The term “co-dependent” has been around for quite some time, it is “a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways that negatively impact one’s relationships and quality of life.” When our actions are codependent, we usually put our needs at a lower priority than others while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others, and experience a great deal of stress. Codependency can occur in any of our relationships; family, co-workers, friendships, and also in romantic relationships. //

When we engage in codependent behavior, we often exhibit low self-esteem, excessive compliance, and/or control patterns. There are varying degrees of codependency. Everyone displays some co-dependency from time to time, but some struggle a great deal.  How do we show compassion and helpfulness toward others without slipping into co-dependent behaviors?  When we are able to come alongside someone who is hurting or is in need and help them through supportive conversation, active listening, and suggestions (when they are wanted) we are acting compassionately.  When we find ourselves trying to fix the other person’s problem or if we find ourselves needing to help the other person for our own sense of identity – then we are dealing with co-dependency.

One quick way to determine if you are acting from a place of compassion or a place of co-dependency is to do a motives check.  Ask yourself “am I hoping to help this person so I can rescue them?  Am I helping this person because it seems like my identity rests upon my ability to help others?  Am I helping this person because I don’t feel strong enough to help myself – so their problem becomes a distraction from my own challenges?”  If you answer yes to any of these questions, then chances are co-dependency is rearing its head in this situation. The “helping others” is actually taking responsibility for their thoughts, feelings, words or actions.  (Which, of course is their responsibility). One of the symptoms of codependency is that we have a hard time differentiating between co-dependence on the one hand, and interdependence or healthy dependence on the other hand. Often, codependent people feel that they “should” be independent. This leads to black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking: either being totally independent, taking responsibility for the emotions of others.

The challenge is to be interdependent, recognizing that you need the other and he or she needs you… but both of you also need to be individuals. The healthy model is two people who are whole, individualized and emotionally stable-who CHOSE to be interdependent.

In an interdependent relationship there is room in the relationship for each person to fully express their needs and wants. One of the best ways to avoid co-dependent behaviors is to approach every relationship you are a part of with a healthy sense of boundaries.  If you balance kindness with being able to say “no” when you or the other person is stepping over the boundaries – you will be able to stay in compassion without enabling the other to continue to depend upon you.  Each person should take full responsibility for his or her own self-care.


  1. My good feelings about who I am stem from being liked by you
  2. My good feelings about who I am stem from receiving approval from you
  3. Your struggle affects my serenity. My mental attention focuses on solving your problems/relieving your pain
  4. My mental attention is focused on you
  5. My mental attention is focused on protecting you
  6. My mental attention is focused on manipulating you to do it my way
  7. My self-esteem is bolstered by solving your problems
  8. My self-esteem is bolstered by relieving your pain
  9. My own hobbies/interests are put to one side. My time is spent sharing your hobbies/interests
  10. Your clothing and personal appearance are dictated by my desires and I feel you are a reflection of me
  11. Your behavior is dictated by my desires and I feel you are a reflection of me
  12. I am not aware of how I feel. I am aware of how you feel.
  13. I am not aware of what I want – I ask what you want. I am not aware – I assume
  14. The dreams I have for my future are linked to you
  15. My fear of rejection determines what I say or do
  16. My fear of your anger determines what I say or do
  17. I use giving as a way of feeling safe in our relationship
  18. My social circle diminishes as I involve myself with you
  19. I put my values aside in order to connect with you
  20. I value your opinion and way of doing things more than my own
  21. The quality of my life is in relation to the quality of yours

Co-dependency can be difficult to recognize at times.  Just keep in mind the rule of thumb that each person is ultimately responsible for their own emotional needs.  If you can support them along their journey without getting entangled in “fixing” or “solving” their problems for them, then you will have acted with true compassion without enabling.