How to deal with a codependent family member

Even if you haven’t heard of an energy vampire, chances are you know one personally.

These are the people who drain emotional energy from those who love them, people who do not know how to act as their own support system and people who depend on other adults to parent them instead of learning how to take care of themselves.

If you’re a sensitive person who derives real enjoyment from caring for others or you simply have poor boundary-setting skills, you’re a natural magnet for these energy vampires.

Here are five signs your "friend" is actually sucking your life force away:

1. You feel guilt for no apparent reason.

If your friend is unconsciously relying on you to care for them as a parent would, that’s a clear sign of codependency.

Other signs of codependency are feeling guilty when you tell them you can’t hang out or when you can’t text them back right away.

You may even feel guilty at the thought of telling them how you feel, and you may respond to that guilt by ignoring your own needs.

2. You feel uncomfortable around them and don’t "know" why.

You may not consciously know why, but you intuitively do.

The last energy vampire I interacted with made me uncomfortable after telling me how much she liked me as a person.

To be clear, this isn’t my normal reaction to someone telling me they like my personality, and I wasn’t being defensive.

It was my intuition saying, "I don’t trust where this is coming from." I didn’t listen to it, and it ended up biting me in the ass.

If you sense, even in a vague way, that someone is showering you with love and attention in a way that feels like you’re being groomed for something, know it’s OK to withdraw from the interaction immediately.

3. You have nightmares about the person.

On paper, it seems pretty obvious that if you’re having nightmares about your friends, they might not be great people for you. IRL, though, it’s a little more complicated.

If you’re having nightmares about someone whom you have a close relationship with, you may feel more confused than anything else. You might even share it with them, thinking it’s silly or brushing it off.

After all, we don’t really know what it means to have a nightmare about someone.

But it all comes down to one simple fact, which is obvious on paper.

You are having nightmares about one of your closest friends. WAKE. UP.

4. They take your feelings personally.

When you eventually come to the point of having to tell your friend how you feel, your words may get twisted in a way that makes it seem like your friend is being attacked.

I once had a friend who continually commented on my feelings like a therapist would. It felt invasive, and I asked my friend to stop.

That’s when the friendship unraveled like a ball of yarn. Instead of acknowledging what I had asked for, my friend told me I was keeping him from being himself.

Don’t fall for this. It’s always OK to set boundaries.

When you stick to one, it may cause that codependent relationship to fall apart, but so be it.

5. You feel swept up in whatever they are going through.

You may not know exactly how, but when you are in this person’s presence, you may feel like you lose your grip on yourself a bit.

You may say something to your friend and later ask yourself why you said it or where it came from, as if someone else was speaking through you.

There is a strong tendency to be swept up in whatever emotion the energy vampire is is going through because the pull of their negativity is extremely strong.

It’s natural to want to help someone you care about, but there’s a difference between caring and being a caretaker, just as there is a difference between being selfish and acting in self-interest.

Being a caretaker is doing something for someone that they cannot do for themselves. Before you do something for someone, ask yourself if they’re really incapable of doing it, or if they just feel incapable of doing it.

Remember, it’s important not to judge yourself for allowing this person into your life. Judging yourself will only make changing the behavior harder.

The good news is, there are multiple ways to remove the influence of an energy vampire from your life.

You can distance yourself from them, you can detach from them entirely (if possible) or you can set clear boundaries and be assertive about them.

Most importantly, you can recognize this is a learning experience for you as well.

Nobody comes into life with a handbook. We’re all fumbling our way to greatness.

How to deal with a codependent family member

If you want to learn how to deal with a codependent family member, I must tell you that there are a couple of rules you should follow. The term codependence has been around for a very long period of time and even now, it is pretty hard to define. Robin Norwood has defined codependence as “a set of maladaptive, compulsive behaviors learned by family members in order to survive in a family experiencing great emotional pain”. Apparently, the characteristics of codependents are much more prevalent in the general population than anyone had ever imagined. Sometimes it can be quite difficult to interact with codependent people since they tend to become manipulative in their need to control others. The symptoms of codependent people include: a poor self-esteem; being a people-pleaser; having poor boundaries; being very reactive; being a control freak; dependency, problems with intimacy; and dysfunctional communication skills. Basically, anyone who was raised in a dysfunctional family or had an ill parent is likely to be codependent. The good news is that all these symptoms are reversible if they are not left untreated. Here are a few tips on how to deal with a codependent family member:

1 Recognize the Signs of Codependency

The first tip I will give you on how to deal with a codependent family member is to try to recognize the signs of codependency. We all have to face a lot of obstacles in our path and we all react in our own way but if you notice a dysfunctional pattern in the way a family member behaves, try to dig a little bit deeper and try to understand what’s really going on. Most of the time, they don’t even know they have a problem, so offer them your support and show them you love them unconditionally.

