Codependent Relationships and Losing Your Self Identity
When it comes to the term codependent relationships, most people are quick to dismiss it simply because they do not think it is a real term or do not want to believe that they could be in this type of relationship. When we look at the definition of what codependent relationships are, it is safe to say most of us have been in a codependent relationship at some point in our lives, whether it be a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, friend, or family member.
Codependent relationships, in definition, are a type of dysfunctional helping relationship. In this relationship, one person supports or enables the other person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement. An example of a codependent relationship would be a wife working a full-time job and coming home to also complete the household chores, while her husband sits around playing video games and does nothing else. He keeps promising his wife that he is looking for a job, but cannot seem to find one and brushes off the household chores as nothing that really matters. The wife is enabling her husband to act this way. She goes about her daily routine, hoping he will get a job, but will not confront the situation head, for fear of starting an argument. This behavior then allows the husband to sit at home and keep doing exactly what he wants. Why does the wife stay with him? This is what codependent relationships are all about. It’s a dysfunctional helping relationship. The wife truly believes that the husband will change and continues to support him. What she does not realize is the stress and strain she is putting on herself. She is losing her self identity in order to please her husband, by working and coming home to do the chores. The wife does not realize that she has not talked to her mother, went to lunch with her friends, or even had the time to complete one of her hobbies, like painting. She has lost all sense of identity and does not even realize it.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with a female that just ended a codependent relationship and she stated, “You just don’t realize how much they suck you in. It’s horrible now that I look back.” She was with her husband for 20 years before she realized what she was doing was not normal.
When drugs and/or alcohol are involved, the situation is even more dangerous. Addicts know how to manipulate people into hearing what they want to hear. They will say all the right things to make you content, but not doing what you want them to do. For example, let’s say a girl has a boyfriend that is using drugs. She may want to hide this information from her family, so she lies for her boyfriend and defends him immediately when someone questions his behavior. She will do anything to protect him, because she believes she is in love and needs him. In reality, the boyfriend is using her to support himself. While he may have feelings for her, if the girlfriend does not do what he wants, he will simply find another person who will do what he wants. If he cannot find someone else who puts up with his behavior, he will try every tactic in the book to get her back, including lying about getting a real job, lying about the fact that he stopped abusing drugs, or even making you feel guilty about leaving him.
How Do You Know if You Are in a Codependent Relationship?
Ask yourself these following questions:
Are you unable to find satisfaction in your life outside of that specific person?
For example, are you absolutely bored if you are not with that person or talking to that person? Are you no longer doing activities that you thought were fun, because that person does not want to do them?
Do you recognize unhealthy behaviors in this person, but stay with them anyways?
For example, are you lying to yourself about this person doing drugs, or making excuses for them?
Are you supporting this person at the cost of your own mental, emotional, and physical health?
For example, are you working multiple jobs and not doing anything fun for yourself, because your money and time are going towards this person?
Codependent relationships cause you to become burned out, exhausted, and you begin to neglect other important relationships like family members or friends. As they say it is easier to burn a bridge than build it. It’s important to spend time with family and friends, to widen your circle of support. Also find your own hobbies that interest you. Creating a healthy dependence will help throughout your life in general.