Are you confused about what it means to be codependent? Do you ever wonder what codependency looks like in practice?
If you’re nodding your head yes, that’s understandable. In my experience, there is often confusion around the topic of codependency, with a ton of misconceptions and a plethora of myths clouding up what it looks like in real life.
In today’s video, I’m delivering rock-solid clarity about what codependency is by showing you what it’s not. Ready for some major myth-busting?! Let’s go!
Myth #1: Only women are codependent.
Not true. Any gender, gender expression, binary and non-binary folks, anyone can be codependent.
Myth #2: Codependency is an illness.
Nope. Codependency is not a diagnosable mental illness. This is pretty great news because it means you have the power to change it. Codependency is a pattern of learned behaviors. And if you learned them, you can un-learn them.
Myth #3: Codependency only occurs in relationships with addicts.
While codependency is often present in enabling relationships, it is not the only kind of relationship in which it can show up.
Myth #4: Codependency only happens in romantic relationships.
False. In my personal experience, some of the most codependent relationships I’ve ever had, especially in my 20s were in my female friendships. Codependency can happen in any relationship dynamic, whether it’s a family member, friend, co-worker, client, or romantic partner.
Myth #5: Either you’re codependent or you’re not.
When it comes to codependency, it’s not so black and white. There is a spectrum of codependent behaviors. We’re talking about patterns of relational behaviors and how we interact with other people in our lives.
Myth #6: Codependency doesn’t have serious consequences.
When you are relating in a codependent way, you’re not being fully seen, heard, or known. You can become exhausted, bitter, and resentful from over-functioning. The big consequence of codependent behavior patterns is when you’re saying yes when you want to say no or you’re overgiving from a place of fear instead of giving from a place of love, people don’t know the real you. And how can anyone authentically love you if they don’t authentically know you? The truth is, they can’t.
Myth #7: Codependents care too much about other people.
Codependency is really an overt or covert bid for control. Even if we think our actions are driven by love or caring, if we look deeper, the true motive behind codependent behaviors is to spare ourselves from the pain other people’s choices may be causing us. That can look like auto-advice giving, making excuses for other people’s bad behavior, or doing tasks others can and should be doing for themselves.
Myth #8: Anyone who helps others is codependent.
False. There is healthy helping and there is unhealthy helping.
Myth #9: If I’m not codependent, I’ll need to be harsh and uncaring.
Again, no. I have worked with so many incredible individuals with a deep fear that if they weren’t codependent anymore, they would have to be tough and even mean with the people they love. Believing if they shifted out of codependent behavior patterns, they wouldn’t be as close or intimate in their relationships. Not true.
Myth #10: Only weak people are codependent.
As a recovering codependent and strong AF individual, I can’t stand this one. Codependency has nothing to do with being weak or strong. It has everything to do with boundaries, modeled behavior, personal history, and lived experiences, but it’s not about being weak-willed.
Myth #11: You can always spot a codependent.
Nope. In fact, many people do not identify with the old-school definition of codependency. Back in the ‘80s, with Melody Beattie’s seminal text, Codependent No More¹ codependency was characterized by enabling behavior and addiction. In my experience, that definition needed an expansion.
I made the distinction years ago and created a new term, “high-functioning codependency”.A high-functioning codependent is often smart, successful, reliable, and accomplished. They don’t identify with being dependent, because they are likely highly capable and doing everything for everyone else.
Myth #12: Codependency always starts in childhood.
While the roots of codependency can start in childhood, that’s not always the case. This kind of behavior pattern could start later in life in an abusive relationship or in a relationship with an addict or narcissist even if your childhood was relatively “normal”. Codependency is not a gene you can inherit, it is behavioral. Even if you didn’t experience codependency in childhood, you can still develop these behaviors in adulthood.
Now that I’ve debunked the most common myths for you, let’s get into some traits of what codependency can look like in real life:
- Giving unsolicited advice
- Being overly self-sacrificing
- Not having respect for other people’s right to be separate or self-determined
- Giving ‘til it hurts and going above and beyond, even when you’re not asked to
- Always ready to jump into damage control mode
- Feeling responsible for fixing other people’s problems
- Being judgmental of others because deep down, you believe you have all the right answers
- Feeling exhausted, resentful, and bitter
- Getting frustrated or angry when others don’t take your advice.
- Feeling personally offended and/or confused if someone doesn’t share your beliefs or opinions
And listen, if these traits are resonating with you, please don’t beat yourself up about it. I used to be the queen of codependency! I had so much pain in my young life because of my codependent behaviors, and if this is you, I don’t want you to continue to suffer.
High-functioning codependency includes disordered boundaries, where you are overly invested in the feeling states, the decisions, the outcomes, and the circumstances of others at the cost of your own internal peace or physical, emotional, or financial wellbeing.
When you think about codependency, it actually creates relationships where one person is managing the relationship and the other person…and that’s not intimacy, it’s control.
You don’t have to manage everything and everyone around you. You can change this. I can show you how.
Last year I teamed up with my friend and fellow relationship expert, Mark Groves (@createthelove), to create a course called Crushing Codependency. If you’re ready to go deeper and you want to get on the road to recovery, this might be for you.
This virtual course is therapeutically based, grounded in both positive and practical psychology, and based on my five pillars of self-mastery to accelerate transformation. I would absolutely love to have you join us so you can finally learn how to free yourself from codependency.
In the meantime, I really want to know what your thoughts, feelings, and experiences of being codependent are, so drop me a comment here or @terricole on Instagram!
I hope you found some clarity around codependency, that this added some value to your life, and as always, take care of you.