Codependency can be misunderstood because it is often thrown around colloquially, as in, “You’re so codependent!”
We’re raising awareness about codependency during January to give context to the seriousness of what is also called “relationship addiction.”
A codependent relationship was originally thought to occur between someone with a substance use disorder and his/her partner. In recent years, the definition has expanded to include any relationship that causes mental, physical, or emotional suffering.
According to Verywell Health, an online resource backed by a reputable medical board, “A codependent person puts their own needs aside and is hyper-vigilant about meeting the needs of another person—often to the point that their life revolves around that person. This creates a one-sided relationship that is destructive and dysfunctional for both people.”
Here’s where it gets interesting. Verywell Health believes that “codependence is thought to develop when a child grows up in a dysfunctional family environment where fear, anger, and shame go unacknowledged. The dynamic leads family members to withhold from expressing (repressing) their emotions and ignore their own needs.”
Childhood trauma always impacts adult relationships. Without awareness and action, codependence can become generational. That’s why this month of awareness is critical. Maybe this acronym will help:
Action I must take to keep my self-respect.
Wisdom to know when things are out of my control.
Alert myself to the role I play in the family drama.
Remind myself to think, not react to the addict’s behaviors.
Envision how I should behave, and follow through.
Nagging others with threats never works. It’s time to speak kindly to myself.
Enlighten my future with positive affirmations.
Share how codependent behavior restricts everyone’s freedom, including my own.
Set plans in place to change the things I can and pray for courage to carry them out. (Attribution: Diane Jellen)
Learn more about codependency at Mental Health America.