PSYCHOLOGY defines co-dependency as belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other for meeting nearly all of their emotional and self-esteem needs.
Of note, the term initially referenced spouses of alcoholics who were in situations where they had to maintain the dysfunctional behaviour of their spouses by being very sacrificial and channelling all their energy to meeting their partners' needs.
But over time it is said that research revealed that the general population as well as those raised in dysfunctional families or even individuals with an ill parent or close relative displayed signs of co-dependency.
According to Wayne Powell, marriage and family therapist, ascertaining co-dependency in a relationship would require one to be completely honest with themselves.
“Are you always looking for affirmation from your partner? Do you feel responsible for your partner's feelings and problems? Do you blame your issues on someone else? Do you need to control your partner's behaviour in order to feel OK or secure? Are you afraid to be truthful because you don't want to upset someone else? Do you fear being vulnerable because you think you might be judged or rejected? Do you have a hard time saying no? These are all signs of co-dependency,” Powell said.
The marriage and family therapist said, however, that it is important that an individual is assessed by a therapist and treated accordingly if co-dependency is the case.
He said when in relationships it is important to consider the following:
1. A relationship takes work and commitment
“No relationship can be successfully sustained on an “I give...You take; you take…I give” basis. If only one party is giving, then soon the giver is going to be tired of giving all the time when there is no reciprocal action,” he said.
2. Never ignore issues
According to Powell, living in denial and burying your head in the sand when the situation is staring you in the face is a silly thing to do. He said in doing this, sooner than later, you will be made to confront the reality.
3. Pay attention to the warning signs
The marriage and family therapist said one should not ignore behaviour patterns they see in the initial stages of a relationship. “Some women may have seen the tendencies before marriage and proceeded with the feeling that the men would change after the ring is put on. Wishful thinking,” Powell said.
4. Don't be afraid to leave
Powell said to remain in an unfulfilling relationship is akin to a death warrant. “Your personal happiness is imperative. Every human being requires love and attention and if you are in a relationship that is the least you can expect from your partner,” he said.
5. Let your feelings be known
“Let your partner know your level of unhappiness and share with him some of the things that would please you,” Powell said.
6. Don't make excuses
To say, “A so him stay, so me wi just live wid it”, is a defeatist approach and will let your man off the hook and so he will never try and improve. Challenge him to make the adjustments,” Powell said.