When I ask you to picture a codependent relationship, what comes up? Do you picture one spouse shouting to the other, “Please don’t leave me! I can’t live without you!”
Or do you think of someone who can’t function on their own and needs someone else to manage them?
Both of these examples are common but incomplete conceptions of codependence.
What is Codependence?
Codependency is a set of unhealthy patterns of behavior in relationships with others. A codependent individual may rely on others completely to get their needs met.
Conversely, codependence can also look like someone who needs to be needed in order to feel fulfilled, valuable, or worthy. This second illustration is someone who is more concerned about the well-being of others than their own health. They will work hard to avoid rejection or anger, and have trouble saying “no.”
The Codependents Anonymous website has a full list of the groups of behaviors that are common with people who struggle with codependence. Some of the more well-known items are caretaking, poor boundaries, and people pleasing.
So, what is healthy? As a practice that provides anxiety therapy in Atlanta, we regularly help people through harmful patterns of behavior.
Should I Strive for Total Independence?
Some people might think that the opposite of codependence is independence. While being more independent is helpful and healthy, striving to completely not need another person is unrealistic and unhealthy.
We are hardwired for connection, and healthy connections can help us reduce stress and loneliness. Healthy connections can also help us regulate ourselves and experience belonging.
Shame and vulnerability researcher Brene Brown states that “Belonging starts with self-acceptance.” Part of coming out of codependence is realizing that you have worth and value outside of being perfect or what you do for others.
Focus on Interdependence
Interdependence is about balance. There is a mutual and equal dependence on the other. Each person in the relationship recognizes that each has strengths that can help self and other.
When one is interdependent, they are secure in their worth and value. They do not need to try to be perfect or be overly available to others. They can both do things on their own and ask for help with what they need.
Therapy Can Help
If you’re struggling with boundaries, people pleasing, caretaking to your own detriment or needing to control the behavior of others, we want to help. Our anxiety therapy in Atlanta can help you identify your unhelpful patterns of behavior and teach strategies and techniques to help you overcome them.
Relationships are hard. We meet you with compassion and empathy to walk with you on a path to health and healing. Call us today.