Photo of a fighting couple with codependency and enabling problems.

What is codependency? 

Many people exhibit codependent and enabling behaviors within relationships where neither person is addicted. However, even in the absence of addiction, these relationships still tend to be very dysfunctional. The answers to the first two questions are a little more complicated.

  • Common characteristics of codependency include
  • An excessive need for approval from others
  • Low self-esteem
  • Inability to see compromise (“black-and-white” thinking)
  • Difficulty identifying and expressing one’s own needs
  • Avoidance of conflict

People with codependency tend to enable those around them by doing things for others that those individuals are capable of doing on their own. They seem to be incapable of telling anyone “No,” which is often their way of trying to gain the approval of others. 

Am I enabling others?

Enabling behavior also often includes taking responsibility for or making excuses for others’ inappropriate or unhealthy behaviors. The person with codependency sees their efforts at taking responsibility for others’ mistakes or doing something for someone that person can do on their own as helpful. 

What codependents fail to recognize is that their enabling behaviors actually make the situation worse as the person they enable then continues to become more and more irresponsible for their own actions or choices. 

People with codependency issues also tend to have very rigid and unrealistic expectations of themselves and of others, and they then tend to become highly upset when these expectations are not met. 

Since the codependent has difficulty asking others for help to get their needs met, others are often expected to be “mind-readers” and “just know” what the codependent wants, needs, or feels. 

As most people are not mind-readers, the codependent is often disappointed because their own needs go unmet and feels cheated or taken advantage of because nobody will reciprocate what the codependent has “done for others.”

Addressing Codependency & Enabling

If you recognize some of these behaviors in yourself, you may have some codependent qualities that could be addressed and changed through therapy.  If you are interested in addressing these issues personally, please contact Health Directions today.