The Codependent Personality
Codependency is not a disorder or a disease. There are no blood tests for this condition and no real clinical diagnosis. Instead the term codependency was first coined to describe the partners of alcoholics or drug addicts who became obsessed with the abusive person they cared for. Studying these individuals exposed the codependent personality; patterns of emotional immaturity that are common in sick and unhappy people experiencing distress in their personal relationships.
Codependence has come to describe a pattern of behaviour in an individual which can be very pervasive. Having not matured emotionally, the codependent’s actions in life become based around taking care of someone else in an attempt to get their own emotional needs met.
Codependent Personality Behaviour
This person will go to great lengths to show how caring and concerned they are. The codependent personality will usually choose a person who is just as emotionally immature as themselves as a partner. Their underlying motive is to create dependence or an ’emotional debt’.
When their expectation of being needed or cared for in return is not forthcoming this person’s true emotionally neediness, anger and unmet childhood emotional needs will then come to the surface.
The mistake most people make when dealing with a codependent personality is believing their emotional or physical care comes without ‘strings attached’. Likewise it is a mistake to believe that your love and concern can heal the codependent and make them truly capable of putting themselves in another person’s shoes.
Most codependent personalities know they are emotionally damaged. But because they don’t understand the nature of their wound, they come to believe that this wound gives them the right to demand emotional care taking from others in ways that will cause resentment and dysfunction.
Despite seeming outwardly competent and caring, the codependent’s inward motto in life says, “If I do enough for you it will be my turn to be taken care of next.”
In most cases this person was expected to care for an immature and emotionally dependent parent growing up. From this relationship they got ideas of how people need caring for that are not healthy and which make them unattractive to be around.
Heal Yourself First!
Most times a codependent personality will feel they need to heal their partner by ‘filling them up’ with love and attention so that their partner will then heal them in return. There is a grain of truth in this but all the wrong way around.
Their partners often do need emotional healing, but the codependent needs to heal their own emotional wound first. They must face down their inner loneliness and “fill” themselves with love and care.
They need role models to learn how to deal with their negative emotions in ways that healthy adults do. It is only after this that they will be able to help their partner and family by setting appropriate boundaries and modelling healthy self care and emotional regulation.
For more on my story of how I helped our family grow out of codependent personality traits please visit our bookshop or sign up for our free introductory lesson on emotional intelligence skills for relationships at our website The Narcissistic / Codependent Marriage.
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