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How to Handle Codependent Relationships

Some People Take But Never Give

We've all met them. Everyone I've talked to knows someone who seemed great to begin with but turned out to be a drain.

You find that you spend time supporting them but they don't give any support back. You want to end a conversation so you can get on with life but can't seem to pull it off gracefully. Whenever you try to stand up for a boundary you wind up the bad guy.

How does one cope with these relationships once they've started?

First, realize is that your actions contributed as much to the problem as the other person's. This isn't to say you should blame yourself. On the contrary, it's a good thing that you have some responsibility. Responsibility implies the ability to control the situation."Responsibility" = "The ability to respond."

You can't control random tornadoes, but you can control the people you let in your life.

We like others because of their unique qualities. We love them for how they make us feel about ourselves. When my children were born, I loved them dearly from the get-go. Why?

Not because of any quality of theirs. They were newborns, I had no idea who they were. They had no emotional self control, they had done no great things. Trust me, we did not have a single hobby or interest in common. Why then did I love them?

Because they made me feel proud, needed, looked up to and valuable. We love those who love us, it's often just that simple.

How Does It Work?

Codependent people are generally experts at making us feel honored, respected, looked up to and needed. The need to be needed is a powerful human social instinct. It's an incredibly strong force that can cause us to behave in the most outrageous ways. People who take more than they give are quite practiced at giving us the illusion that we're vital to their well being.

Any sane human wants to feel like the good guy, the hero. Codependent people play off of that, too. It's embarrassing when you're made to feel as though you've done something wrong. You can't quite put your finger on it, but you feel as though you've been a real jerk.

In order to fix this feeling inside yourself, you'll go to even greater lengths than you would have if you'd acquiesed to begin with. Any time you try to set a boundary, to stand up for your needs, you're shamed into doing what the codependent wants.

These two forces, the need to be needed and the need to be "a good person" are two steps in the codependent waltz. The third is emotional weariness. There comes a point at which it's just easier to give them what they want than to argue.You're so sick of the fight you can't seem to win that you'd just rather give in than keep going.

Your opponent uses every passive-aggressive trick in the book to keep you off balance, you feel that something is deeply wrong but you can't put your finger on what, and you just want to get away already.

When you give in to these three forces, you've become a codependent enabler. In order to get rid of codependent people, you must stop enabling them. How do you do this without losing your sense of self-worth, your sense of being a good person and your emotional judgement? By using logic.

What To Do About It?

Contrary to popular belief, logic and emotion do go together. You get rightfully angry at your spouse. Do you act on your anger and say everything that flies out of your mouth? Only if you want a long and pointless fight.

If you logically work out what's making you angry so that you can enlist your spouse in solving the problem, you'll wind up having a productive discussion instead of a screaming match. If you have to scream into a pillow a few times first, that's ok. It's still a much more logical course of action than engaging in a painful and unproductive fight.

Logic and codependency, on the other hand, are anathema to each other. The codependent is counting on illogic and illusion to fuddle you into behaving against your own best interests.

Logically, you are friends with people because you are greater together than you would be alone. You enjoy their company, they enjoy yours, you both get something out of it.

Friendship, intimacy and love are all refutations of the "dog-eat-dog" paradigm. When we engage in these good relationships, everybody benefits much more than they would without.

While everyone's going to get irritated with their nearest and dearest from time to time, if someone consistently annoys you, if you feel tired even thinking about them, it's a deep sign that something is wrong. Engage in a period of self reflection to find out exactly what's going on inside your own head.

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Why do you feel this way? Is it your friend, or something from your past? Are they consistently taking from you without giving back, or are you letting maladaptive personal patterns interfere with your friendship? Be honest in answering these questions.

If you find that this "friend" is taking much more from you than they give, you must act. Analyze the problem thoroughly, identify the exact behaviors that are the problem, and calmly bring them up. Once.

Do not use "you" statements, use "I" statements. "I find it really annoying to be called at ten in the evening. I have to get up early and it's hitting right when I'm going to bed," instead of "You need to quit calling me at ten at night!"

Keeping your statements focused on yourself doesn't put the other person on the defensive. Instead, it invites a solution. In this scenario, if your friend really is your friend and didn't know she was costing you that much, she'll be able to understand rather than just react. Then, you can work on reaching a solution together.

If, on the other hand, they start making it your fault, "Well, you know I like calling you then and there's really nothing I can do about it. Don't you like me enough to deal with it?", you know you have a bona-fide codependent on your hands. If your friends don't care enough about you to work with you on a solution, they're not your friends.

At that point, you just need to walk away instead of continuing the discussion, just tell them, "Then I'm sorry, we really can't be friends. I can't afford it." Again, keep it to "I" statements.

Codependents will then try to make you feel like the worst person in the world. Do not fall for it. They are playing the newborn baby, wailing to get you to take care of their needs and wants. If you didn't give birth to them, you're not responsible for them.

