There are many definitions used to talk about codependency today. In the past, the word codependency was overused, becoming a definition for a person who is weak, passive, and needy in relationships. To the contrary codependent behavior is an attempt to manage your environment and relationships in order to feel safe and in control. Codependency is a general term; it represents an entire range of feelings, beliefs and behaviors.

The main characteristic is a big focus on another person. This is usually your spouse, significant other. You might be saying, “What is the big deal about focusing on the one you love?” Nothing is wrong with giving your attention, time and love to someone else. However, this behavior becomes unhealthy when you forgo your own needs and desires in the relationship. Relationships are give and take, so when you give and give without receiving, you are setting yourself up for unhappiness.

Typically, a codependent comes from a family that did not meet their emotional needs met. Codependence is a life strategy designed to find the love we need in unsafe, difficult, or unavailable relationships.

Patterns and Characteristics of Codependency

These patterns and characteristics are offered as a tool to aid in self-evaluation. If you identify with these characteristics please explore the resources provided below.

Denial Patterns:
I have difficulty identifying what I am feeling.
I minimize, alter or deny how I truly feel.
I perceive myself as completely unselfish and dedicated to the well-being of others.

Low Self-esteem Patterns:
I have difficulty making decisions.
I judge everything I think, say or do harshly, as never “good enough.”
I am embarrassed to receive recognition and praise or gifts.
I do not ask others to meet my needs or desires.
I value others’ approval of my thinking, feelings and behavior over my own.

Compliance Patterns:
I have difficulty saying “no”.
I compromise my own values and integrity to avoid rejection or others’ anger.
I am very sensitive to how others are feeling.
I am extremely loyal, remaining in unhealthy situations too long.
I value others’ opinions and feelings more than my own and I rarely express differing opinions and feelings.
I put aside my own interests and hobbies in order to do what others want.
I accept sex when I want love.

Control Patterns:
I withhold my feelings and thoughts in order to navigate a difficult situation
I believe most other people are incapable of taking care of themselves.
I attempt to convince others of what they “should” think and how they “truly” feel.
I become resentful when others will not let me help them.
I freely offer advice and directions without being asked.
I lavish gifts and favors on those I care about.
I use sex to gain approval and acceptance.
I have to be “needed” in order to have a relationship with others.

Here are the steps for recovery:

Go for help. A reputable therapist or recovery group is a very important tool here, because others can help you see your own codependent behavior and attitudes in ways you may not see yourself. Codependents Anonymous (CODA) is a free group which meets in many places around the country.

Make recovery a first priority. Codependency is insidious; you may recognize yourself in the symptoms, then deny their importance, or deny that they apply to you after all. You may decide to change and then time after time, find
yourself doing the same old things. Making recovery a first priority means outlining your destructive behaviors, finding alternative behaviors, and then implementing them! It means seeking support, challenging yourself, talking
with others about changing, and then changing!

Stop managing and controlling others. This is a big challenge, but an important one. Here, you stop telling others what to do, how to live, what is wrong or right with them. You stop intervening, helping, advising, trying to make things better, trying to fix it, and trying to force a solution. You simply stop. You allow this other person to make his or her own decisions; for right or for wrong, you let them live their own life. This means they take responsibility for their own mistakes, their future, their unhappiness, their issues, and their own growth.

Read some books. Melodie Beattie and Pia Mellody are two of my favorite authors in the field.

By: Sevin Philips , Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

The pattern list in this article is from, The Recovery Patterns of Codependency. Website Co-Dependents Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women whose common purpose is to develop healthy relationships and is not affiliated with any other 12 step program.