There’s a scene you may recall in Runaway Bride where Maggie (Julia Roberts) tries to determine how she likes her eggs prepared. She had spent years saying that her preference was that of her partners. In other words, if her boyfriend opted for fried eggs, so did Maggie; if her boyfriend preferred scrambled, that was suddenly Maggie’s favorite, too. She had become so wrapped up in being the person she thought people wanted her to be that she didn’t even know who she really was, or in this case, how she liked her eggs.
While relationships are naturally more complicated than choosing what goes on your plate for breakfast, the story of how Maggie thought of herself in relation to others is indicative of a much larger problem: codependency. Codependency, that feeling like you can’t exist without someone, is one of the biggest challenges many of us face in our relationships. If you’re like many others, codependency has snuck its ugly head into your life– either because you are codependent or someone you care about is codependent. Here’s a short guide to recognizing codependency and how to cope with it in relationships.
Signs you’re in a codependent relationship
You can’t live without the other person.
Sure, it seemed like a romantic notion once upon a time. However, it’s not fulfilling and it’s not sexy. It’s important to recognize your own worth and completeness independent of the other person. That way you can enjoy the other person instead of being half of someone who is incomplete without the other.
You blame others for how you feel.
We are responsible for our own feelings and experiences. It isn’t anyone else’s responsibility to make us happy, nor is it their fault if we feel sad. Focus on making yourself happy first so that others can contribute to that happiness.
You make decisions based solely on what you think others want.
Although compromise is an important part of any relationship, one person’s needs shouldn’t continually take precedence over another person’s. If you find yourself repeatedly making decisions for the betterment of others, it may be time to question the intention behind your words and actions. Make decisions for yourself and communicate your needs to others.
You don’t feel free.
If you live in fear, adhering to rules and constrictions on behalf of another person, you aren’t experiencing the freedom that love should bring. Remind yourself that you are entitled to your own feelings and opinions, and that you get to choose how to live your life.
Initially, it may seem as though the codependent person is doing all of the giving and the other person is doing all of the taking. A mistaken assumption is that codependency means selflessness. However, codependency creates an unhealthy and difficult situation for both partners, and both partners need help to overcome this vicious cycle.