Your idea of co-dependency is probably wrong

Are you noticing that you tend to get involved in abusive relationships? Certain personality traits are prone to engaging in abusive relationships—whether this be romantic or platonic. One of the biggest indicators that someone will be abused is them having a tendency towards being co-dependent on others.

The co-dependent personality often starts early in life when a person is in an abusive household and their self-esteem suffers from the trauma. In an abusive household, emotions are often never discussed and the victim has to shove down the pain that they have experienced, never fully allowing them to deal with what has happened.

Co-dependency can be expressed in two different ways, the person either shuts down emotionally and detaches from their feelings, not trusting anyone to come close to them, or they lose their boundaries entirely and wind up being people pleasers who cannot say no even when they need to. Many co-dependent types swing between the two extremes. With either expression, a co-dependent person will over-exert themselves to be there for others in some way. They will give and give of themselves until they have nothing left to give, and even then they will give more.

Highly reactive to other people’s moods, actions, or phrases, a co-dependent person will take personally even the smallest form of what they perceive as negative. If they are having a conversation with someone who disagrees with them, they will either completely give in to the other person’s opinion (so as not to create a conflict), or they will become defensive. It is difficult for the co-dependent person to recognize that it is simply someone else’s viewpoint and that this has nothing to do with them or what someone thinks of them. It is also a challenge for this person to tell others what they really think as they are too afraid of what the person may think of them. They are more likely to tell someone that it is okay even when it isn’t, or to go the other route and try to force the other person to do things in the way they feel things should be done.

Controlling other people’s behavior lets the co-dependent person feel secure. If they know exactly what someone is doing and when and how, they are limiting the chaos that they fear will come up if they are not mindful. They require that others act in a way that is safe for them, otherwise they don’t feel comfortable. Deep down, they are simply trying to make sure that they do not get hurt. In order for them to relax, they may have to drink alcohol or escape in some way. Some co-dependents will throw themselves into work as this allows them to continue to bury their emotions.

There is a great deal of anxiety inside of a co-dependent person and they spend a lot of energy analyzing situations and other people. Instead of thinking about how things ARE, they will often wrap themselves up in an elaborate fantasy of how things should be.

Criticism is hard for them to absorb as they basically feel like they are bad people if they ever make a mistake. They are their own worst critics and will beat themselves up over the smallest slight. Hardly ever feeling good enough as they are, when they do something wrong it can feel like their entire identity comes crashing down, that they are tumbling into a dark hole of self-doubt, and sometimes self-destruction. Their own company can be difficult for them to take and therefore they seek out company from others, even people that they may not particularly like or that are abusive towards them. Co-dependents cannot bear the thought of losing someone they have had in their life for a fair length of time and they will do whatever it takes to keep the person from “abandoning” them. This is often when things take a turn for the worst as the co-dependent will allow any manner of behavior to avoid being alone. They may even make themselves out to be a martyr to boost their own self-esteem in a destructive way. They believe that they are being good and caring, when really they are sacrificing themselves because they refuse to leave a bad situation and this sacrificing makes them feel good about themselves. Even the most noble of people will find it difficult not to take advantage of these types of people, they make it only too easy. Offering to do whatever it takes, whatever they can, to help others. They will go above and beyond, never saying no, unless they go to the opposite extreme and become defensive and controlling.

In romantic relationships, they can push and pull their partners as they desperately long to be close yet don’t feel comfortable being so. They don’t know how to be. Somewhere inside they feel as though they are not good enough to be loved. They feel that, as themselves, they will only be rejected eventually. So they pull people close, even in an intense manner …until the partner truly opens up, and then they feel uneasy so they push the person away. And this dance repeats until it becomes abusive. There can be more and more acts of sacrifice shown to the partner, and any time the partner expresses any displeasure towards the person, the co-dependent will feel extremely wounded and like a rug has been pulled out from underneath. So they will likely admit to fault, promise to change, and over-give of themselves to please their partner. Either that or they will lock themselves away inside, refusing to show any warmth at all to their partner. Balance is a struggle. Co-dependents can swing from demanding so much of their partner’s attention and affection that the partner cannot possibly manage it, or they feel that they cannot get enough of their own space because they allow themselves to adhere to their partner’s schedules, wants, and needs without being able to establish their own boundaries. This can stress out the co-dependent person until they have to shut off their feelings simply to cope. You may hear them saying that they are numb or apathetic at this point.

Whatever the situation, it is never easy to have a normal relationship with a co-dependent person. They have to find a way to feel whole within themselves before they can find the necessary balance for a healthy relationship. Often, therapy can help for co-dependents to understand why they have become this way and work through what is actually bothering them. Once they have a basis, they can recognize their own behavior patterns and counter-act their habits. Read this for signs of co-dependent behavior and more information. Co-dependency is something that can be helped through self-awareness and therapy. It may feel ingrained into your personality, but do know that there are ways to alter reactions that will allow you to find the balance you need.


When overcoming an abusive situation, it may be difficult to think clearly and come up with a solution to remedy the abuse, while trying to implement it may feel almost impossible. However, given the right tools and the will power to create change, it most certainly is possible, even more so– it is probable. Many may feel overwhelmed and may not know where to start, but it is important to start somewhere.

Please continue to check in with us each week for a new post about abusive behavior and how it can affect your life and the lives of those around you. There is always that first action to helping someone you care about. Let this be it!


Author Bio 

Anna Czarska is a writer and actor who has 15+ years of experience dealing with various situations of abuse. She has pursued business ventures and creative pursuits as well as spending time to study psychology in both formal and personal education. For more information, you may find her Linkedin profile here:

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