You have to have the strength to walk away. Completely. Politely cut off contact, utterly fail to get drawn into an emotional discussion, do not answer their multiple phone calls, tearful apologies, heartfelt confessions, rages or anything else. If you accept a tearful apology, listen to a heartfelt confession or take a rage seriously, you just started the dance all over again.

Don't get offended, don't give in to the need to defend yourself from accusations, just politely stop talking.


Make no mistake, walking away is one of the hardest things anyone can ever do. It's not easy to fail to defend yourself against an accusation. However, if you do, you've opened the conversation back up to your eventual misery.

A codependent will use everything at his or her disposal to get you to open up and let it all back in. Accusing you of terrible things is an easy way to do just that.

In addition, you may want to get help from one of the numerous support groups for codependent enablers. These are usually free and help with defusing the mind games and insults heaped on your head.

Codependent support group members and administrators have been down the merry illogic dance before, and will work with you to take apart and eliminate the illusory mental structures used on you.

I decided to write this Hub because I come from a huge family of mentally ill people. I grew up with relatives who are co-dependent, bi-polar, schizophrenic, clinically depressed and narcissistic (in the psychiatric sense). Fortunately I and my immediate family don't suffer from it, but I've had to gain quite a bit of training and understanding in order to successfully talk with my grandparents and other relatives.

It took me ten years to learn how to successfully deal with codependency. I didn't believe that I had to be that cold, I wanted to believe that love would conquer all.

Love does conquer all, but sometimes only on a rocky road. The kind of caring that works is the kind where you care about other people's actual well being. The codependent is just as, if not more, miserable than the people around him or her.

Allowing codependents to go on feeding on you just makes them worse, whereas confronting with reality may "turn on a light" and get them to accept the therapy and healing they so desperately need.


Msagirl592 on February 23, 2018:

Thank you so much for writing this post. I've too had a co dependent friend who tried to keep away from my family and friends. She would take and take but never give back. She absolutely drained my emotions and would constantly manipulate me into taking her side because everyone hated her. I would get tearful phone calls about how nobody wanted to hang with her and nobody like her. She believed that everyone was against and that I was her only friend. She has a mental disorder that doctors still have yet to diagnosed and she didn't know how to handle it. I finally decided that it was time to let her go by blocking her from all my social media sites and completely deleting her from my phone. I haven't heard from her in a couple days but I refuse to talk to that girl again. I was friend with her for almost 10 months and I finally just let her go. Though I could not help I realize I don't need her in my life again. Letting her go was the best decision of my life.

Mr T on May 12, 2017:

Thank you so much for writing this. I met a beautiful girl who was initially going through some heavy stuff so took a lot from me. When it was all resolved, I took a step back to see if she would start giving however it didn't come. We eventually had a talk and now has made me feel like the worst person in the world. That has lead me on a path to understand co-dependant relationships so that I can learn from this experience and the article really resonated with me.

Fanny on January 28, 2015:

I don't think nodding is a bad apcpaorh to dealing with someone who is codependent. Codependents are so wrapped up in their place other's lives that they pull other people in to their drama to try to help them exert control. We'll ask you for your advice, but we only want to hear it if it coincides with what we want to do which is to control another person. With that in mind, refusing to engage in that type of behavior by listening and nodding is an okay way to deal with her. And you are right, she probably isn't talking to you as much because you are refusing to engage. When people stop refusing to engage in our poor behavior, we eventually have to deal with it at least that's what should happen!

Shanu on August 19, 2012:

Very, very helpful and clear.

Linda on August 16, 2012:

Just found out the boyfriend of 3 weeks is codependent. Don't know what to do. He helped me when I was in a jamb. Now he is helping another person in a jamb and there are a definite lack of boundaries going on. Then he got cold with me. When I confronted him he told me he was codependent. So far I have been getting the push away after 2 1/2 weeks of kindness. He was at least aware enough to know that he is behaving this way because I don't have a crisis anymore and so he is jumping to the next crisis. I spoke to a drug counselor who told me he is even getting a pay off in pushing me away. That they are addicted to people and being needed.

Right now I am trying to figure out if it is worth it to try a relationship with this guy. The push away part is very hurtful. And quite frankly I am a bit disgusted he has to push a caring person away to get a "pay off." The drug counselor said they can be a chore. I am only three weeks and not very invested yet. And I really don't want to take on the role of enabler and have my life mucked about.

So far I handled this situation logically. I told him I won't even discuss his rescuing of this other person. If it is a problem he has it's his problem. To avoid the push away I asked for a date night once a week and we go dutch. He ain't payin' my way if it's going to be a martyrdom thing with him. He can be a really amazing person but I am not going to put up with this "push/pull" crap. He's either in the relationship or he's out. And if this crap continues - he's out.

