A codependent person is someone who cannot function from their innate self and whose thinking is instead organized around another person, or even a process, or a substance.In other words, one’s sense of self is not solid or independent – the sense of self is found within relationship to another person. One’s existence becomes very narrow and specific to that one relationship.
The following questions can serve as a guide to determine if your relationship involves codependency:
- Does your sense of purpose involve making extreme sacrifices to satisfy your partner’s needs?
- Is it difficult to say no when your partner makes demands on your time and energy?
- Do you cover your partner’s problems with drugs, alcohol, or the law?
- Do you constantly worry about others’ opinions of you?
- Do you feel trapped in your relationship?
- Do you keep quiet to avoid arguments?
Books for Codependency Recovery
Here is a list of five books that can help with codependency recovery as you journey into freedom from codependent habits:
Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
Love Is a Choice by Buffalo Frank and Paul Meier
Facing Codependence by Pia Melody
Beyond Codependency OR Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch
I read Love Is a Choice while I was in college decades ago and I’m just beginning to name the dysfunction in my family system. Particularly difficult for me was my enmeshed relationship with my mother, who was clearly depending upon me to meet her emotional needs to the detriment of my developing a solid sense of self.
As I read this book, I learned about interdependence versus dependence or codependence. Interdependence is about two equal partners mutually relying on each other. Each person is allowed to have needs, and to be loved unconditionally.
Grace is extended both ways. There is invitation rather than demand. There is mutual commitment to grow individually for one’s self and to be a healthy partner for the other. This is about a love that endures and seeks the best for the other.
Initially, as I considered interdependence, I thought it seemed selfish to have needs – especially to ask another person to meet you in your needs. My struggle with this led me to read the book, Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. I highly recommend that book as well, as you embark on this endeavor of freedom and health in your relationships.
Melody Beattie wrote her first book about codependency in 1986. That book, Codependent No More, has become a classic on the topic. If you’ve lost sight of your own life in the drama of tending to someone else’s, you may be codependent.
If you want to learn more about codependency and learn practical steps toward a more healthy and free life, this is the book for you. If you want to learn how to be responsible only for your own behavior, rather than someone else’s, read this book.
Originally published in 1989, Pia Mellody’s book is another classic on codependence. A Goodreads synopsis: The author creates a framework for identifying codependent thinking. Mellody sets forth 5 primary adult symptoms of this crippling condition, then traces their origin to emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, and sexual abuses that occur in childhood.
Central to her approach is that the codependent adult’s injured inner child needs healing. Recovery from codependence involves cleaning up the toxic emotions left over from those painful childhood experiences.
In Dr. Schnarch’s book, he describes what he has termed, “The Crucible Approach” to relationships. In this approach, there are 4 points of balance within a healthy relationship: 1) Solid, flexible self 2) Quiet mind and calm heart 3) Grounded responding (vs. over-reacting or under-reacting) 4) Meaningful endurance (which is about tolerating pain in order to grow and be more healthy, not just stubbornly persisting and avoiding reality)
Codependent people lack a solid sense of themselves. They have no real identity of their own. They can get overly dependent in committed relationships. Or they’re rigid, brittle, controlling, and bend their relationships to fit their own needs and wants. They become increasingly dependent–emotionally fused–with their partner.
This Crucible approach can be learned and practiced, if you find yourself in the midst of a codependent or otherwise unhealthy relationship. Loving yourself and loving another – the two go hand in hand. Knowing yourself and your needs, being able to set boundaries, and being willing to accept and love another person – these are marks of a healthy relationship.
If you want help as you seek to recover from unhealthy, codependent ways of relating, consider calling a Christian counselor today.
“Lean on me,” courtesy of Rosie Ann, peels.com, CC0 License