Co-dependents have low self-esteem and look for anything outside of themselves to make them feel better. They find it hard to “be themselves.” Some try to feel better through alcohol, drugs or nicotine – and become addicted. Others may develop compulsive behaviors like workaholism, gambling, or indiscriminate sexual activity.
They have good intentions. They try to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but the caretaking becomes compulsive and defeating. Co-dependents often take on a martyr’s role and become “benefactors” to an individual in need. A wife may cover for her alcoholic husband; a mother may make excuses for a truant child; or a father may “pull some strings” to keep his child from suffering the consequences of delinquent behavior.
The problem is that these repeated rescue attempts allow the needy individual to continue on a destructive course and to become even more dependent on the unhealthy caretaking of the “benefactor.” As this reliance increases, the co-dependent develops a sense of reward and satisfaction from “being needed.” When the caretaking becomes compulsive, the co-dependent feels choiceless and helpless in the relationship, but is unable to break away from the cycle of behavior that causes it. Co-dependents view themselves as victims and are attracted to that same weakness in the love and friendship relationships.
Characteristics of Co-Dependent People Are:
- An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others.
- A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue.
- A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time.
- A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts.
- An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment.
- An extreme need for approval and recognition.
- A sense of guilt when asserting themselves.
- A compelling need to control others.
- Lack of trust in self and/or others.
- Fear of being abandoned or alone.
- Difficulty identifying feelings.
- Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change.
- Problems with intimacy/boundaries.
- Chronic anger.
- Poor communications
- Difficulty making decisions.