In this blog we are focusing on codependency, or a codependent in a narcissist relationship, but not so much codependent relationships. We will talk about that in a future blog.
What is Codependency (Codependent)?
The definition of codependency (via Oxford Languages): Excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one who requires support on account of an illness or addiction.
In my experience, this ‘illness or addiction’ that a codependent may support in others, includes the bolstering of narcissistic behaviors.
Codependency in a relationship often affects a person’s innate ability to have a healthy relationship. These relationships can look good from the outside looking in, while the codependent typically silently struggles to maintain the relationship that is one-sided (i.e., with a narcissist), manipulative, and frequently is emotionally toxic and/or abusive.
If you are codependent you may feel as if you must keep others happy, and this comes at a price, a risk, and most often a sacrifice to your own needs and peace in life.
Codependents Lack Healthy Boundaries
If you are codependent, you may lack healthy boundaries.
You may fail to recognize that you are not responsible for the happiness of others in your life.
If you are codependent you may have poor self-esteem, and this may lead you to feel that your sole purpose is to please others. Your self-esteem dips if or when you cannot help others. This typically happens when the codependent is rejected (i.e., someone refuses their help), or when the codependent cannot help a person or a situation for whatever reason (life happens). To a codependent, the inability to step in and fix or help is like cutting off a vital air supply.
Codependent Caretaker Role
If you are codependent, your lack of self-esteem may lead you to feel miserable when someone you care for is not happy. This typically initiates feelings of guilt, or a sense of personal responsibility, and it can stir up an overwhelming desire for you to caretake.
Codependency and caretaking is a mentally and emotionally unhealthy mix.
In a narcissistic relationship, codependents feed the narcissist’s need for attention, admiration, and control. The codependent loses out in life as their needs are buried and ignored in this relationship…a relationship that does not contain a healthy and loving dose of give and take. In a codependent/narcissistic relationship, one constantly battles and seeks being fed from the other.
Do you know someone that you resist sharing your life challenges with? You avoid because you do not want them (the codependent) to jump in with unsolicited advice, or to get in their car and be on your doorstep immediately? Or to research your problem (online) and come up with various diagnoses, or multiple ways to ‘fix’ you? It is as if this codependent person doesn’t believe you have a mind of your own. As an adult, you more than likely want to take care of yourself, but as a human, you are social, and you want to share how you feel, however, you avoid sharing your problems with someone with codependent traits.
Unhealthy Emotional Responses
A codependent’s emotional response to everyday situations is often more intense compared to others. This typically results in feelings of hurt, rejection, and defensiveness. This is exasperated as others push away from the codependent in the light that they are ‘not dependent upon his/her help.’
Codependents lose touch with their own wants and needs as they maintain a focus to please others. This is not the normal ‘I have your back, my friend,’ retainage of a relationship, instead, the codependent’s mental well-being takes last place in life with no healthy boundaries.
Woven into a codependent’s lack of healthy boundaries (i.e., ‘I must take care of others, or I do not exist) is a craving for closeness with others, as well as an interesting holding back and hiding of their own emotions and feelings to avoid rejection and conflict, which leaves major holes in the building of healthy relationships.
Dependency vs Codependency
As humans, we all need each other. We are social beings. This is a shared need. We need people, a support system who listens and is here for us.
We are all mentally ‘dependent,’ to a degree. Some of us are introverts (needing a lesser amount of interaction), and some are extroverts (needing a greater amount of interaction), but our mental health is boosted by human involvement despite our personality traits.
Self-worth for a codependent is often dependent upon hearing about other’s needs, which can (consciously or not) deliver a boost to the codependent’s ego, or their sense of mental well-being, as the empty spot (needing to help others) is filled.
Fear of abandonment frequently plays into mental dependency. This particular fear often stems from traumatic childhood events like divorce, death, and abuse. (If this describes you, please seek professional mental health care. There is nothing wrong with seeking help. There is NO shame in taking care of YOU!)
Do you know the difference between dependent and codependent? I love this description (from MedicalNewsToday) – Dependent: Both people can express their emotions and needs and find ways to make the relationship beneficial for both of them. Codependent: One person feels that their desires and needs are unimportant and will not express them. They may have difficulty recognizing their own feelings or needs at all.
A dependent can be one or both partners in a relationship, and both partners can express their emotions and needs. A codependent is one person in a relationship who will not express their emotions and needs, and may not recognize that they have their own feelings or needs at all.
Help for a Codependent
How do you help yourself with traits of codependency?
You can seek counseling or therapy. Bear with me as I repeat myself, there is nothing wrong with seeking help. There is NO shame in taking care of YOU! Know that coaches have wonderful listening ears, and we are trained an experienced at helping you get from point A to point B, but if that involves helping you fix something therapeutically from your past, we stick with our code of ethics and send you to someone licensed to provide treatment.
Beyond counseling or therapy, what can you do for your codependency traits?
Openly talk with others in your support system. Your support system should be people that you can trust. People that listen without judging. People that unconditionally care for you and will be honest with you. People that do not release your confidential personal business.
The biggest gain you will receive through talking with others is that you release your emotions and your needs, desires, and wants. You are not burying your emotions and needs as you might (often do) when you only tend to the needs of others. You take care of yourself when you do this!
Develop a mindset of awareness. Know when you are putting the needs of others in front of your own emotions and needs. Develop an awareness of when you are neglecting your own mental and physical health.
Set boundaries. Set healthy boundaries that will ensure you avoid pleasing others when you are at the point of ignoring and sacrificing yourself.
Set boundaries that ensure you are aware of when you are over-responding emotionally (feeling hurt, rejected, or defensive). Note, you have to develop an awareness of these things before you can set boundaries.
The boundaries sound like this: I can do what I can do for her/him, but if I cannot help, I will not feel (hurt, rejected, defensive), because I know that I do the best that I can do in life! I am worthy of taking care of myself!
Your boundaries (to avoid codependency trails) look like an internal alarm system. When the door opens (I feel hurt, I feel compelled to help, or compelled to run and ‘fix’ someone else’s situation), the internal alarm goes off. The boundary involves shutting the door when your need to help others is greater than taking care of yourself. When the door shuts, you are left to take care of your mental and physical health (and that is more than OKAY).
Take Care of You
Love yourself. Sometimes we experience abuse or toxic relationships, and we don’t understand what is mentally happening to us until much later. So, give yourself grace, patience, and again, love yourself.
One last, but most important thing — abuse is never right, and abuse is never okay.
I would love for you to share your story in the comments. The more we share, the more we can help others. Have you had experiences in life a codependent, or have you personally dealt with traits of codependency? What steps did you take to heal?
Action Step: Prayer Time for Women: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Heavenly Father, Please forgive the sinful times I have put others before you. I have been weak in taking care of myself. This vessel and mind that you have given me in life have been neglected. I seek increased wisdom so that I will know when to help others, and when to simply love through listening. I realize my entry into heaven is not dependent upon my 'good works,' but it is dependent upon my faith, my belief and acceptance of you, as well as my sheer obedience. Help me to strengthen as a saint...to be obedient to you, and not to the worldly ways of man. In Jesus' Name, Amen Pray for healing. Pray for help. Pray for forgiveness of sins. Pray for wisdom. Remember, prayer — seek, knock, believe, and you will find.
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