Greek Gloss on June 01, 2012:

Again..fantastic article. So well written. After reading it and reading all the comments, i wonder....arent all of us codependent to some degree? I think yes. People need people in order to function but at what level? What extent? What boundaries? I also come to think no one is born co-dependant. People have become that way because they themselves were around a co-dependant person for too long. Interesting. I have to re read your article again but i do think we are all codependant. It becomes unhealthy when you start manipulating to get your way. Fix what made you insecure in the first place and all else will fall into its place

Steve on May 18, 2012:

Great article, however it's interesting that the codependent person referred to is the 'needy' one. I always thought I was codependent, but I was not the needy one in my unhealthy relationship.

scott on May 17, 2012:

WOW! I've read the books, been to counselind and THIS article says it better than amything else out there!!! Kudos to the author - you are good - and you hit the nail on the head! Thank you for sharing.

ella on January 26, 2012:

I am truly grateful to have found this article. It just placed everything into perspective for me and I am finally able to think logically about the situation I am in, and what needs to be done. I felt so guilty for several months for not being able to help my codependent friend with her problems, it made me feel even worse when she accused me of not being a good friend because of that and then totally confused when she kept calling to apologize for "blowing up" on me and wants to fix our relationship. I understand now, my role as the enabler, because not once did I place boundaries with her as I thought that I was being a good friend. Lately, I've found myself tired of those constant guilt trips, that I was supposed to be the "best friend" and if I choose not to try to fix our friendship, it'll be my fault. Either way, she would come across as the bigger/ mature person in the friendship and I'll just be perpetually guilty. I've realized now that the entire situation is too overwhelming for me and that I need to move on. Something just doesn't feel right anymore and I don't want to fall into that trap again. I feel so much better now, knowing that distancing myself from her isn't a crime and neither is saying "no".

"Don't get offended, don't give in to the need to defend yourself from accusations, just politely stop talking." I realize now, that I don't need to defend my actions,and this is something I've done for a very long time and I would be offended. Even when I politely stopped talking I worried if I was doing her more harm. I'm glad that I've come to some sort of realization that, I've been on a guilt trip for a long time and I need to get out.

This was an outstanding article, Thank you so much. This was definitely the light and clarity I needed, not only for the situation I'm in, but also to learn about myself.

June on January 25, 2012:

What I find interesting is how insidious the codependant's behaviour is in a relationship. It's sneaks up on you and suddenly you're chafing because it all seems so benevolent at first, but then something, you can't quite put your finger on, is not right. All that giving. But then it turns into organizing activities for you and controlling, and orchestrating stuff and directing.

My sister once admitted she is codependent and I must agree. Her "good" deeds seem so important to her self-esteem. At the same time she's actually really self-absorbed. She thinks the only thing about herself that needs changing is making more of an effort into "putting her needs first." Funny, because that's exactly what she does. She feeds her ego by doing "good" deeds and meddling in other people's business.

She identified as codependent after her alcoholic and now-ex boyfriend brought it to her attention and gave her a book on the subject. Still, a stack of little annoying behaviours continues. During a two-day get-together up north, on both days she asked me if I was tired, because I "look tired." I was not. She often treats me like a child and I'm 50!. When we went out to dinner, she insisted my top was not good enough and she made me put on a top she had in her car. It was an ugly

and smelled bad and my other sister stepped in to say my own top was much nicer, appropriate and fit better.

She will give me gifts, even though there's no special occasion. This gift-giving can sometimes make me feel ill at ease and I don't know why. Every single time,

without fail, when she sees me, she compliments the way I look and will fawn over me until I return the compliment. I don't know how many times I have heard,

"Oh, your skin looks amazing!" I'm pretty average looking and no, my skin is not amazing. It's pretty run of the mill for my age group.

She has insisted on cooking for me even after I've told her I can only drop in for a few minutes. She lacks skills in listening and has trouble "seeing" the other in a relationship and allowing them to just be. She is always controlling what happens and people always have to be busy, busy busy, or my oh my, they just can't possibly be happy, because being busy is what makes HER happy. I think she grieves very deeply and needs healing. She constantly talked about an ex-boyfriend for 10 years and never bothered dating for that period. She is definitely a romantic and falls deeply in love with men who are not good for her.

She organizes activities for others. The plans are usually complicated and require that I lay out a lot of money, re-arrange my schedule, etc, and there's always the sales job to prevent any chance you may decline. She will enthusiastically tell me about what she wants to do for me or my children to make sure we have a great summer, even though I have very little vacation time and want to spend it with my immediate family. It goes on and on. On the surface, she seems well-intentioned, but she can get kind of hostile if you're not playing along.

If there is a pause in the phone conversation, she will say things like "Oh it sounds like you've got other things on your mind, do you have to get off the phone?" She won't give me credit for knowing my own mind. I mean, if I have to get off the phone I will be honest and tell her -I don't need prompting or permission from her.

She tried to plant another little seed of guilt a while back. Once, when I missed her call, she left a message asking me if she had done something to upset me. She was reading too much into a simple missed call. Maybe she felt like a pest - but if so, it has nothing to do with me. I realize I have enabled some of her behaviour, but I am trying to distance myself or at least be more honest. She hates it when I speak the plain truth, but I don't care any more. I hate the fact that she often seems to have the self-esteem of an insecure teenager, when she is a successful well-off career woman in her 50s!

