Healthy dependency dynamics foster independence and resiliency. But co-dependent dynamics—enabling another’s dysfunctional behavior or poor emotional health—stifle and limit growth. Experts say that such behavior can contribute to dysfunction in families.
In a healthy relationship, one can comfortably rely on another for support, while also retaining a sense of independence and autonomy.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, common behaviors associated with co-dependency include:
- A need for excessive approval from others.
- Organizing your thoughts and behaviors around the perceived expectations and desires of others.
- An inflated sense of responsibility for the happiness and emotional wellbeing of others.
- The inability to express one’s true thoughts and feelings for fear it will upset others.
- An identity that is dependent on the approval of others.
Co-dependency is learned and can be altered. Here are four ways to get started:
- Be aware. Keep a journal of co-dependent behaviors and situations. When someone appears to be struggling, do you automatically jump in to help, putting aside your emotional and physical needs?
- Set boundaries. Being able to say no without feeling guilty, anxious or afraid is crucial. Upholding boundaries will be difficult in the beginning, so have a plan in place for coping.
- Own your thoughts, feelings and opinions. Valuing them is a potent weapon in breaking co-dependent patterns, which are formed and reinforced by internal pressure to please others.
- Consider therapy. Talk with a professional to gain a better understanding of your co-dependent dependent behaviors.