Codependency: When Love Hurts

By Sydney Chhabra © 2012

What is this term “codependency” we often hear about? Webster's dictionary defines codependency as an “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one with an illness or addiction.” Over time, however, this definition has expanded to include relationships that may or may not involve addiction or illness. In essence, if you are so absorbed in others (a spouse, lover, boyfriend/girlfriend, anybody other than yourself) that you ignore your own needs and desires and live instead only in reaction to the other person's behavior, you are most likely codependent.

Let's look at some key characteristics of codependency. Do these sound like you?

Characteristics of Codependency:
1-Being Drawn to an Emotionally Unavailable Person: Codependents typically get involved in relationships with people who are unreliable, emotionally unavailable, or needy. Do you find yourself being attracted to partners who are married or in a relationship with a significant other? Do you find people who are kind, stable and reliable to be boring and unappealing? Do you try even harder to please a partner who is cold or rejecting towards you?

2- Care-taking: Codependents feel responsible for the actions, feelings, choices, and well-being of others. They try to anticipate everyone's needs and wonder why others don't do the same for them. While focused on helping others, they ignore their own needs and desires. Codependents help others in order to feel important and valuable in their relationships. They tend to believe that they are somehow more capable than the other who needs their direction or assistance and often blame themselves for anything that goes wrong.

3-Low Self Esteem: Codependents often feel empty and incomplete outside of relationships. Deep down inside they believe they do not deserve the love they seek and believe that they must work to earn the right to be happy. They are typically drawn to people with problems that need “fixing” to avoid focusing on themselves.

4-Seeking Love and Approval: Codependents long for love and approval from the other. They stay in relationships that don't work and tolerate mistreatment because they are terrified of abandonment. Nothing is too much trouble, takes too much time or is too expensive if it will help keep the person with whom they are involved. They often have difficulty saying “no” to any request made of them.

5-Addictive Behaviors: Codependents may be predisposed emotionally and biologically to becoming addicted to drugs, alcohol, and/or certain foods (especially sugary ones) in an attempt to cope with the pain and frustration of relationships. They often dream of how relationships could be rather than how they actually are. In a sense, codependents become addicted to emotional pain and to unhealthy relationships, while desperately hoping to gain love and security.

Can you recognize the characteristics described above in yourself? Are you desiring change? Remember, before you can begin to transform your behavior, it is important to identify your patterns over time and across relationships. You can then set goals to focus on self-development by learning new ways to nurture both your emotional and physical well-being. With each step and practice, you will start to end destructive relationships and become comfortable with being around more loving and supportive others. This step-by-step process is difficult to complete in isolation. Seek out a 12-Step program or work with a mental health professional, coach, or mentor to assist you through this gradual process of change.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sydney Chhabra, Ph.D. is a seasoned Psychologist and Personal Life Coach with 20+ years of experience! Sydney has a very warm and personable style of communication and takes a very practical approach in life coaching. She is genuinely supportive and maintains a focused and solution-oriented approach. To learn more, or read additional articles, visit: and click on BLOG.

Article Source:


  1. Thanks for posting this! I'm trying to find information on psychological assessment, intervention and counselling for children, adolescents and adults and this has definitely helped me in this process.

  2. I'm glad you found it helpful. Speaking from experience, many people do not realize they are codependent. It is not a term/condition that gets as much recognition as the issue/addiction it supports.