A codependent relationship involves one person supporting another person’s unhealthy needs. One person acts as an enabler to another person’s poor health, immaturity, under-achievement, or addiction. The enabler is preoccupied with the needs of the other person and fails to satisfy their own needs.
- Poor boundaries
- Overly sensitive to criticism
- Low self-esteem
- Shame and Helplessness
- One partner engaging in substance abuse
- Isolation (having no outside relationships)
Theories state that dysfunctional relationships are caused by a person’s childhood. A child may have to undertake abnormal responsibilities in caring for a parent or sibling and find themselves filling this role later in life. A lack of boundaries is typically seen to cause people to share and expect too much or to keep everything in and never divulge any part of themselves. Very low self-esteem may also cause a person to over-invest in another and sacrifice their own needs.
Therapy is helpful for correcting enabling behaviors. There are also support groups like Codependents Anonymous that allow people with similar experiences to openly relate to one another. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help both people in the relationship evaluate their attitudes about the codependency and analyze childhood experiences that may be the cause of the dysfunction.