The majority of people have heard the term codependent, but have no idea what it means. Many times, codependency is incorrectly referred to as a person who is overly needy in their romantic relationships. Being overly needy can be a trait of some codependents, but there is much more to this damaging type of relationship than just this single trait. It's vital for people to understand that codependency is much more complex than just a single symptom or sense of neediness. In fact, many "needy" people aren't codependent, and many codependent people don't act needy at all. By the end of this article, the goal is that you'll have a better understanding of codependent relationships and what makes them up.
Many people don't know that the term codependent didn't even exist before the 1970's. Codependent behavior has been around a lot longer, it just wasn't diagnosed. Quite a few years ago, some counseling professionals began to pay attention to similar traits that were exhibited by the family of many alcoholics. What was happening was that many of these family members were spending the bulk of their time dealing with the problems that their loved one's addiction was causing. At first, people who exhibited these traits were referred to by therapists as co-alcoholics. At some point, mental health professionals started to realize that a person didn't need to be in a relationship with an alcoholic to behave in a codependent manner and the term was changed.
Codependency can be confusing because it covers a lot of unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns. However, some of the prevalent characteristics of someone who is codependent include:
- Codependents usually find their self-worth from their role in a relationship and don't feel they have any when on their own.
- Codependents often take an inordinate amount of their time trying to fix others, usually people who don't want to be fixed at all.
Unfortunately, codependents are not able to have fulfilling relationships as long as they continue to display unhealthy behaviors. There is good news as well! Codependency is a behavior that is learned. That means that new, healthier, behaviors can also be learned. The bad news is that unless a codependent person admits and is ready to deal with their issues, the cycle will continue and their relationships will continue to be unhealthy and to fail.
Codependents are not bad people! Usually, they are goodhearted people who choose unhealthy behaviors and care deeply for others, sometimes too much. Unfortunately, what usually happens is that they don't believe that they are worth being cared about - by themselves or others. If this information rings true with you, now is a great time to learn more so you can start making changes that will allow you to have happier and healthier relationships in your future.