Understanding Co-dependent Reltaionships

Understanding Co-dependent Relationships by Sharon Martin, LCSW

Co-dependent relationships are out of balance.

Co-dependents are extremely caring people, but codependency goes beyond wanting to help others. Co-dependents want to fix others. Co-dependents derive self-esteem and feel valued primarily through the helping role. They, therefore, become attached to people who have problems of various sorts and need to be taken care of.

Image courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

These pairs become stuck in a dysfunctional pattern. Their recurring problems and crises cement their bond. Examples of co-dependent behavior include pouring out an alcoholic’s booze, getting up at 2AM to drive her home from the bar, paying his rent after he lost his whole paycheck gambling. The co-dependent feels guilty if s/he considers setting boundaries, limiting help, or ending the relationship. The dependent doesn’t develop skills or experience consequences needed for change. The “helper” needs the troubled partner to feel good. And the troubled partner is dependent on the helper’s rescuing and fixing.

However, there are several problems with this:

1) We can’t change other people.

2) The other person usually doesn’t want to be “fixed” or “saved”.

3) Your efforts to change the other person are usually met with anger or indifference.

4) Co-dependents focus so much on the other person that they fail to meet their own needs.

5) This eventually leads to resentment and an unsatisfying relationship.

If this sounds like your relationship, below are several resources for help.


Codependency Resources:

Al-Anon or Co-dependents Anonymous (CoDA) meetings

Individual counseling or therapy

Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself (affiliate link)


Navigating the Codependency Maze


© 2014 Sharon Martin, LCSW

Sharon Martin, a licensed counselor and psychotherapist in Northern California, specializes in helping adult children of alcoholics and others who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and self-criticism. She has a private psychotherapy practice in CA where she is available for online counseling. Sharon is also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and write the blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today.