Being a codependent is exhausting. We spend a lot of energy trying to second guess someone’s next action or attitude (or lack thereof), and it’s a full time job. Trying to cover for an addict is difficult too. It feels humiliating and after a while, people stop believing our excuses and then shame can set in. If you are not sure whether you are codependent, take a look at the following statements and ask yourself honestly if any of them apply to your life.
1. “I should have been there for him/her. It’s my fault.” When an addict or abuser gets out of control with drinking, using, or violence, codependents take on the responsibility of the outcome. They think that if they had only just been there that they could have calmed the addict down, kept him/her from that last drink or driven their loved one home so he/she didn’t get pulled over. Codependents also often get blamed or manipulated into feeling the addict’s guilt.
2. “I have to look perfect every day to keep my relationship.” Do you take diet pills to stay thin? Everyone wants to look their best at any given time. Our bodies do change and in a healthy relationship that is perfectly acceptable. If you think that you may lose your mate if you don’t look perfect all the time, that’s a warning sign of codependency. Do not let yourself become addicted to appetite suppressants or anything else in order to be accepted.
3. “As long as he/she is happy, that’s all that matters. I’m fine.” If you are trying to convince yourself that doing something that you don’t really want to for your loved one is acceptable, it isn’t. Working two jobs because someone else keeps getting fired or spending money you don’t have, and tolerating drinking and using that you don’t participate in or enjoy is overwhelming and painful. You should not have to tolerate any of it.
4. “He/She promised not to do that anymore and means it this time.” Denial is a large indication of codependency. You don’t want to believe your significant other has broken another promise to stop cheating, drinking too much, gambling, or taking drugs, so you rationalize staying with them by telling yourself or others that you don’t see it happening. However, too many times you only end up making a false promise to yourself—or a short-lived one, at best.
5. “He/she needs to see how much they are hurting me.” This behavior often follows the above. After discovering that your partner is continuing in an addictive pattern, you scream, cry, overact and make a scene—all in the place of actually leaving him/her and the terrible situation. Most often, your feelings are either dismissed or you are placated long enough to forgive them and suffer when they do it again. This behavior in particular is dangerous for those in codependent relationships because your self-esteem can suffer immeasurably. Thoughts or attempts of suicide or other self-harm in order to get your point across or trying to manipulate someone into proving their love to you is a dangerous game that has no winners.
6. “I don’t really like to drink or use, but I’ll just do it to keep the peace.” Point blank: drinking or getting high to keep things happy and peaceful in a relationship is unhealthy behavior. Thinking you can take this kind of lifestyle long-term is also a mistake. No matter what we have been told, we do not have to compromise our emotions for someone else’s pleasure.
7. “The children don’t really understand what is happening.” Children need stability and someone to watch over them. From their perspective, what parents are doing is teaching them what being an adult looks like. Do not be fooled into believing that you’re hiding anything from kids of most any age. You are the most powerful influence in their lives and that responsibility must be taken seriously.
8. “He/she would not make it without me. I have to stay.” Have you ever attempted to leave a codependent relationship and your loved one tells you that they cannot go on without you and promise change? And because this is exactly what you have been waiting for, to feel so important to them, you actually believe it? This is likely a ploy to control you in order to keep things exactly the way they are.
9. “Nobody understands our relationship.” This is a very common pattern in codependency. We tell ourselves that our relationship is special and only the two of you understand each other. It may seem better if you don’t interact with outsiders very much because it upsets the balance between you. If we behave a certain way they will change soon or maybe that we don’t deserve anything better than what is in front of us.
10. “I obsess and worry about them.” Trying to think something into existence is not sane thinking. Obsessing over when the phone will ring or whether someone went to work today will not make it happen. We believe that if we spend all of our time focusing on someone else’s problem we can make it right. Honestly, we can only do this for ourselves. No one is focusing on us this much, are they? Admitting to yourself that you might be codependent is not a flaw. It is actually a very good first step in the right direction. Self-acknowledgement can be very enlightening and many people feel a huge weight lifted off of their shoulders knowing they are not crazy after all. Take care of yourself and find a happy future.