Codependent,… Or Something?!

Inquisition condemned (Francisco de Goya).

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It’s a term a lot of people use but I don’t think we are all using it to mean the same thing.  It is poorly defined and confusing.  If codependency were a medication, we would call it a “dirty medicine,” because it hits so many “receptors.”  It is nonspecific.

Who hasn’t ever been shamed by the fear that they are codependent?

You are codependent! 

Am I codependent!!!??

The word implies blame.  Blame for what?  And that is one of the places we walk away without benefit.  Was the word useful to any of us in any way?

In general, vaguely, codependence implies awareness and participation with mal-behavior that we are powerless to.  Treatment preferably includes a twelve-step program that includes the surrender of what we don’t have power over to our Higher Power.  Codependence may incidentally be combined with brain disease and of course that would need medication therapy.

There are however a few things that must be cleared up.

  1. There is nothing shameful about being married, the child of or of any relation to an addict.  That position doesn’t diagnose us with codependency unless that’s what that word is being used to define.  You never know.
  2. There is no shame in wanting to be with people, depend on people, seek people out to problem-solve and get energy from being with people.  That position does not diagnose codependency unless that’s what the word is being used to define.  You never know.


  1. There may be a relationship to family of addicts
  2. There may be a relationship to anger problems
  3. There may be a relationship to kids of parents who expected perfect kids, spouses of spouses who expect perfect spouses, pet-owners who… (Oh wait.  That’s not right.)

BUT, per Dr. Q, if we find ourselves…

  1. in recurring negativity – perhaps an argument that happens over and over
  2. with an increasingly limited ability to participate in life
  3. powerless
  4. doing things we wouldn’t normally do/out of character
  5. tied into someone else’s mal-behavior
  6. consciously aware of that someone’s mal-behavior

IT’S WORTH THINKING ABOUT IT.  We might not be codependent, whatever that means, but we do need help.

Questions:  How do you identify this in your life or someone you know?  How have you been able to stop being dependent on someone you knew was repeatedly doing mal-behavior?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip #275 – Forget the shame and just get about your work to figure this out.

16 thoughts on “Codependent,… Or Something?!

  1. I have to think about this, Doc. I was speaking yesterday about one of my husband’s clients. The man is a perfect bore and egotist. He divorced his first wife because she was/is an alcoholic. She was married to him for 30 years. I can’t blame her for hitting the bottle.


    • i am just human and your all too sad story made me laugh. inappropriate i know. maybe i do that to defend myself from the real emotional response to what happens when someone w/o self-care “spreads” to the vulnerable other and we all become victims. i hear u. we become more vulnerable to this migration of poor personal care when we don’t self-defend in advance and at any point with loving ourselves…


  2. Thanks so much for the education! I have always seen codependence as a relationship that both parties are involved in for their own (selfish) benefit – whether aware of it or not. BUT, I undertand interdependence as a good thing, in which each recognizes the godd things and the foibles in one another and encourages each other to be the best they can be.

    Depending on one another is a good thing – especially when you have someone on whom you can rely! But expecting them to kow-tow and supply you, or complete you for their own ends is not a healthy relationship.

    I’m not sure I expressed that well, but am I close? 😀


  3. It its significant that you define the difference between co-dependency and partnership and that the two terms are not interchangeable. We may want to use Alanon to maintain our sanity as we struggle to maintain our sanity living with the insanity of others. I don’t think it is productive however , but you can’t divorce your kids, siblings or children. If the negatives of the other person is chronic it can exhaust us to the point of our collapse. If the co-dependency leads to mal behaviors where we fuel off one another the best remedy is to understand how that works and put distance between each other. Togetherness becomes co-destruction. It’s like choosing to be miserable.


      • Yes, my estimations re Alanon should be more precise. It has helped millions cope and get support. It gives insights into the dynamic of the troubled “other”.It is worth the effort if the “other” is sincere about recovery even though there may be episodes and relapse. But when the “nonsense” is chronic and never ending, why would anyone sentence themselves to dancing around the disharmony of the “other” and live a life of contingency and insecurity? Sometimes we are the victim but in this case we make ourselves the victim of our own free will. I have dealt with 15 years of my daughter’s on again/off again romance with crack. No more. She knows if she makes another run not to come back to me. I had to write her off when she ran away at 14 and had to go the missing persons at the police department to sign a dental release form in case they found her body. Can you imagine that pain? Never again. I have had multiple heart attacks and coming up on 62. My main worry is what would I do with 3 little grandchildren. I don’t have the stamina or resources. My daughter has been doing well the last year and a half. Habitat for Humanity is building her a house. She got it over 10,000 applicants so she must be under the watch of Jesus and things should turn out OK. Regards.


  4. Hi Dr. Q. …this is Carrie Rose formerly of SARC in Watsonville. I’ve been enjoying your blog and especially your sense of humor! Your review of codependency is RIGHT on!!! Blessings to you and your family!!!


    • hey carrie!!!! so happy to hear from u! i’ve thought of u often and asked the secretary if she had your email just to say hello and n make sure u knew u r missed. thanks for the + feedback w the blog and snickers. i totally need that! keep on!


  5. ╔══════════ ೋღ☃ღೋ ══════════╗

    Being codependant on the right person is fine. I purposely make myself vulnerable to him and put my life in his hands. Putting that kind of trust in someone is a special kind of love.

    But I don’t depend on anyone or anything to make me happy. That is my job. I depend on medication to get rid of distractions so I can use that energy on other things that make my life more fulfilling.

    Hugs and Blessings! Jasmine Wilmany

    ╚══════════ ೋღ☃ღೋ ══════════╝


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