Credit to Leigh Joy Mansell Pleydell – a co–dependency counsellor in Cape Town.

Co-dependency is an addiction to people – especially partners and family members, where a co-dependent may feel as if  he or she cannot function independently without the other person in question.

It is characterized by denial patterns, low self-esteem patterns, compliance patterns and control patterns.

Co-dependents desire validation through being needed and rescuing others.  They also desire secure relationships and yet conversely their greatest fears are realized through emotional abandonment and abuse of their vulnerability.

Co-dependents are attracted to individuals who need parenting (addicted or dysfunctional and in need of rescuing, much like the co-dependent’s parents were).

Co-dependency is the misplaced belief that control of people and external events will induce happiness. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship.

Co-dependency is a generational and cultural epidemic. The co-dependent is driven by different compulsions (addictions included) and people with co-dependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. The co-dependent is bound and tormented by the way things were in the family of origin and self-esteem is often a stumbling block for the codependent. The co-dependent feels over responsible for others through care taking and enabling behaviours’.

Characteristics of a co-dependent relationship include:

  • rescuing people in crisis,
  • remaining in a relationship even when it’s evidently unsatisfactory,
  • making excuses for their partner to hide the truth from others,
  • feelings of intense fear when facing the prospect of necessary behavioral change,
  • an obsessive focus on what their partner is doing or not doing,
  • a tendency to take on their partners problems as their own,
  • a propensity to try to control the perceptions of others (people pleasing),
  • they do not trust their own ideas, feelings, needs or beliefs and do not stand by their own opinions,
  • they try to make themselves indispensable to others and take care of things that people can actually do for themselves,
  • they play the martyr,
  • they put up with intolerable situations because they think they have to,
  • they are skilled at controlling others and yet this usually fails because it’s an impossible task,
  • they’re out of touch with their own true feelings,
  • they’re easily led and manipulated,
  • they are fearful,
  • they are rigid and judgmental – often feeling angry and resentful.

Co-dependents try to control the addict’s behaviour yet sometimes they also enable the addict to stay addicted.

The process of a codependent’s relationship with an addict may include the following behaviors’:

  • they may want to possess the addict,
  • they can become frustrated when the addicts’ behaviour is more extreme than they want,
  • they stay enslaved to the relationship because they are too afraid to leave.

Equally, it’s also possible that if an addict is in recovery – the co-dependent could move onto a different addict where their rescuing skills are needed and appreciated. The other connotation of an addict being in recovery is the co-dependent doesn’t actually want the addict to heal as their position as the rescuer will become obsolete.

Learning to set healthy boundaries (emotional, sexual, physical, mental and spiritual) is a critical aspect of recovery from codependency.  Additionally, it is vital to teach a codependent to take responsibility for his or her feelings.

Research has claimed that the recovery rate for an addict/ alcoholic is about 10%, after treatment this rate increases by 76%, when their loved ones also get help with their co-dependent issues.

Recovery for co-dependents is vital to the success of a healthy relationship to be developed between the recovering addict/alcoholic and the loved ones.

Often the co-dependent feels resentful when the addict goes into treatment because they feel abandoned and again they have to pick up the pieces while the addict is in treatment, as the family member has to take care of all the responsibilities at home.  This resentment can hamper the addict’s chances of getting clean and sober and even cause the deterioration of the marriage.  However, if the co-dependent also goes into treatment there is a greater chance that the relationship can be healed.

Often it is said by the co-dependent that they wish their partners would use and drink again because they have become so difficult in recovery.  This is because the addict doesn’t need rescuing anymore and the co-dependent is encouraged to live their own lives and not continue to control the addict’s life.  The loss of purpose is very overwhelming for the co-dependent.  Through their own recovery the co-dependents goes onto to live a very profound life. They experience more joy and their relationships thrives.

Co-dependents like to control people, places and things because their inner world feels so out of control.  By controlling their outer world they gain a delusional sense of being in balance.  However, in recovery they learn to surrender and let go and let God.

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