There’s a lot of confusion about what makes someone co-dependent. In the past, co-dependency was mostly discussed in the context of alcohol. But we know now that you don’t need to be married to an alcoholic in order to be co-dependent.
Although there are a lot of definitions of co-dependency, the basic meaning is that a co-dependent lets another person’s behaviors affect them and they spend a lot of energy trying to control that person’s behaviors. People who are co-dependent do not necessarily have a co-dependency on their spouse. It could be another family member, such as a child, parent or sibling as well.
People who are co-dependent often start out trying to be helpful. For example, a woman married to an alcoholic may go to great lengths to ensure that the alcohol doesn’t negatively impact her spouse. For example, she may purchase his alcohol, may make excuses for him, clean up after him, and try to prevent the alcohol from becoming problematic in his life.
Sometimes they look like caretakers. They may very well try to care for their loved one but in doing so, they become almost obsessive. They may also need to feel needed. For example, a wife married to an alcoholic may need their spouse to keep drinking. They may identify themselves as a caretaker and need to feel this is their purpose.
Co-dependency becomes problematic in many ways. People who are co-dependent don’t tend to take care of themselves. They often lose sight of who they are and what they want in life becuase they are so busy caring for someone else.
People who are co-dependent often become depressed and withdrawn. They struggle to maintain healthy relationships with other people. They also may feel like a martyr in life.
People who become co-dependent often struggle to change. They may think that their loved one cannot live without their help. They may also worry about what they would do with their time or energy if they weren’t devoting it to someone else. If you have a co-dependent relationship with your spouse, consider seeking therapy to help you understand the underlying reasons for your behaviors and to identify strategies to help you change.