We’re all addicts. Our drug of choice just differs. For some it’s alcohol or work, for others it’s gambling or sex—but in my decade of experience as a hypnotherapist—I’ve found that love is the most powerful of all addictions. It’s no surprise then, that the term codependency was coined by Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1950s to describe the partners of alcoholics as being “addicted to the addict.”
Codependency is an addiction to love. One that puts self-sacrifice above self-worth, and keeps partners trapped in one-sided, abusive and destructive relationships.
Let us unpack the common signs of codependency and explore the root causes so you can start to take the steps towards healthy, interdependent relationships rooted in self love.
In this article, we will look at:
- Top 10 signs of codependency in relationships
- Why we enter codependent relationships — Top 4 causes
- Interdependent Relationships — The secret to attracting healthy love
- Overcoming codependency – 4 methods to build an interdependent relationship with your partner
Top 10 signs of codependency in relationships
Humans are hardwired for connection. The quality of these connections is a direct reflection of our own self-worth. This is exactly where codependency begins…
In relationships, codependency refers to a person who is dependent on someone else to define their sense of self-worth.
Below are the most common ways codependency shows up in our romantic relationships. However, you will probably find many of these patterns also carry over into our relationships at work, with friends and in everyday life.
- Betraying yourself or your own needs in order to be accepted by your partner [i.e. neglecting self care, avoiding time with friends, etc.]
- Engaging in harmful behaviour [emotionally, physically] to please your partner
- Struggle setting boundaries and holding partners accountable
- Excessive perfectionism and people pleasing behavior with your partner
- Separation anxiety and constant fear of abandonment from your partner
- Obsessive focus on your partner’s behaviour [i.e. snooping through phone, suspecting of cheating, etc.]
- Overshare or overgive emotionally, financially, physically to your partner
- Overly controlling or nagging of partner
- Insecure and in need of reassurance, low self-esteem [i.e. constantly comparing, judgment, self-criticism]
- Constantly feel the need to be in a relationships [quickly jump from one to the next, struggles being alone]
While codependency can manifest in different ways in adult life, the cause is often traced back to the same place—childhood.
Why we enter codependent relationships — Top 4 causes
The roots of codependency start in childhood, defined by our parents and early experiences. When you do not experience a stable, supportive and nurturing environment, you lack the ability to cultivate healthy self-love and self-esteem.
In turn, you seek another person to define your own sense of self. This creates an insecure attachment style that causes emotional addiction and self-abandonment—further perpetuating codependency.
The root cause
For those trapped in this toxic cycle, the root cause is often one of nature, nurture, or a mix of both:
1. Overprotective parents
These are typically people that say “I had the perfect childhood, I don’t get what’s wrong with me.” When this parenting happens, they remove too much risk or adversity from the child’s life in order to avoid rejection. There is often a lot of guilt and pressure put on the child to please the parents with the partners they choose – putting their desires second.
2. Under-protective parents
These codependents struggle the most with abandonment. They often describe themselves as “latch key kids” who had workaholics as parents. This causes the child to be overly independent and overly giving – carrying that into relationships which often put them in a position to be taken advantage of.
3. Childhood trauma/wounded inner-child
While these codependency wounds most often come from parenting—friends, peers, teachers, mentors also have a major impact. Whether you experienced emotional or physical abuse, bullying, rejection—they impress upon the subconscious mind, which forms until age 12—and these experiences ultimately shape our self-esteem and self-worth. They show up in adulthood as a wounded inner child – seeking approval and validation at the expense of their true desires and needs.
4. Genetics — Addicted or mentally ill parents
If you grew up with a parent suffering from addiction, you got a front row seat into codependency. The term was first created to describe the relationship between an addict and their drug. Research has found children raised by parents suffering from mental illness like anxiety, depression, NPD [narcissistic personality disorder], or BPD [borderline personality disorder] are at a greater risk of codependent relationships.
Interdependent relationships — The secret to attracting healthy love
The cure to codependency is interdependence.
Interdependence forms when partners recognise and value the bond they share while maintaining a positive sense of self within the dynamic. The complete opposite of codependency, partners encourage personal development, autonomy and growth as individuals. In healthy, interdependent relationships, partners do not rely on each other for feelings of self-worth. It’s a perfect balance, where the connection comes without compromise.
Below are some of the common signs of healthy, interdependent relationships:
- You both invest ample time in personal interests — do not feel guilt, shame or sacrifice when doing so
- You engage in healthy, two-sided communication that validates each other’s feelings
- You feel safe being honest and vulnerable with each other
- You find personal fulfillment through your own interests and accomplishments as well as the relationship.
If you seek more trust, freedom and individuality in your relationship, interdependency is the answer.
Overcoming codependency — 4 methods to build an interdependent relationship with your partner
Codependence says – “I need you. I can’t be without you. You make me better.”
Interdependence says – “I want you. We make a great team. You inspire me to be better.”
The path to independence starts when you commit to self-love.
4 methods to heal your relationship with yourself and attract a healthy partner
Consider any of the following four methods to heal the relationship with yourself and attract healthy, interdependent partners:
1. Explore inner child work to heal past trauma
Revisiting past childhood trauma or beliefs systems will help you understand the root cause of patterns you are recreating in adulthood. This work focuses on reprogramming the subconscious blocks keeping you tied to unhealthy relationship patterns and repairing your self esteem.
2. Clearly define your desires, values and non-negotiables with partners
Before you can commit to a partner, you need to commit to yourself as an individual. All too often, we feel unworthy of our desires or core needs and accept the bare minimum. Explore journaling or vision boarding to connect to your wants. What matters most to you? What are some of your core beliefs? What do you value? Be upfront with your needs and expectations.
3. Engage in healthy self talk and affirmations with yourself
The basis for interdependence is defined by the relationship you have with yourself. This requires daily nurturing and attention. Take as little as 20 minutes a day, just for you. Explore positive affirmations, meditation, mirror work. Write yourself a love letter, show yourself the love, worthiness and respect you want to receive from others.
4. Practice vulnerability with your partner
The key to an interdependent relationship is vulnerability—feeling you can turn to your partner for intimacy, support, and affection without the fear or control. Schedule regular check-in’s with your partner. Share your fears, discuss your hopes, ask for what you need, try something new together.
Our ability to attract healthy love is a direct reflection of our ability to love ourselves. Committing to a path of self-love is a process, and awareness is the first step. If you’re on the path to recovery from codependency my best advice is this: start small, take it slow and stay consistent.
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