If you notice these 10 signs, you’re codependent with your family

Codependency is fake love. 

It’s awful in relationships, where it creates vicious cycles of resentment and neediness, but that’s not the only place this emotional pattern shows up. 

Codependency is very common in families as well, where it can poison the well and make loving connections become toxic and guilt-based ties. 

Here’s how to spot whether you’re codependent with your family as well as effective tips for what to do about it.

1) You feel responsible for the feelings, actions, and choices of family members

Caring about family is natural and healthy. 

Feeling like you have a duty to make your family happy or fix everything that’s going on with them is not healthy. 

In fact, it’s a form of codependency.

You are tying your emotional well-being to the emotions of others that are out of your control, and in doing so you are going down a disempowering path.

You can do your best to make family members happy and care about them; but staking your own wellbeing on it is a mistake. 

This ties into the next point…

2) Tensions in your family bring you down and get in the way of your ability to live your life

When problems do occur in any of our families it’s natural we feel down or become preoccupied. 

But if you find that family disagreements and tensions actually make it so you feel lower value or unable to continue your regular life, there’s a problem. 

Codependency tends to occur as the search to “fix” others or be “fixed,” which roughly translates into being the savior or the victim. 

It means that your sense of value comes from external validation instead of internally, which is why tensions and disagreements in your family can do such a number on you. 

When you’re depending on your family to approve of you, or you to approve of them, when this doesn’t happen it’s devastating. 

Family disagreements will always be hard, but they shouldn’t shake your fundamental sense of self and direction in life. 

3) Your own issues and priorities get put on the back burner in order to help family

Wanting to help your family and caring about them are perfectly healthy. 

It’s when your sense of self is staked on helping or “fixing” family issues, or having your family “fix” you (we’ll get to that).

If you find that you’re putting your own life on hold in order to do what your family wants, then it’s clear that you’re in a codependent pattern. 

Letting your own needs come second just to be there all the time can eventually damage and hurt you in real ways that are hard to recover from.

For another thing, you’ll rapidly lose self-respect (which is one of the worst aspects of codependency in any form).

4) Generosity or love from family makes you feel indebted to repay it back

When you don’t feel very worthy yourself, love from your family feels like something you have to pay back. 

Even when it’s actually unconditional love, you feel like it’s conditional. 

This difficulty in accepting love from your family is sad to see, but more common than some realize. 

When you adopt the mindset that everything in life is a transaction of some kind, it’s very hard to accept love that’s freely given. 

This is especially true if family members have been kind to you in the past only to use it to ask more of you or get more out of you.

How do you know you can trust them this time around? 

5) You find it impossible to say no to a family member’s request

When you feel a sense of needing to serve or fix your family, it becomes almost impossible to say no to a request from a family member.

You feel like you have no value unless you not only do what your family asks but also outdo and exceed their expectations. 

Your only value seems to come when you see a smile on your sister’s face or get a thumbs up from your dad. 

You may not even be quite sure why you feel such a craving for this, but without it you feel empty, even worthless.

This is classic familial codependency. 

6) You only feel a sense of value when you’re serving or pleasing your family

Another sign that you’re suffering from the “savior” side of codependency with your family is that you only feel worthy when you’re serving or pleasing them.

This often starts at a young age, and it has two main problems:

  1. Your sense of self becomes tied only to doing what your family wants you to do;
  2. Family members don’t always have pure or noble desires and may want you to do or say things that are bad for you or other people!

It would be nice to say family always knows what’s best, but that’s a bald-faced lie. 

If it was true there wouldn’t be abuse in families or pressure to pursue careers that are unethical, not to mention the many other issues which occur. 

Family is wonderful, but it’s not perfect and you can’t stake your well-being on pleasing family members.

The flip side of this is where you get into the victim role with your family.

7) When you’re struggling you expect your family members to fix it for you

We’ve all been in times when we needed help from family.

Even grown adults who have been in prison or a crisis usually call family first to beg for help. 

“I don’t know what to do. I just need help…”

This is the inner child crying out to the parents or siblings asking for help at the primal level, and in my opinion, it’s kind of instinctive and inevitable. 

However, there are two main considerations here:

  1. If you still find that you expect parents or relatives to “bail you out,” there’s a part of you that hasn’t matured and that is still playing the victim and wanting somebody to save you;
  2. If you expect family to fix your issues for you (especially when you feel unfulfilled) you’re setting them an impossible task!

8) You blame your family for everything that goes wrong in your life

Chances are your family has real things to answer for in terms of your issues and disappointments. 

But it’s extremely rare that family members are truly to blame for everything!

Even parents whose drug or alcohol abuse led to birth defects aren’t to blame for what you do to fight back against the injustice you were born with. 

The problem with focusing on what’s to blame in your family regarding your life is that ultimately it’s hard to know where to stop. 

None of us start with a clean slate in life, and blaming your family for everything unsatisfactory is the start of a very disempowering chain of reasoning. 

Which leads me to the next point… 

9) You find it impossible to forgive past wrongs or mistakes made by family members

Mistakes of the past don’t just go away, this is true. 

But past errors and missteps of your family aren’t always something that family members are willing to face. 

This may upset you enormously, which I completely understand. 

But when you refuse to forgive and move on from issues of the past or use them as ammunition against your family in fights, you lock yourself in an endless conflict with those closest to you. 

It’s not necessary to say everything’s fine or even to forget about what went wrong and what’s unjust. 

But sometimes it is absolutely necessary to move on and get on with life instead of holding onto past grudges from what occurred. 

10) You use family problems as a justification for not pursuing your goals and dreams

Your family may be trying to hold you back in various ways. 

They may be withholding money or emotional support from you; they may be refusing to face and process past trauma that occurred. 

These are real problems and real injustices. 

But when you use these as a justification for not pursuing your own goals and dreams you only hobble yourself.

It’s necessary to move on and not be locked in being a victim to your family. 

You may have been treated like a victim or disrespected for years, but it’s ultimately up to you to decide what you will do next. 

If that means cutting ties or limiting contact with some members of your family, so be it. If it means finding a way to accept what isn’t OK in your family and still loving them, even better. 

Just ensure that you keep moving forward and don’t cripple your own future because of past family wrongs.

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