Nina on January 11, 2012:

Excellent article. It was painfully difficult to distance myself from a codependent mother, who was manipulative, perpetually helpless, and clingy. I often felt that I was parenting her, even when I was a teen. I have a codependent, emotionally immature mother. Since my teens I was wondering what was wrong and often blamed myself. I then realized the games my mother played. She's always the victim, manipulative, disrespectful, blames everyone, always pity partying and complaining about her unhappy life but does nothing about it!

This was one thing. She wont even take the intiative to look for a job. When I was 17, she manipulated me into helping her get a job. But then she'd always complain about the job I helped her get. Now she's got another job because of a friend felt sorry for her. It occurred to me that she doesn't take the initiative to seek a job for herself. So I stopped helping her. She is an ADULT and needs to behave like one. If she hates her minimum wage job, thats her own damn fault. I told her once that I'm tired of her negativity and dont want to hear it. She started crying and calling me cold hearted. I just walked away and let her have the theatrics to herself.

Only years later, I was enabling her behavior. She used to confide in me when I was 13 about marriage problems with my father. This put pressure on me and it was very inappropriate of her. I cannot stand her anymore. She is burning me out. It's one thing for a mother to be proud of her kids, but she puts her entire happiness based on me. It's a lot of pressure.

My mother is rude, belittling, condescending, clingy, disrespectful of people. Thus she has a hard time making friends. She doesn't have any friends. She says she wants to be alone. Thats her choice — except she now clings to me and I feel suffocated. I never felt supported. She doesn't listen and doesn't have time yet wants to feel like a hero and expert in giving advice. But she expects me to listen to her problems. I stopped confiding in her completely and kept the relationship distant and superficial.

I have to continue to stop enabling her. However, she doesn't get help. She thinks she doesn't need it and blames everyone else. Everyone else has issues but her. She is always going to be unhappy. But I just walked away.

Elizabeth Allen on September 06, 2011:

This article really means a lot to me.

"Codependents will then try to make you feel like the worst person in the world. Do not fall for it. They are playing the newborn baby, wailing to get you to take care of their needs and wants. If you didn't give birth to them, you're not responsible for them.

You have to have the strength to walk away. Completely. Politely cut off contact, utterly fail to get drawn into an emotional discussion, do not answer their multiple phone calls, tearful apologies, heartfelt confessions, rages or anything else. If you accept a tearful apology, listen to a heartfelt confession or take a rage seriously, you just started the dance all over again.

Don't get offended, don't give in to the need to defend yourself from accusations, just politely stop talking."

That section right there hits me just right. After finally escaping a bad situation, it's still really hard feeling free of such manipulation. We all must guard the door to our minds. The best thing I did for myself was open up to a friend who didn't know my situation at all. Saved my life.

Thank you for this great article.

kate on June 24, 2011:

Thank you for the wonderfully insightful, and helpful information. I am stuck in one of these relationships with a childhood friend. She has gone through horrible things in her life,..i.e., lost teenage daughter in a car accident, divorced three times, etc. I've known her since we were in grade school, but we drifted apart until we graduated. My close friends went away to college, wherein I stayed nearby at a local college. This friend, I will call Ellen, did not attend college, but lived at home and worked.

We ran around together, out of boredom, but then after I got married, we drifted apart again. She contacted me last year, we had lost contact for more than ten years at this point, and was an emotional wreck. I should know better, but I stepped right into the 'helping' friend, as I always did, and do.

Now, she will not make a move without calling me, numerous times a day,..i.e., after work, over the weekend, etc., just to say where she is. I mean, I feel sorry for her, I do, but we are not the same types of people. She has had an awful time of it, and my pity for her is overwhelming me.

I try not to answer every time that she calls, because I realize that I am giving her the wrong impression. That I am her care-giver. I don't want this job, but I don't know how to tell her that she needs to be responsible for herself. That I cannot do that for her. Please help me to say the right thing. Thank you.

Juzzsaying on May 13, 2011:

I really enjoyed this article. You hit home with it. I am a recovering alcoholic and have felt the power drain of the codependent.

There is never enough you can do for them .And they keep thinking they are entitled to more. It's exhausting.

Rich on April 29, 2011:

Just outstanding, head on. I'm dealing with someone who approached me on facebook that I knew 30 years ago from high school. While all the dynamics could be healthy, they just want to help so much, but it's all meant to be a controlling and abusive outcome, it's almost a coverup for deep seated insecurities.

This is just outstanding the dynamics how to handle who literally has a compulsion to help so much when it's really not help at all. Thank you!

