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17 Characteristics of a Codependent

17 Characteristics of a Codependent


What is a Codependent?

The term codependency has been around for about forty years. It originally applied to spouses of alcoholics, however, they found that if you were raised in a dysfunctional family or suffer from shame ad feeling unworthy you are more than likely codependent.

When a person is controlled or manipulated by another (parent or spouse) who is affected with a pathological condition such as narcissism (self asborbed), alcoholism, or drug addiction, or is dependent on the needs of, or control of, another they are considered a codependent.

The codependent in the relationship thinks “If the troubled spouse loves me enough they will change.” They become people pleasers with few boundaries and have a hard time saying no. They lose themselves trying to control others around them by fixing problems.

Codependency can develop or exist wherever relationships (past or current) are love-deficient. It also occurs when we look for something from the outside to fill the “inner void” on the inside. Since that inner void can only be filled by God, a codependent unknowingly attempts to put a person, situation, or thing in God’s place. Before we get overwhelmed by that definition, recognize that by default all human beings do this. Therefore, it would be technically correct to say that all people are at one point “codependent.”

I am a recovering codependent and survivor of a narcissistic abuse. See my story here. I believe this problem is widespread in the homeschool movement. I want to share some of the resources that have really helped me.

Codependents have a tendency to get involved in abusive painful relationships with people who are unreliable and emotionally unavailable.  My situation is described in The Christian Codependence Recovery Workbook perfectly:

We became a catalyst to the needs of those around us and in some ways our sense of self was entirely dissolved. Unable to identify this pattern or the reasons behind it, we were caught in a viscous cycle of attempting to help, fix, change, and please others, while at the same time feeling empty, angry, disappointed, and disconnected.

Once you understand the pattern, you can break it; once the light bulb is turned on, it stays on and gets brighter, revealing more and more truth.

17 Characteristics of a Codependent

These patterns and characteristics are offered as a tool to aid in self-evaluation.

      1. Believing a relationship with a significant other will fill the ultimate need for love
      2. Depending on relationships with emotionally unavailable people to meet one’s own needs
      3. Bound in relationships by performance (what I do) rather than core value and worth (who I am)
      4. Obsession with other people’s problems and needs
      5. Overly caring for other people to the neglect of self needs. Feeling victimized and “used” as a result
      6. Inability to say “NO”
      7. Tolerating mistreatment or abuse from people while justifying their behavior and trying to defend them
      8. Avoiding conflict with other people to the point of being unable to speak true feelings or ask for valid needs, oftentimes countered by fits of anger or rage
      9. Covering up for irresponsible people in life by lying or “filling in the gaps” to “help” them
      10. Doing for others what they should be doing for themselves
      11. Attempting to protect a person from emotional pain or consequences of unhealthy behaviors, such as using drugs and alcohol. Unaware that doing so creates enablement of the problem rather than solution
      12. Directly or indirectly attempt to fix, manage or control another person’s problems, even if meant in a loving way
      13. Trying to please people in life by going out of the way to be helpful, thoughtful or caring, and then becoming angry or discouraged if the desired response does not help (Motives were to get the person to respond rather than to try to bless them.)
      14. Migrating toward people that need help, yet having a difficult time receiving help from others
      15. Being willing to compromise personal belief systems or morals to please another person or to have emotional needs met
      16. Worrying about other people’s feelings so much that it has a direct effect on one’s own feelings. Being bound to another person’s emotions (happy when they are happy, upset when they are upset)
      17. Losing one’s own interests and identity in close relationships. Believing that the people in one’s life are a direct reflection of self. Fear of being alone or isolating out of fear of close relationships

Codependent Resources

The Christian Codependence Recovery Workbook

The Christian Codependence Recovery Workbook  is an excellent read, from a Christian worldview,  to help codependents break free from bondage.  It starts you on a journey toward awareness, understanding, application and genuine recovery from the destructive emotions and behaviors of codependence. It also challenges you to engage in new relationship and love styles based on God’s truth and guiding principles. You will:


      •  Understand codependence from a biblical perspective
      •  Learn defining core issues associated with codependent tendencies
      •  Embrace application points to overcome root issues and emotional strongholds
      •  Find genuine freedom in God’s purpose and identity for your life
      •  Apply God’s healing principles in relationship issues

In The Christian Codependence Recovery Workbook  we confronted the distorted patterns of codependence and faced the lies that held us back from seeing God, ourselves and others accurately. This next book will move beyond the lifestyle of codependence and self-sufficiency to embrace God’s plan for love, intimacy and wholeness.

