What is co-dependency?

The first step to healing co-dependent behavior is being able to recognize co-dependency in relationships.   This can be confusing as there is a healthy aspect of relationships where we are mutually dependent on each other. We naturally want to express our love and help people we care about. The unhealthy aspect of co-dependency is when the caring or expression is at your own expense- where you consistently think of yourself last and don’t consider your own needs…Sometimes you can be so used to doing it that you don’t even know you are left out. You won’t know until you find yourself burnt out, unhappy, angry or resentful. The behavior can have a compulsive quality to it – it is just what you do…
For example, someone asks you out to dinner because they want to connect with you. Without even thinking if it works for you or not, you just say ‘Yes’. You may not realize till later that you were really too tired to enjoy it and another nite may have worked out better. That is the compulsivity always thinking of the other without stopping to consider yourself.
At other times, there may be a controlling aspect to it. You may unconsciously do it – be overly helpful, knowing or directing – to keep things in control. You don’t trust that if you don’t do it, things may get out of control or it will not be done right. But this way of being in the world can lead to feeling exhausted and under-appreciated. You may wonder why people don’t take care of you in the same way you take care of them. This is how resentment can get stored and create a general feeling of deprivation and unhappiness. Basically co-dependency can take the joy out of giving. It is possible to change! It is possible to have more choices and to consider yourself when interacting with others. Recognizing how each one of us contributes to creating the problem is the first step toward recovery….
Marlena Kushner, MFT
Women’s Therapy Services


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