Rebecca on March 31, 2011:

I am C.D. and I need help with this. I cannot control myself from the arguments. :/


Jen on March 05, 2011:

Great article! This really helped me. I think my mom is Codependant and I think I have been dealing with this for a long time. I was so tired of it I was just snapping and yelling at her and then I would feel was a vicious cycle. Then on my own I decided I was enabling her, I have experience with this because I had a codependant boyfriend in the past and I had to breakup with him. So, I decided to use tough love so to speak and stop enabling her and give her space to come to me. She has used sympathy a few times already but I won't give in anymore, its really hard because I feel like I am being mean. My mom has always had a low self-esteem and its just become codependant. I usually feel really bad because I am sort of a critical person and I feel like when I can't take her codependency anymore and yell at her I am being really really mean. But, now I know that both are wrong and I just need to back off all together. In the past few months I have tried to apologize to her all the time for being cross but all that happened is she just admitted I was being cross until I really asked her and she admitted I wasn't. This all really sucks because I love her so much but I have to just let go. Thanks, Jen

Martina on March 03, 2011:

Wow! I have just ended a co-dependent friendship without realising that it was one...until now! Each section of your article really spoke to me and pretty much summed up the friendship. I could never quite put my finger on what was wrong. Thank you so much for shedding light on this, I feel so liberated...finally!! :)

Kimberly Ransdell on December 23, 2010:

I just recently figured I am a co dependent enabler and I loved your article. I am trying to find a support group near me. Just wanted you to know that I appreciate this aricle.

James Blond on December 22, 2010:

Gosh I needed that: I "know it" but still "forget" lol...

One thing is this "don't explain yourself" tip I heard once... It's easy for me to forget that the truly abusive people in my life are not logical. More like twisted.

Thanks.... what a rabbit hole, that's the key.

Arthur on July 26, 2010:

This is really well written. Rings true with me, and especially the hard-line, step up or step out approach to dealing with these "vampires".

Here's my situation, which is killing me. I've met the love of my life, absolutely and in all ways the woman I've always wanted to be with. She feels the same way about me, and her twin daughters are the reason I wake up and go to work everyday. Being a part of their lives has just been incredible!

The problem is that the woman of my dreams has herself shackled in a co-dependent relationship with her life long friend. What do I do here?

Georgia. on May 14, 2010:

Can anyone offer any advice. I've recently met a man whom I like very much (having been single for a good few years) but his ex is still on the scene. They were not together for very long but had known each other for about 18 months before hand He says there was never a future in it, she drinks a lot and takes drugs. she smashed up his house, shouted at him and hit him when he told her about me, and has repeated this behaviour subsequently. Yet still they are in touch and his latest thing is that if she controls her behaviour they can remain friends. We live in different countries and sometimes it can be a month before we see each other. He tries to convince me that she needs him and he feels protective over her and I am starting to wonder whether they have a codependent relationship. I am finding it very difficult because if I say anything its like I'm imposing my needs and he says I am jealous and its my issues that need sorting out, but I feel deeply disturbed about the whole thing and feel that I need to say something otherwise its always going to be an undercurrent in our relationship, which would spoil it anyway. Can anyone advise me of a way to get through this which doesn't involve ending the relationship, although I am sadly coming to the conclusion that this might be the only thing to do.

Jessica on March 03, 2010:

thank you so much for this article. i am a recovering codependent myself and i learned these behaviors from those around me as a child. i struggle not only to heal myself but to find a healthy way to handle my relationships with the codependents around me. it's not easy and can be very frustrating. sometimes it feels like you're between a rock and a hard place. but, i appreciate you writing this bc it helps me to see that it's ok, that i have permission to walk away from codependent people around me (which there are quite a few of since those are the ppl we tend to attract) not bc i'm mean or not a good person but bc i love myself enough and have to be responsible for my well being. and that they will use mind games for they're own benefit. logic is key. i liked so many of the points you touched on.

may our Higher Power continue to bless you for helping others out there.

shannon on December 14, 2009:

this seriously has made me feel like i've had a break through i have been dealing with a codependent person for about two years and it is the hardest thing i have ever delt with. at first i was still independent and after a while he would start crying to me and making me feel terrible so i started just doing what he said and had no friends or life any more and then became completely dependent on him. it is weird though because everything he's done has matched up except after i broke up with him and he tried to make me feel like the worst person in the world, it worked. and i started begging him to come back to me and he kept saying no. i guess i am codependent too? or maybe i got addicted to his codependence? honestly it made me feel like i mattered. i have felt trapped for so long.

Bev on September 30, 2009:

thank you ;)

preciousone986 on September 23, 2009:

I never thought I was a codependent, but I have come to the realization that I am. It is a painful and lonely life. I have picked a series of abusive addicts after being raised in an abusive home. I am no match when it comes to boundries. Every time I try to set one, I feel manipulated out of it. It is my goal to overcome codependency. The more I read and practice the behavior, the more unhealthy I realize I am due to how hard it is. I have to grow some b***ls, but it's hard when you've never had them. Peace

A on April 23, 2009:

This was so helpful and brought tears to my eyes. It descibed perfectly a situation I was in, my esteem spiraling downward. Thank you so much!