Workbook-2-iconA House that Grace Built

A House that Grace Built Moving Beyond Codependence to Embrace God’s Design for Love, Intimacy and Wholeness is another excellent workbook that leads us beyond codependence to discover a life empowered and led by our Creator.

God gave us all the resources necessary to rebuild and redesign a future that aligns with His established purposes. A House that Grace Built offers the blueprint of how God desires to grow us through His grace, redeem our human relationships and carry out our life calling. This process includes:

      • Learning to embrace healthy coping mechanisms to replace and permanently eliminate the destructive emotions and behaviors of codependence
      • Allowing the process of true change and growth to be developed in and through us in our mind, emotions and decision-making capabilities.
      • Detaching from unhealthy relationship styles while embracing God-given methods of intimacy and love
      • Cleansing and purifying each relationship using the resources of grace and redemption
      • Developing healthy tools of defense based on God’s weapons, not our human methods of self-protection
      • Gaining an unshakable foundation of hope and security in the eternal promises and reality of who God is, and who we are through Him—both now and throughout eternity


The BEST Book for those in an Abusive Marriage

Abusive does not have to be physical!

WHy does he do thatExcerpts: from Why Does He Do That

“If the couple has children, the abusive man typically considers himself the authority on parenting, even if he contributes little to the actual work of looking after them. He sees himself as a wise and benevolent head coach who watches passively from the sidelines during the easy times but steps in with the “correct” approach when his partner isn’t handling the children properly. His arrogance about the superiority of his parenting judgment may be matched only by how little he truly understands, or pays attention to, the children’s needs. No matter how good a mother his partner is, he thinks she needs to learn from him, not the other way around.” Why Does He Do That

“One year my colleagues David and Carole were preparing a skit on abuse for a conference, and they decided to perform a rehearsal for their abuser group. Afterward, the group members rapid-fired their suggestions for improving the skit, directing them mostly at David: “No, no, you don’t make excuses for why you’re home late, that puts you on the defensive, you’ve got to turn it around on her, tell her you know she’s cheating on you.…You’re staying too far away from her, David. Take a couple of steps toward her, so she’ll know that you mean business.…You’re letting hersay too much. You’ve got to cut her off and stick to your points.” The counselors were struck by how aware the clients were of the kinds of tactics they use, and why they use them: In the excitement of giving feedback on the skit, the men let down their facade as “out-of-control abuser who doesn’t realize what he’s doing.” Why Does He Do That

“Our first task, therefore, is to remove the abusive man’s smoke and mirrors, and then set about watching carefully to see what he is really doing.” Why Does He Do That

YOUR ABUSIVE PARTNER DOESN’T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH HIS ANGER; HE HAS A PROBLEM WITH YOUR ANGER. One of the basic human rights he takes away from you is the right to be angry with him. No matter how badly he treats you, he believes that your voice shouldn’t rise and your blood shouldn’t boil. The privilege of rage is reserved for him alone. When your anger does jump out of you—as will happen to any abused woman from time to time—he is likely to try to jam it back down your throat as quickly as he can. Then he uses your anger against you to prove what an irrational person you are. Abuse can make you feel straitjacketed.” Why Does He Do That



codependent relationship Jer 17.5


This is what the Lord says:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the LORD.

Jeremiah 17:5



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About Robin Sampson


  1. Oh, Robin, our awesome, amazing Abba Father has brought you and your message across my path…and I am so very grateful! Earlier this year, my 20+ year prayer was answered (“God, what’s wrong with me?!”) …I am codependent, married to a narcissist (didn’t even know what that word meant when I first heard it!). Abba has lovingly been working ever since and I’m so grateful for the insight you have presented here – thank you.

