Enabling and CodependencyQUESTION: Enabling and codependency - Am I in a codependent relationship?ANSWER:
Enabling and codependency often go together. How can one know if they are involved in a codependent relationship? Codependency is an emotional disorder affecting persons from all walks of life. One need only take a close look at their motivations and their expectations of people in their lives to begin to determine if they are codependent.
Codependent people are often from households with members who are involved in destructive behaviors such as alcoholism or drug addiction. They may have family members or loved ones who are mentally ill or chronically sick. The co-dependent person may be a spouse, parent, or care giver. They have been faced with the unhealthy behavior of the family member, and in an attempt to deal with it, have themselves developed unhealthy habits and behavior patterns.
Are you happier or more gratified when you are doing for others than when you do for yourself? Do you feel guilty spending time, money, or resources on your own projects instead of devoting time to others' needs? Do you take on the problems and cares of others with vigor and become stressed if you cannot solve their problems? Are you annoyed and angry if people don't give you the thanks and accolades you secretly feel you deserve for all the good things you have done for them? If you answer "yes" to these questions, you may be in a codependent relationship.
People who are codependent, thrive on the weaknesses and needs of others. They take unrealistic responsibility for the actions of others, always feeling they can somehow manipulate the person or situation and bring about a positive change. A woman living with a physically or verbally abusive spouse may feel that if she can only be good enough and just do better maybe her husband will treat her differently. Her husband is not being held accountable for his negative behavior as the wife attempts to do better; therefore the situation is perpetuated and help is not sought.
Codependents may appear to, or even fool themselves into thinking that they are loving and kind and giving. However, they seek out or "enjoy" relationships with "victims" as these kinds of relationships help them to feel good about themselves. Their acts of kindness are a means of control and manipulation. They exert enormous amounts of energy trying to "help" the victim; if the victim gets better, it does not really meet their aim. They need to feel "needed" and useful thus enabling the victim to remain in their unhealthy situation. Most codependent people gain their sense of self worth from their relationship to the needy person or abusive relative. They feel magnanimous by lavishing all of their time and attention on the other person, never looking at or filling the hole in their personality.
Codependent people have difficulty saying no. They do and give even when it is irresponsible to do so. Do you have a child or loved-one who abuses drugs or alcohol and you realize that their request for funds is only going to be used towards financing their bad habit? Is it impossible for you to turn the person down because you just want to be kind and maybe your kindness will make them feel better? This is a common symptom of the perpetual cycle of codependency and enabling.
The way to receive help in these kinds of relationships is to first recognize that there is a problem. The codependent person needs counseling and therapy and should immediately seek help once they have been able to admit that they are in an unhealthy relationship.