery is called co-dependency.


Needing to be needed usually causes you to attract and choose someone who is helpless, hopeless, and in a constant crisis, but can never give you what you want.  The initial attraction may be intense: you recognize the person's needs; your love interest recognizes the caretaker in you, and it feels like a perfect match on the surface.  As the relationship progresses, however, and you move from one major problem to another, solving, fixing, and rescuing her becomes your permanent job.  You may think that, surely, if you can handle this 'one last' problem they present to you, you will be appreciated and finally be happy.  But it never happens.  Even if you eventually give up and leave this relationship, if you do not find your self, you will find another needy person. 

How do you know if you are a co-dependent?  You:

* Feel compelled to help the other person solve their problem(s).
* Find yourself attracted to needy people and needy people attracted to you.
* Abandon your needs, routines, and friends to take care of this person.
* Think you are responsible for how the other person feels, thinks, and acts.
* Do not know what you want and need, and think it is not as important as the needs and wants of your love interest.
* Blame others for the problems your love interest has.
* Feel bored, empty or worthless if you don't have someone to help.
* Get overcommitted to helping others.
* Begin to feel unappreciated when people want more and more from you.

Co-dependents either come from troubled families, or their parents came from some sort of dysfunctional background.  The problems in these families are caused by one or both parents being domineering, anxious, alcoholic, drug-addicted, mentally unbalanced, or verbally, physically, or emotionally abusive.  Compounding the problems, these issues were usually not discussed.  Denial is part of the mixture. 

This results in co-dependents finding it hard to accept praise, compliments, or good things happening for them.  They feel different from the rest of the world, think they are not good enough, and that ultimately, everyone will reject them.  They think their lives are not as important as someone else's, try to help others live theirs instead, and get artificial feelings of self-esteem from being a helper.  Even though they want to love and be loved, they'll settle for being needed.

Many co-dependents have gone through experiences as children where the adults were out of control.  Therefore, codependents try to control events or people by manipulation, domination, financial control, guilt, 'superior' advice, or helplessness.  Co-dependents may overeat, take tranquilizers, become alcoholics, get depressed or sick, spend compulsively, become workaholics, believe lies told to them by people in their lives, and lie to themselves. Behavior patterns they learned in childhood, in order to survive, become their biggest obstacles to their own happiness.

If you are a codependent, you may act in any of the following ways in a relationship:

* Cling to anyone you think will make you happy or take care of you in some way.
* Feel extremely nervous about losing anyone you feel provides you with comfort or security of any kind.
* Believe love equals pain.
* Don't take enough time to see if someone is good for you.
* Look to the relationship to provide all your happiness.
* Center your life around other people and their needs, thinking you are being a good and generous person.
* Seek love from people who are incapable of loving you.
* Ask for what you need indirectly.
* Stay in relationships that don't work.
* Have poor boundaries.

How can you break the habits of codependency?  Do not despair.  Knowledge is power.  First, recognize the signs.  If you see yourself doing any of the above, it's time to start the basics of self-care.  It begins with changing one behavior at a time.  As 'care-takers' of others, you are detached from what you need, have lost touch with what you want, and have essentially abandoned your inner voice that tries to tell you what is good for you.

Make a list of your repeated behaviors that don't serve you.  Start with the easiest one to change.  It takes 30 days to build a new habit.  At the end of one month, start working on the next behavior you want to alter.  And never be afraid to look for help. You deserve a great life.

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