Codependent Relationships & How to Navigate Them
Is there someone in your life who you look to for all decisions, big and small? Do you do everything in your power to make your partner happy, without considering your own needs? You may be in a codependent relationship.
What’s the definition of a codependent relationship?
While there are many components and ways to define a codependent relationship, these relationships are typically characterized when one person’s emotional state takes priority over the other’s. It can happen within a romantic relationship, between adult family members, or in a friendship. One person engages in people-pleasing so much that they begin to heavily rely on the other person to make decisions for them and know what’s best for them.
Some questions to ask about your relationships are:
1. Do I feel like I have value and respect in this friendship?
2. Is there a mutual give-and-take in this friendship?
3. Am I compromising more than I would like in this friendship? (time, attention, other friendships, etc.)
4. Can I be my full-self in this friendship? (feelings, identity, etc.)
5. Do I act like I’m fine to keep the other person happy?
While attachment styles are distinct from codependency, an anxious attachment style also fits some of the criteria for the “enabler” in a codependent relationship.
Examples of codependent relationships in action
Codependency has many different faces, and some of them are even romanticised in books, movies, and on social media. Here are a few examples of what codependent relationships look like in action.
Codependent Friendships: Mean Girls (2004)
The dynamic between Regina George and the Plastics, from the popular film Mean Girls, is a classic example of codependent relationships. The leader of the group, Regina, controls the rest of the group members’ decisions from how they dress to other friendships and dating relationships. The rest of the group engages in people-pleasing and adheres to her every request.
Eventually the Plastics are able to break free from the codependent relationship by discovering their own values and opinions. They decide they don’t like being under Regina’s rule and want to make decisions for themselves. Catie even joins (and wins!) the Mathletes competition.
Codependent Working Relationships: The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Throughout The Devil Wears Prada, Miranda Priestly commands every relationship in her life, criticizing her employees’ styles, work products, and personal lives. All of her subordinates try to please her at great personal cost to themselves. In the end, Andrea overcomes her codependency by ditching her ever-ringing cell phone tied to Miranda and reclaimed the life she really wanted. She realized she loved her boyfriend and friends more than the demanding job.
Resources for navigating codependent relationships
Creating healthy relationship patterns means moving from codependency to interdependence. Interdependence happens when both people in a relationship know themselves and what they need, set boundaries around their needs, and respect the other person’s boundaries. When those “ground rules” are in place, both people in the relationship can safely rely on each other for support and encouragement. Healthy interdependent relationships thrive on mutual respect and trust. Here are a few resources for healing from codependent relationships.
Individual therapy helps you navigate codependent relationships through a personalized, one on one approach. One of the biggest lessons in therapy is how to give yourself what you need. While you can’t change the people around you, you can learn how to set boundaries and heal from codependent relationships by practicing with a therapist. Therapists can help you uncover where your codependency stems from, as well as how to address it in your present relationships.
If you’re looking for help with a codependent relationship in your life, I’d love to work with you. Get in touch to schedule a free 15-minute consultation by sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Know Your Needs, State Your Needs
Take the time to evaluate what your needs are in a relationship. Perhaps you don’t know what they are? Here’s some examples: encouragement, trust, safety, humor, and understanding. I’m sure you can come up with more that are specific to you. Your friends/relationship partner won’t be perfect at meeting your needs, but the goal is to have “good enough” friends in your life so that you feel supported. If you have trouble bringing up your needs, here’s a quick trick…it’s called the WIN: “When you ______, I feel _________, I Need ________.”
Last but not least, here are a few book recommendations about codependency and setting boundaries to heal your relationships.
- Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie
- The Human Magnet Syndrome: The Codependent Narcissist Trap
Navigating codependent relationships means getting to know your own needs and setting boundaries. But the best news of all? It’s never too late to start healing. Contact me today if you’d like support in your healing journey.