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What is Co-Dependency, Really

I visited a neighbor recently who I rarely see in the halls, without her boyfriend, and we sat down to chat. After three years of being with her partner (who initially split the rent with her, then slowly somehow she ended up paying for everything), she finally cut the chord. I saw an array of emotions flow out of her.  She was feeling anxious, sad, confused, worried, regretful, and scared. She exhibited someone that was in a co-dependent relationship, and she had never even heard of the term.

Co-dependency is not black and white. It is not something that you can clearly define. I find it is a unique experience to every individual. And one of the hardest parts can be realizing you suffered from one, once you leave a co-dependent relationship. So, based on my work experience, and life experience, here are some red flags that you might be in one:

  1. You stay with someone that cheats
  2. You stay with someone that is charasmatic
  3. You stay with someone that is emotionally abusive
  4. You stay with someone that makes you miserable
  5. You stay with someone that “gets you”
  6. You stay with someone that is damaged
  7. You stay with someone that you obsess over
  8. You stay with someone that gaslights you
  9. You stay with someone that can hide their neediness
  10. You stay with someone that fills your void.

We’re going to address the last one.

Someone who fills your void can be a direct result of being raised in a family that made you prone to co-dependency. For example, growing up with a sick parent can breed co-dependency, and this is a hard thing for people to acknowledge once they get out. How did this happen? How did I get here? How did my neighbor find herself in a financial hole, knowing she was footing the bill for all these years? It happens, and you can’t beat yourself up over it, cause like I said, understanding co-dependency is difficult. All I could do is listen and offer advice knowing she was lost and stuck. Once you leave a co-dependent relationship, and start the realization and learning process, it’s inevitable to feel stuck cause everything is turned upside down, and life as you know it is brand new.

Currently, I have a friend that married a person that fits my itemized list of what can constitute a co-dependent relationship above, and, sadly, she doesn’t even know it.  It has forced me to take a deeper look at how, or why, this happened.  She was raised what seemed to be a normal family, for the most part but, had a sick parent. Her parent struggled with addiction, depression, and anxiety when she was in her childhood, and adolescent years.  Who knew the damage would result in a marriage with a total jerk, but it did. And when I would try and explain that to her, and my neighbor, both of their responses were filled denial, confusion, and fear. I would freak out too if I had no knowledge of what constitutes a co-dependent relationship, and woke up one day to find myself in a hole. But even worse, if I was enmeshed in a co-dependent relationship, and didn’t even know it. Both are bad in their own regard, and trying on the heart, mind, and soul.

And then there’s me. I’m a hybrid; a cross between my neighbor and my friend.  I’ve been lost in a co-dependent relationship, then struggled when I got out of one, but, I think once you know you’re in one, one of the hardest things is getting out of it, and staying out of it. However, it’s also hard when you look back and reflect on that time, and the person that you were, and can’t believe you were in that negative space.

It is hard for me to talk about this, let alone admit to myself that I have some co-dependency tendencies but, as I reflect on previous relationships in my life, I have to face facts. Not to mention the fact that my therapist a couple years ago recommended I look into going to a co-dependency support group.  Ah… no, that’s not going to happen. Mostly because I truly don’t think I am a 100% co-dependent person, and believe with knowledge I can try and work through this on my own, for now.

I’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist, and heaven help me, a sociopath. When I look back and reflect, I can’t believe how I was able to manage and survive. I go down the list I came up with above: He was a cheater, he was charismatic, he was emotionally abusive, he made me miserable, he “got me,” he was damaged, I obsessed over him, he gaslighted me, he hide his neediness, and as hard as it is to admit that I had a void, he filled it.

The void. That one hurts the most to confess cause, although I think a lot of people carry voids, and may fill it with drugs, or alcohol, or obsessive exercise, or shopping, or eating…etc. For me, to have a person fill that space, is the scariest.

I feel for my co-dependent neighbor hot off a break-up. I feel for my friend stuck in a co-dependent relationship.

And, I feel for myself. I have come far, and will continue to work on myself, and the best thing for me is to be mindful of who I am, where I’m at, and where I want to be.  One day at a time.


What is Co-Dependency, Really

Erica Loberg

Erica Loberg was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. She attended Columbia University in New York and graduated with a BA in English. She is a published poet and author of Inside the Insane, Screaming at the Void, What Men Should Know About Women, What Women Should Know About Men, Diamonds From The Rough and Undressed.

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APA Reference
Loberg, E. (2018). What is Co-Dependency, Really. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 19, 2019, from


Last updated: 12 Mar 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Mar 2018
Published on All rights reserved.