Codependency vs. Support

Several years ago,  I was introduced to the concept of unhealthy vs. healthy codependency by one of my mentors, Stephanie Brown, Ph.D. I learned that that healthy codependency includes support, praise, and altruism. I also learned that healthy codependency aka healthy care-taking  helps one gain independence. Unhealthy codependency occurs when a person is enabling another person’s behaviors and/or addiction. Let me repeat that! Unhealthy codependency occurs when a person is enabling another person’s  behaviors and/or addiction and often creates dependence. For me and many of my clients, this concept begs the question: What is supportive (healthy codependendency, healthy care-taking) verses codependency (enabling )?

Let me give you some examples based my experiences and interpretations. Which is it when I follow my family around and pick up after them? CODEPENDENT  because they are all physically able to pick up after themselves. What about feeling the need to help my sweet daughter make friends? CODEPENDENT  because she needs to learn on her own. I can ask her if she wants  guidance, it is her choice. How about when my daughter asks for help with her homework and I give it to her? SUPPORTIVE as long as she has tried on her own first and I do not give her the answers. In regards to my teenage stepson, is  it supportive or codependent to allow him to go out on Friday night when he has not done  his “chores”?  CODEPENDENT because it meets my need to be liked, but sends him a confusing message. When my kids are upset and I listen without giving any advice? SUPPORTIVE because they don’t always need to be fixed. When I try to make my husband  be anything other than who he is? CODEPENDENT because this is my own agenda and does not include reciprocation in the relationship. What about when any family member or friend  needs consistent help, guidance, and reassurance from me? SUPPORTIVE!! as long as I am still taking care of myself and I am not helping someone with their unhealthiness, this is support. This is healthy care-taking. We are supposed to be there for the people in our lives. With our children, we just need to continue to show up. With partners, family, and friends; the showing up should be reciprocated.

In regards to addiction, my simple answer to the above question is as follows: if a person is aiding an addicted person  with their addiction, then it is CODEPENDENT. The opposite is true for how to SUPPORT an addict.  One would need to stop unhealthy codependency or enabling behaviors.


December 15, 2014