One of the most commonly identifiable behaviors/attitudes in co-dependency is that of trying to control our environment (namely relationships) to satisfy our deep need of wanting to be loved. Have you ever found yourself saying things like:

  • “If I was good enough, he/she would love me.”
  • “If I don’t do it, the job won’t get done or won’t be done right and people will be disappointed in me.”
  • “If I volunteer more at church, I will be liked and respected.”
  • “If I wear the latest clothes, I will be more popular with my classmates/co-workers/potential partners/friends.”
  • “If I were thinner/more muscular/smarter/funnier he/she would love me.”
  • “If my kids are always clean, neat and well behaved, everyone will believe I am a good parent and will respect me more.”
  • “I know so much through my experiences, it is my responsibility to pass on this information to everyone whether they think it is important information or not.”
  • “If I get the project done ahead of time, everyone will respect me.”
  • “If my children are at the top of their class, people will believe I am a great parent and/or I will look good.”
  • “If I make sure to get my children to all of the “right” activities rather than taking time for me, everyone will see what a great parent I am by my self-less sacrifices.”
  • “If my spouse is always happy, then people will believe we have a great marriage/relationship.”
  • “My spouse/significant other will always be happy if I just behave in a certain way and/or provide for their every need.”
  • “If we pretend that the abuse isn’t happening, things will work out okay and people will see how great my family is. It is important to keep up appearances.”
  • “If I can just avoid saying anything confrontational on the nights my spouse has been drinking then things will be fine.”
  • “If I give 120% – one hundred percent of the time, everyone will see this and my life will be perfect.”
  • “A job worth doing, is worth doing perfectly.”

All of these statements suggest a strong presence of co-dependent thoughts and behaviors. In all of the above statements there may be the motivation of trying to carry someone’s baggage rather than letting them carry it themselves. It may be a relationship where boundaries blend in too closely with those boundaries of family members, friends, coworkers, fellow students, neighbors, etc. – experiencing a state of being immeshed with others.

All of these examples suggest having control over (trying to manipulate) other peoples’ opinions, thoughts and feelings – being responsible for others. If we have co-dependant attitudes/behaviors, we believe that we are strong and all powerful – we are able to “make someone happy, sad, angry, furious, out of control, elated, content”…the list goes on and on. With co-dependant behaviors/attitudes come the belief that through our actions we control how all other people see us, value us, and respond to us. This is a recipe for potential relationship disaster.