Kathy was an addict, but she wasn’t addicted to drugs or alcohol. Kathy was addicted to relationships. She was codependent, hooked into an endless cycle of rescuing and fixing all the dysfunctional people in her life.
What is codependency? According to Melody Beattie, a codependent is a person who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.
Kathy was the responsible child growing up. Her father was an alcoholic with a bad temper. Her job was to take care of her mother and keep the secret. This left Kathy anxious and afraid to speak up for herself. She learned to stuff her feelings and keep the peace at all costs. She thought marriage was her ticket out of an unhappy home; unfortunately, she married an alcoholic.
Following the same patterns of caretaking she learned from her family, Kathy rescued her husband from responsibility by doing everything for him. She kept the peace, made excuses, and prevented him from suffering the consequences of his behavior. In time, she became angry. The problem was she didn’t know any other way to function. She was hooked.
Kathy’s dysfunctional patterns were evident in other relationships. She needed to be needed, couldn’t say no to anyone, and never asked for what she needed. She felt angry if people weren’t there for her.
If any of this sounds familiar, you may have some codependent patterns. How can you tell, and what can you do about it?
First you must notice your relationship patterns.
Red flags of codependency:
- Feeling responsible for the needs of others
- Fixing, rescuing or caretaking to the detriment of your own well-being
- Feeling angry when help isn’t received with appreciation
- Feeling angry when others don’t reciprocate
- Looking for value in others
- Denying your own feelings and needs
- Attraction to needy people
Codependents like Kathy often have low self-worth causing them to get into dysfunctional relationships. They feel:
- Guilty when they get angry at others
- Afraid to make others angry
- Inadequate to care for themselves
- Must tolerate abuse to keep people loving them
- Trapped in bad relationships
- Desperate for love
- Others are never there for them
- Bored and empty
- Must please others at their own expense
Most codependents believe that if they keep trying, loving, and controlling, people in their lives will eventually get fixed. It rarely happens.
What’s the solution? A shift in dependence.
- Remove others from the altar of your life
- Own your own feelings
- Trust your ability to make decisions
- Ask for what YOU need
- Stop making others your source of happiness
- Take care of YOU
- Stop enabling
- Set boundaries
- Learn to say no
Tackling your codependent patterns may seem overwhelming. Start by focusing on one behavior at a time. Restoring balance to your life won’t happen overnight, but it is possible. Don’t quit. Allow for setbacks. Discover your individual self and be good to her!
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Rita Schulte is a licensed professional board certified counselor. She received her B.S. in psychology and a master’s degree in counseling from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Rita has a private practice with offices in Fairfax and Manassas Virginia where she specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, anxiety and depressive disorders as well as grief and loss issues. In April, 2011 she launched “Heartline Podcast” where she talks with top leaders in the Christian counseling and literary world about cutting edge issues affecting the hearts and lives of people today. She also airs a 1 minute devotional spot Consider This on 90.5 FM in NC and 90.9 FM in Lynchburg, VA. Heartline airs on Saturday evenings on 90.5 FM NC and will be heard on Christian Life Internet Radio in the coming months. Her book, Sifted As Wheat: finding hope and healing through the losses of life is currently with Hartline Literary Agency. You can follow her at http://www.siftedaswheat.com or Twitter at Heartlinepod.
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5 thoughts on “Are you hooked?”
This post so resonates with me, for two reasons. First, that was me! Second, I’m on the other side now (for the most part!). I was working with a client a year or so ago who clearly had this problem. As we were getting to know each other, she would talk about her dependent relationship as if this was just a fact, not a problem. As we built trust, I challenged her on it. She felt overwhelmed and wondered how she could possibly become an independent person. I told her we would work on “one behavior at a time,” as you wrote above. I agree that sometimes there is so much going on that it seems to hard to tackle any of it, but making concrete steps to changing “one thing” gives us hope and spurs us on towards building a life that is free of codependence. Great post Rita!
You’ve done a good job of describing me in my last marriage. I am working on a number of the suggestions you list. Thank you for this post and the list of suggestions. It gives me validation about where I have been and where I am going.
So cool you saw the patterns Sarah. Keep up the good work!
Great Sarah, keep up the good work!