The Dangers of Codependency in Family

By Yasmin Kerkez

Codependency is commonly known to involve the loss of self, but it can also lead to other destructive patterns, and great loss. If left unchecked, codependency can lead to a person losing years of their life through putting the needs of others before their own. Within the family unit, we can also lose our voice as we cease to express our emotions honestly because we are fearful of being criticized, judged, rejected or abandoned.

Another dangerous reality is a loss of self-worth. We can need the love from our family member because we have forgotten how to love and value our self, so we rely on the validation and approval of others instead of giving us our own love and approval. This is very dangerous, as we start to rely on and need another’s love and approval to be able to love our self.

The role of caretaker in family can also lead to ongoing codependency, and loss of self, through family members acting like martyrs. Having spent so much time putting themselves second, all the caretaker knows is to help another before helping themselves. The role of caretaker for another becomes their primary focus rather than prioritizing one’s own happiness, personal self-care, and health.

All these pathways to codependency are dangerous because when our focus is external and directed towards another’s needs and situation, we fail to focus on our own needs, and therefore healing is inhibited.

A codependent relationship can also become a distraction and a crutch; in that we use it as an excuse to not have to face and deal with our own areas of trauma, or areas of struggle we need to solve for ourselves. We fool ourselves into thinking that we can only care about our family member, or that if we could fix our family member then things could get better. But the truth is that in a codependent relationship we lose our self, and we fail to take the steps needed to heal our own wounds and grow.

I also want to stress that this can exist in family relationships where contact exists, or within family relationships where there is no contact and separation has existed for a long time. Often, in times of separation, people still put their needs second and spend their time thinking constantly on their family member’s needs instead of their own, and are continually feeling devalued from the rejection.

Codependency in family can exist in any of the following ways:

  • You are overly agreeable and have trouble communicating honestly.
  • You are often the one who apologizes even when you feel you did nothing wrong.
  • You feel sorry for your family member even when they have let you down, hurt you, or treated you badly.
  • Always saying Yes to the needs and demands of your family member, even if it does not suit you.
  • Agreeing to do something for your family member, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable or unhappy.
  • Placing your family member on a pedestal or always excusing their behavior, even if they do not deserve this treatment.
  • Feeling the need to constantly check in with your family member, or constantly holding thoughts about their actions, needs, and daily activities above your own.
  • You have a need for your family member to love you in order for you to feel good about yourself.
  • Your mood is dependent on the mood of your family member. You’re happy when they’re happy and their life is going well — you’re stressed and anxious when they’re angry or depressed and they have problems in their life.
  • You’re afraid to say No to your family member and you overly give of your time and resources, which can lead to you feeling resentful.
  • You have the tendency to get taken advantage of, or used up by your family member.
  • You spend more time thinking about the needs of your family member before your own.
  • You suffer fear of abandonment or feel abandoned by your family member.
  • You feel guilty if you can’t commit to helping or caring for them, or don’t have time to attend their needs.
  • You struggle to find time for yourself and your needs because you’re constantly giving your time or thoughts to your family member.
  • You feel as if you’ve lost a sense of yourself and independence within your relationship.

It’s important to remember that it’s not necessarily the number of traits that make up a codependent relationship, but the degree to which any number of these traits are affecting you. For example, you might only connect to a few of the examples given, or only one of the examples given: but if they have taken over your life and thoughts to the point that it’s affecting your life, then it needs addressing.

It’s also important to recognize why this is such a needed area of focus, and that we stop to assess the level of codependency in our personal relationships.

Codependency can go unnoticed in the area of family struggles: We often fail to see how dysfunctional we’ve become because we think it’s our role as a family member to be caring, even at the cost of our own emotional health. We can also suffer from denial because codependency can be a distraction from focusing on our own flaws or challenges that need addressing.

But at the very heart of codependency is loss of self: An existence that puts our emotions and needs second. As mentioned earlier, if left unchecked one can lose years of their life. Therefore, we need to really be aware of our behavior, and notice if we exist in a codependent state and take the steps needed to reverse this.

A good exercise to do straight away is to look back over the list of examples shared above and simply recognize if any of them apply to you. Simply just notice if you connect to any of the examples given, or if you exist in any of the ways mentioned. Recognition, and being aware of our situation is the first step to healing and overcoming codependency.

If you need help with knowing the continued steps to take to break free from existing in a codependent relationship — and how to reclaim your power and continue on your healing journey — please know that help exists. Codependency is very common in family, and if you experience this, you are certainly not alone.

Getting help with codependency issues can help you reclaim your life. If you feel that this article on codependency in family spoke to you, and you need help in this area, then please consider our Healing Harbor Membership, which offers weekly help, support and lessons with how to navigate relationships issues and conflict in family. You can break free from codependency in family and reclaim your life!

By Yasmin Kerkez

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