JH on February 25, 2009:

This is a very well written article that you can apply in any relationship where there is codependency. My husband has a very codependent relationship with his 38 year old daughter who has caused us much pain and suffering in our 22 year marriage. I have struggled with trying to help him open his eyes to her behavior and manipulations but I also realize until he is ready to stop being a part of this sick relationship nothing will change. There has been much disappointment for years on my side when he falls for her behaviors. He falls so typically into what this article describes as his daughter keeps him on what I call a merry go round. I have tried to share with him that it is going to take him to stop the merry go round and get OFF before things will change. But he is just as sick as she is and he can’t get off in fear that if he takes a stand his daughter will not love him or that he will be seen as abandoning her and he feels sorry for her.

I have taken the stand with my husband that I will not engage with his daughter because it only becomes a thorn between us. He thinks I should be a bigger person and support him and her but I told him that he and she have broken my trust so many times that at this point in our lives I don’t even feel bad about not supporting their behaviors. I feel as I have tried for the 22 years to be good to his children and I have a clear conscious and do not feel bad about how I feel as you cannot have a relationship with people who do not want a relationship with you! So why beat my head against a brick wall!!

My Mother is a codependent person as well as some of my siblings and it got to the point where I had to take a stand with them and come to the realization that I did not make the decisions they have made in their lives and I need to stop trying to FIX them because they really didn’t want to be helped. I told them that I love them but hate the choices they made in life and they were not choices I would have chosen for them but they were the choices they made for themselves and I have accepted them as they are but I refuse to subject myself to their lifestyles. I set boundaries for them when we were together however this was difficult for me but in the end I have been much happier in my relationships with them.

I am sort of in the same place with my husband…trying to protect myself from his sick relationship with his daughter but it is hard! His daughter and his ex-wife have begun going to Celebrate Recovery once a week and have gone for about 3 weeks now. My husband asked me to attend with him and I have agreed however on our first visit I see that she is not really engaged in the process so I am not sure this will work out for us.

Being in a relationship with a spouse that is codependent with an adult child is a very complex and heart retching experience. If you have any suggestions that will help me cope easier with this situation I would appreciate a list of boundaries you have set in your life that helps you cope with a codependent person of an adult child.



Natalie on February 10, 2009:

My husband is definitely co-dependent...and he has had an emotional affair with another woman who is also co-dependent. It's a real mess. This article has definitely helped me identify what the problems are in our marriage and what the reason is for his infidelity. We are going to marital counseling in the next couple of days. I hope the counselor we will be seeing will address the co-dependency issue, which I believe is the whole crux to our marital dysfunction.

TTB on February 05, 2009:

I see some of my friends, family, and others in this... and I also see myself. Most times I am the one supporting others (unneccessarily) but I also see this "unawareness" of my own feelings and behaviors and the effects on others. Thank you for an enlightening article.

Avalonia on January 14, 2009:

This has helped me immensely. I have several people in my life who I am trying to break free from; I hope they do get the help they need, and I am starting to feel less guilty now n having to make the cut. Thank you for this excellent piece.

mary on December 12, 2008:

very imformative. Simple and well written. It is so hard to overcome codependency though. I have stopped talking to so many people since I started recovery 6 months ago and I am still getting frustrated with people that are still in my life. I think to set new boundaries with already existing relationships is really hard. I am setting them and am proud of that but it is easy for me to think everyone hate me now because I have hardly anyone in my life anymore. Do you have any advice?

Loni L Ice (author) from Lawrence, KS on December 07, 2008:

Go you! It's not always easy to break out of bad relationships. Right now I'm trying to break out of a bad relationship with my cigarettes. Bad boyfriends, cigarettes, both shorten happy lives far too much. Don't worry if he gets help, that's his own choice and nothing you can influence. You get the help and support you need.

NLTH on December 06, 2008:

this article has been very helpful to me. i just recently got out of a co-depentent relationship that has consumed the past two years of my life (i'm 20). as soon as i realized that he was never going to change or get help for himself and that i was only enabling him and making things worse, my actions started to change and he did not like it one bit. as soon as i started sticking up for myself and not putting up with his shit - he was out of there, and of course blamed it all on me. it has been very emotional hard for me because i still feel that i love this person and keep hoping that he will change but in my heart i know he is sick and i am sick for staying in such a relationship for so long. i am trying to get help for myself and i hope that this person gets help for himself. thank you for the article.

Loni L Ice (author) from Lawrence, KS on November 15, 2008:

Rules for Fighting in Relationships was written for people with "significiant others" which is about as close as I get in my writing to "married" I am happily married my ownself, but I figured I should write it to be as all inclusive as possible. I hope you enjoy or that it helps.

hasan on November 14, 2008:

very strong points, its a great article and again so tru...i actually was reading it to my aunt who is having trouble with her husband and it covered some points she had, i wish you had something for married couples dealing with problems? if you do id love to read about it..thanks.

Loni L Ice (author) from Lawrence, KS on October 20, 2008:

Rule Number 1: You can't help someone that doesn't want help. If he won't go in to see a therapist on a long term, consistent basis, there's nothing you can do except save yourself.

