What does it mean being called codependent?

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I am not at all clear on the difference between having a "codependent relationship" as the full-time caregiver for my handicapped elderly mother, and just being a reliable, responsible, loving caregiver. Somehow being called codependent feels judgmental and harsh, but if I can learn something from it, I will. So far, though, I am just confused. Is anyone clear on the definition and the difference?

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I also agree that this is a harsh assessment if given by someone other than a health professional. This is a pet peeve, along with people telling you that you should feel lucky you still have a mother. Do you feel lucky to give up you life and money, only to be judged by people who don't understand? You are a human being who is dealing with a difficult situation with great compassion. You really have to speak up if people are saying YOU are the codependent one. Your charge IS, by necessity, but you have no choice but to be aware of the person's needs. That is not codependency, it is competence and compassion.
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I don't think codependent has to be emotionally destructive or abusive. It CAN be, I know, but with my mom and me it wasn't like that at all.
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I should add: I wouldn't take that assessment of my situation from anyone who didn't have a thorough understanding of the whole picture, by the way.

In relation to your mother, for example, if the person who handed you that judgement is assuming she could manage with less help if she tried harder, he or she is an idiot. But if that person is saying help could come from other people, and that while your mother does need a lot of care it doesn't ALL have to be done by you, then there could be something in it. Are you in a situation where your mother will "accept no substitute"?
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I agree that being called codependent can feel very unfair. But it is worth thinking about, and examining whether your own behaviour is making any problematic relationship worse.

For those of us who - how does one put this? - tend to get given the pointy end of the stick in life, maybe this will be a helpful motivation to change: the trouble with co-dependency is that it is not only bad for the co-dependant (you or me), it is also detrimental to the wellbeing of the other person. You wouldn't give an alcoholic booze. You wouldn't give a desperate, overweight person cream cakes. It is worth trying to identify things we do that might be reinforcing another's destructive patterns of behaviour.

And I hope you have more success with it than I seem to..!
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There is a good definition at site webmd

Here's another...Co-dependency or relationship addiction is a learned behavior that causes people to form emotionally destructive or abusive relationships. This term originally referred to people who were in relationships with chemically dependent partners, but as of 2010 it includes anyone involved in a dysfunctional family or relationship.

When you place the needs of anther person above your needs pretty much sums it up!
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My lovely mom was very codependent upon me which meant that her moods and emotions were based upon my moods and emotions. My part in the relationship was that I would share things with her that I knew would upset her too much but I shared them anyway because she was my mom. So I allowed the codependency to continue. We were close and lived like this for all of my life but as I matured it bothered me.

So anyway! That's what codependency is to me.
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I agree with JB, lots of codependency here. Think think adult child who gives up a job to stay and care for narcissistic, demanding mom who says she's going to leave her big bucks. Who, in the end, leaves the money to the unreliable nephew she adores.

There are many shades of caregiving. Does the label bother you? Is the person who is telling you this coming from a place of love and concern about YOU.?
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Many of the people in the group here fit the definition of codependency. They give up their jobs, family time, and sometimes more to take care of a person, who may or may not be appreciative. I would probably fit into the codependent category nicely. But I really wouldn't appreciate anyone calling me that. I agree with you, Stephan. It strikes me as being judgmental and not very helpful.
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Co-dependent people foster unhealthy, enmeshed dependency on each other. In the subtance abuse world, it means one partner is doing things that enable the other to go on substance abusing with little or no consequence.

Good care allows for the caregivee to do anything for themselves they are capable of, provides the necessary supports for what they cannot do for themselves, and does not feel like bondage to either person.

Are you hating your life? Is Mom demanding you do all kinds of things for her that she does not need done? Does she resent reasonable limits on what she can choose to do and ask you for? Do you resent but feel bound to keep doing everything you are currently doing it, necessary or not? Do you ever get a break from each other or is that just out of the question? Try asking these folks exactly what they are thinking makes your relationship co-dependent. Otherwise its hard to tell if they may be right, partly right, or just psychobabbling at you.
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To me, co-dependent means you and your mom have a relationship that isn't healthy for YOU. You put aside all of your wants and needs to take care of her. Often times parents push fear/obligation/guilt (FOG) buttons to make the co-dependent child feel bad if they try to have a life on their own, take time for themselves, or don't meet every need of the parent, no matter how difficult that is for the child and their life.

Some parents teach their children that they "owe" their parents anything they ask for - like moving in with their adult child, or having their child to give up their job to take care of the parent. Or they push away their child's partner/boyfriend/girlfriend, so that the parent has all of the adult child's time.

If any of this sounds like what you and your mom have, you may have a co-dependent relationship. I'm sure you'll get other good answers with more ideas about what co-dependent means.

Why are others telling you that you have that type of relationship?
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