What Does Co-dependent Look Like?

Such a complex word.

Here’s what it looks like to me …

My former husband was in love with himself. His needs, desires, and wants came before all else. I thought if I did everything he wanted, I’d make him happy. I believed if I agreed with his every comment and wish, only then would I have some measure of peace. I figured if I made the peace in letting him have his way with me, then surely he’d show me tenderness and love, preferring me over his need for others – hobbies, friends, or conquests. But I was merely fooling myself. I received no respect and he continued his ill-treatment toward me. Silently, I resented what he was doing to me, but not enough to do anything different. By me allowing the offenses, I was giving him permission to continue to do me wrong, as if I signed all my rights and life away. I was slowly dying inside. I felt undone, and unloved, with a low-self esteem and zero self-worth. I felt lonelier with him than without him. Yet I still wanted him around. As I yearned for his approval and acceptance, I lived in constant fear of him and lived with the fear of losing him.

We think if we can control our environment, we will find peace and tranquility. But in reality, serenity is usually miles away. You might have a false sense of peace and trust me when I say it isn’t lasting. And oh, the price it comes with!

I’m no psychologist, nor am I a psychiatrist. But I also think there’s another side to this spectrum. Sometimes a person may love so much and love so deeply that they tend to do everything for another, thereby potentially stagnating and handicapping that loved one from doing anything for themselves. That person then becomes dependent on you for their needs and outlook in life. They are hindered from growth and maturity in making wise decisions or choices.  They are emotionally immature and can remain psychologically traumatized.

Such as in the situation with my mom. From her childhood early on, Mama was introvert and extremely shy. Grandma loved her so much that she felt sorry for her. She tended to overcompensate in trying to help Mama by doing everything for her. Mama naturally grew dependent on others to do things for her all of her life. Then in my early years, I tried looking out for Mama and did everything I could in trying to protect her. Most of the time my help was unwarranted, as she sought and relied on her significant others to fulfill that need.

So, co-dependency can be a vicious circle and left untreated can fester like a sore that won’t go away.

Here here are some examples of what it means to be co-dependent:

• The need to be needed
• People pleasing
• Trying to control others (aggressively or passively)
• Focusing on helping others before working on your own issues
• Being consumed with other people’s problems
• Rescuing
• Self-doubt
• Unclear boundaries in friendships and relationships
• The tendency to date (or marry) alcoholics or addicts
• Perfectionism
• Workaholism (or always being busy)
• Exhaustion

Your turn. What does co-dependency mean to you?



Filed under Behavior, Co-dependent, Relationships

18 responses to “What Does Co-dependent Look Like?

  1. I see these people in every day life and I try to understand it Mary, how someone can stay with someone so cruel. I guess you have to live it to really understand the fears and doubts and why they stay, rather than go it alone. Thanks for sharing your experiences. No one should have to go through this, but its all around us. Sadly.

    • Yes, Kath, there are multiple reasons why a person remains in an abusive relationship, which can be such a tangled web! Isolation, feeling emotionally drained, having a paralyzing fear of the “unknown” or from what their spouse may do, having small children involved and lack of resources, the abuser brainwashing the victim, or in having a weak or a victim-mentality, to name a few, or just for being deeply attached, hoping against hope that the offender will change. I appreciate that there are folks like you trying to understand this universal problem. Having been stuck in that web myself once upon a time, I continue to reflect back on how I felt and research answers today that I may help others who feel trap.

  2. Our daughter got herself into a terrible marriage. One of the factors making her cling to it was the feeling she had invested so MUCH energy and suffering in it there MUST be some pay-off. Even some kind of “spiritual” one. I feel that our ultimate responsibility is to ourselves. It’s right to cut your losses and get out away from vampires. That’s the spiritual lesson! Self empowerment in the face of awesome odds.

    • Hi Elizabeth, I totally understand how one feels as far as investing countless time and energy with the thinking surely “payday” must be around the corner for them, only for it not to materialize. I understand your outlook, too. And while it may seem easier for those on the outside to give a rubber stamp of approval to just leave the abuser already, I believe there can be a red light in the victim’s mind that prevents them from moving forward so hastily. That “red light” can be a long, long list of reasons. It’s a process, not an event. Unfortunately, some things just can’t be “fixed” so quickly, especially when there have already been so much blood, sweat and tears invested in the relationship.

  3. I hate to say this, but it sounds like almost every relationship that lasts beyond the first or second date. It’s a double-edged sword, and that’s okay, as long as no one is swinging from the heels. 🙂

  4. Kev

    Great post, Mary!

  5. Luz Elenia Rosario

    Beautiful message, my friend!!!

  6. The story of my life for 33.5 years.

  7. That is so true! I think co-dependency is how you mentioned. I also think it’s like a parasitic relationship where the person who is dependent on you to the extent that they drain the life from your body until you’re a withered husk. Thank you for the insight.

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