Rule Number 2: You can't help him alone. You don't have the qualifications, even if you were a full psychiatrist you wouldn't have the qualifications because you're too close to the situation. You need help yourself, you need to heal from the wounds being an enabler causes.

Rule Number 3: Everybody is responsible for his or her own actions. There are a lot of people who had a very rough childhood. They may need healing, they may need therapy, but the minute we all turn eighteen we are responsible for our own actions. A diabetic suffers from a health condition that is not his or her fault, but whose fault is it if that diabetic dies because of a willful powdered sugar binge? We all have to take responsibility for our own health conditions, mental health conditions included.

Sometimes doesn't cut it. Either he takes responsibility all the time, or you need to find somewhere else to be. You owe it to both of you. It sounds as though the times when he does "take responsibility" are one more emotional hook with which to manipulate you, in which case you still need to drop him like a hot rock.

However, for the record I'm not a psychiatrist nor am I qualified to be a therapist of any kind. Before you go ripping up your life by the roots, I seriously suggest calling a support hotline or finding a local codependent enabler's support group for clarity.

RobPete on October 16, 2008:

Is there anthing I can do to salvage the relationship. As an enabler of a codepender it is tough. He has had a really tough life and is currently in a situation that is repetitive of his childhood. He sometimes chooses to be aware and other times he uses the standard list of excuses, lies and blaming method. I can see the good great healthy person looking to break free. Is is possible for me to help or am I just kidding myself?

j on September 11, 2008:

thanks for this. I'm 18 and I've just come to realise recently that my 'best friend of 13 years' is actually causing me a lot of grief which is not healthy at all. Do I want to keep being her friend or do I feel obliged to because she's given me so much and we've been such close friends up until now? It's hard but this article has shed some light on the matter.

Jill from deep in the heart of Texas on August 31, 2008:

I recently ended a codependent relationship that had gone on way too long. I "didn't want to hurt his feelings" despite the fact that he walked over mine on a regular basis. I finally got the nerve to tell him how I felt. His obnoxious way of speaking to me hurt...a lot. I told him quite firmly that he was out of line. He no longer ran the show and he stepped out of my life as quietly as he had stepped into it. The game was no longer fun if he was not winning. It makes me sad, but it feels so good to be free of this.

mike king from california on August 31, 2008:

Thank you for a splendily written and well researched document. I also applaud you for having the courage to break free from the old ways of dealing with this problem.

My research with groups of self identified and later diagnosed persons in co-dependent relationships was later published into my dissertation, and that became the focus of a book. Special because volunteers from the community stepped forward and gave of their time to risk disclosure in a small city where everyone knew everyone else. One of the things I had to learn how to do was ask for help. this is not easy for an adult who, as a child, lived in a highly charged and emeshed family.

I learned soon and often that for every person who is grateful for getting out of the codependent vice, there is one who is sure to hate the therapist for granting permission to a wife or husband, sibling, and partners to take a risk. Often the group would practice with one another what to say under certain conditions to recognize the cues that would begin a repetitive pattern of interactive, negative and draining dialogue.

I love it that you brought up passive aggressive behavior. One may engage in this forever and never get anywhere except maybe more angry. Why the anger? Because it's not a fair fight when the outcome is always the same, already decided, and you are the loser.

How wonderful and powerful it is to be able to change with the help of others who are finally recognizing that they have some power and that the story may and often does have an unpredictable outcome in your favor.( I use your to mean a colective group, including myself). I also like yoiur point that those with mental problems are not sitting there plotting how they can make everyones' life miserable. That they have a problem similar to a physical one in the sense that they didn't bring it on themselves and they are not having any fun at being unhappy, and making everyone else miserable too.Thank you again, I am looking forward to reading more of your stuff. Soon I will place my dissertation on the internet. It was copyrighted in 1981 and it will be available for free. I have joined your fan club, and if reciprocated would be welcomed. I have many stories to tell (don't we all). Also a video where I appeared with Rachel Welsh on a daytime television show.

KateWest from Los Angeles, CA on August 30, 2008:

Very well stated. I recognize a lot of people I know in this one, inlcuding myself. Sometimes I tell myself that difficult people are thrown into my life for a reason, for me to learn from them and see how they affect others. So I modify my own behavior accordingly. Neediness is never attractive. Of course, with clinically ill people, you should probably resort to outside professionals.

jonsailr from Scituate, MA on August 28, 2008:

I just wanted to ad to the long list of applause for this article which is very well thought out and well written. You hit a number of resonent chords with that one.

02SmithA from Ohio on August 27, 2008:

Nicely written hub. Relationships are a very complex thing and some people just never get a real handle on them.

siouxsie1970 on August 03, 2008:

Could not read all of the article, found it too long, but excellent.

Is manipulation a good word to discribe codependants?

They seem to be those who believe that live owes them a living.