  2. abused wife

    God’s timing is always perfect. I am living a lie to protect the perfect image of a Christian family, while enduring abuse. My reason for staying being that he has never hurt the children. In fact he leaves all the discipline to me, so that he is seen as the good guy. I just don’t know how to let go of the dream of a perfect Christian home. Hoping this book will help strengthen me to let go of my pride and move forward in HIS strength. It is a hard pill to swallow.

  3. Dear hurting ladies.
    As a man, husband and father, I concur that Robin has identified a minefield, buried within the church, families and our communities. we have broken this cycle, though its taken more than 20 yrs so far.
    We began innocently, joining a small rural fellowship, homeschooling, becoming back to the lander’s and a home based business. None of it would have been debilitating if the church dynamic hadn’t added fuel to the slowly diminishing fire of being rejected, self rejection and the inevitable rejection of others. We were figuring it all out as our marriage rolled along but the ongoing and increasing dysfunction in the church kept dragging us back to ground zero. My point being, the church is supposed to be the resource we can go to to find normal.
    Id suggest the reason almost no one can go to their church though is because they are dysfunctional too, for many reasons.
    All this to say, have you weighed the collateral damage and embarrassment of going public against the damage of continuing to keep it in the family? Have you considered systematically revealing your dire straights to trusted folks at church,family, or even friends? They may in fact not be able or equipped to deal with such openness, because it seems Christians are the best at forgiving behavior and attitudes that we shouldn’t, instead of confronting them.
    Your kids might thank you someday for your courage, even if it meant turning a silent mess into a public mess. Our 4 kids, after 13 yrs of my wife and I suddenly taking responsibility for our own trajectory, which included walking away (with tears, not anger) from my entire biological family and the church we had helped start and been part of for over 30 yrs. We had to make a statement, because to try to argue with them, or explain it to outsiders would have been to hand the bat to them instead of just get on with the healing.
    Now, after more than a decade, they are near the end of their rope, and getting desperate, even calling and dropping in on us. It’s awkward but we smile, serve, wait, pray and cry, sometimes with them. We forgave long before we left, so we’ve been expecting (love hopes all things) this, and just like us, it’s their kids that are moving the goal posts.
    And our kids… well the two older girls remember the most and have painful, empty spaces in their history and present, but they have both forgiven, and areboth very strong, even if they are a bit long in the tooth. The two younger boys don’t remember anyone, but have grown up hearing tales of pain and distrust spoken openly, in the context of hope, love and forgiveness. As my wife and I have slowly unlearned co-dependence, they have learned trust and caring for others, without losing their own responsibility to themselves and God.
    Maybe consider taking the risky step of losing what you probably cant keep at the expense of not getting what you cant lose, that being the respect, trust and heart strings of your children.
    The church may or may not be there for you, but somebody, somewhere will be, and do you care if its your favorite people?
    I could, like Robin, probably write a book on this, but they’ve been written already. Usually, what is needed is simply to do the hard thing that we might already know.

  4. I recently read a book that was phenomenal and addressed many aspects of codependency. So, I thought I’d share with you guys. Book is by Diane Jellen and it’s called My Resurrected Heart. More info can be found here: http://dianejellen.com/

  5. I wanted to personally thank you for this article. I found it extremely clear. I appreciate your including the 17 characteristics of codependency. I personally believe codependency is rampant in our society, and perhaps the world. I was so confused by my life as a child, often times I cursed God. I could not make sense of the pain of my childhood. Both my parents were adult children of alcoholics, and both were obviously codependent.

    My father would not allow anyone else in the home to be angry. He was the only one permitted to express his emotions. It was mind bending. My mother had two personalities at least; one for him-the people pleasing enabling wife–and the raging one–for her children. This was particularly confusing because my mother claimed to be such a devout Christian. I am talking bible classes, witnessing for Christ–I mean the whole kit and kaboodle of a Christian walk.

    The problem was–from my inner child’s perspective I could never have understood that my mother was deeply misguided and under a spell. She was blind to her wounds. But as a child, all I could see was a practicing Christian woman with tons of friends who adored her. The mixed feelings I had made me feel like I was nuts.

    Many, many years later I have unravelled the maze and I now teach others how to take control of their minds. Your blog is an asset I use. I often send my clients to your blog because I really appreciate the clarity you bring to this arena.

    Eternally grateful,

    Lisa A. Romano
    Life Coach and Author

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