Round 2 from Ottawa, Canada on July 18, 2008:

Excellent article. So easy to fall into the trap of co-dependency for many reasons. I have learned that for myself co-dependency was a direct result of myself mirroring my parents from an early age. There is a cure. I have broken through the co-dependency nightmare. I benefited from therapy and a lot of self-education. Co-dependent No More is also a great book.

Loni L Ice (author) from Lawrence, KS on July 07, 2008:

I've done some work with Child Protection Services in the past, and I'm quite familiar with what you're talking about. I've worked with many people who come from unfortunate backgrounds as adults, and teaching them self-reliance and independence gets even harder once they're grown.

I don't think our culture of "recovery" helps either. At some point, you have to actually recover rather than spend years "in recovery". Not that I'm denigrating the people who suffer from conditions that actually require years of recovery, far from it. Rather, I'm upset at all those who steal the kind of attention and care that the truly damaged require.

marisuewrites from USA on June 30, 2008:

Loni, these people suck the life right out of a person.  You end up feeling so responsible for their every success or failure, they need you so much you have no time to live your own life, as you worry about theirs.  Thanks for this article!

...."Codependents will then try to make you feel like the worst person in the world. Do not fall for it."

I parented many foster children who come in with heavy dependency and if we were not diligent, would leave worse for the wear.  Teaching independence and SELF-RELIANCE was the order of the day.  Coming from terribly needy families with histories of domestic violence, sexual abuse and neglect gave them a full plate and a history that was hard to step over.  Most foster parents are not "degreed" and certainly are wonderfully devoted and successful parents. My degrees came in handy, and yet it was the heart and gut and training curriculums that pulled and pushed us through many hard days and nights handling their behaviors and emotions, the "excess baggage" of loss and abuse.

When you foster, you parent their whole family in many ways.  When you have one child, that's consuming.  Can you imagine 5 children from different families all with dependency issues??   That and who's army is consumed with these efforts.

Your article has brought back many memories.  The sad part of the dependency challenges were that we often didn't have the kids long enough (2 - 3 years is NOT enough) to make a serious difference; they were often sent back to a scantily improved family.  But, parenting rights are inalienable, so, back home they went, assuming they were safe at the moment.  Ahem...that is a whole other subject. 

Good read, thank you!   Marisue

PS. I just now saw your hub entitled "emotional vampires..." yep, met a few.

Ananta65 on June 26, 2008:

Great hub, Loni. Many codependents aren't even aware of what they're really doing.

Loni L Ice (author) from Lawrence, KS on June 24, 2008:

Thanks! The fact that you took the time to read the huge thing is a big compliment, and I appreciate it.

J_Eds from Blackpool on June 24, 2008:

This is really well written, well done :)

Loni L Ice (author) from Lawrence, KS on June 24, 2008:

Sun goddess: Pushy with boyfriends I know all too well. I had a husband I got pushy with once upon a time. However, he didn't budge, and we're no longer together. In my case this was a good thing, but I did learn a few valuable lessons. I have some control-freak tendencies because of trust issues I had to deconstruct. Fortunately, this was successful and I'm now happily married. My ex, however, is still worthless. ;)

Thanks for the positive feedback on my article!

Loni L Ice (author) from Lawrence, KS on June 23, 2008:

Thanks to all of you for your kind comments! I really appreciate them to no end. It's a difficult subject for me to tackle, and I didn't know if I'd be up to doing it fairly. Again, thank you.

Because of my life experience, I've learned that mental illness is a lot like physical illness. The person who has the flu can't help sneezing in your general direction, and the person with clinical depression can't help being depressed. It's a sad thing that prejudice and discrimination are so rampant about mental illness. The worst thing about all of that prejudice is that it often prevents the mentally ill from getting the treatment they need to stop hurting themselves and everyone around them.

sun goddess from davao city, philippines on June 23, 2008:

insightful... thanks for sharing this... now i am feeling a bit guilty about being so pushy with my boyfriend... i guess it's one habit i should break or else i'd end up being alone...

on the other hand, i guess you were right about cutting ties with a codependent. Been there and it's emotionally draining. And if you don't give in, you become the bad guy.... Thanks for sharing...

Jeanette M on June 23, 2008:

Thanks for sharing your insightful article!


pure on June 23, 2008:

Nice and well written article. There are really people who drains you and makes you feel weak. People like that are distrubed and need to be love.

RUTHIE17 on June 23, 2008:

Great article and so, so true. It's very hard to break the chain of codependency once it's established. You've given some very solid suggestions to begin that break.

Thumbs up and I've joined your fan club! 1.--because it's a good Hub and 2.--we're almost neighbors. I'm from outside of KCMO.

robertsloan2 from San Francisco, CA on June 23, 2008:

This is powerful and well written. It opens up ways to deal with situations that feel completely unsolvable when you're in them. Sometimes one of the best ways to apply logic is to talk things out with friends so far outside the situation that they're not involved and don't mention names. They can give an honest judgment of the behavior and defuse some of the most irrational accusations by giving a reality check. Wonderful article.

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