2 Read Books about Codependency

If one of your family members is experiencing such a problem, try to read some books on this matter and get familiar with this term. You could look for material online or you could even visit your public library because you will surely find there everything you need to know on this matter. Learn more about the effects of codependency on family relationships and see what you can do in order to help that person solve their problem.

3 Expect Change to Be Slow

Good things always take time, so don’t expect your loved one to overcome their problems overnight! Change can and will be slow, but it’s important to have faith in their ability to change and you should always reassure them of your support. Codependency is a form of addiction and it is important that professional help should be sought. If that person doesn’t want to get it, you and the other family members should seek counseling, because it will help you better understand the entire situation.

4 Treat Your Family Member as Being Emotionally Mature

Even though they don’t always display a mature and responsible behavior, treat your family member as they are like this. You are not the only mature one. They can be as well; they just don’t know it yet. I’m sure you have heard about the Pygmalion effect in which low expectations lead to a decrease in performance. According to this, “people will take the belief they have of themselves and attribute traits of the belief with themselves and their work. This will lead them to perform closer to these expectations that they set for themselves.” So help your family member get rid of this problem and act like he won’t even have it in the future.

5 Help Them Improve Their Self-Esteem

A low self-esteem is one of the most common symptoms of a codependent person. You could help them by advising them to work on improving their self-esteem. Provide them with reading material, advise them to go see a therapist on this matter and offer them your support and unconditional love. Remember: guilt and perfectionism often go along with a low self-esteem, so recognize these symptoms and offer your family member all the help they need to take care of this issue.

6 Try to Be Un-manipulative

Dealing with a codependent family member can be a bit tricky sometimes, especially when they are unaware of the fact that they do have a problem. Because most codependent people try to always control everything, they will try to manipulate you into doing as they wish. Yet, you should be more unmovable and un-manipulative, so you won’t play their game and sustain their problem.

7 Learn to Be More Patient

When dealing with codependent person, especially with one of your family members, try to learn how to be more patient, so you won’t cause them any more problems than they already have. If you notice that you’ve begun to lose your temper, try to calm down, take a few deep breaths and simply carry on. Patience is a virtue, so try to make if one of your skills.

Dealing with a codependent family member or even with a codependent family can be a bit difficult sometimes, yet you should remember that they are still your family and you should do everything in your power to help them. Do you know any other tips on how to deal with a codependent family member? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section!

How to deal with a codependent family member

It can be very difficult to remain emotionally resilient and strong if you have to cope with a codependent family member on a day to day basis, it can put an enormous strain on your whole family. Codependents often become manipulative in their need to control others and in a way, it can be like living with an alcoholic as the situation can become unpredictable and even volatile. Insecurities within relationships are naturally addictive and because codependency behaviors are learned, you must be careful not to become embroiled in these behaviors yourself.

It can be difficult to remain unaffected when a close family member is behaving in a certain way but it might help to consider that codependency really is a way for someone to cope with life in general and these coping behaviors are often learned by examples set and passed down from generation to generation. While this behavioral absorption is subconscious, it can be hard to avoid.

Your family member may feel the desire to:

  • Control your life
  • Rely on you too much.
  • Try to do too much for you
  • Publicly sabotage if they feel that they are losing you

While codependent relationships are damaging, your family member may not be aware that their codependency behaviors are both stifling and irrational and that the intention of keeping you close may be pushing you away. As frustrating as these behaviors may be, it’s important to realize that the way someone acts forms life patterns that are remembered and these actions become the norm.

Codependency is a form of addiction however and it is important that professional help should be sought. Whilst you cannot force the sufferer to attend, it may help if you and the rest of your family seek counseling because it will offer some clarity to the situation. Codependents can put an enormous pressure on a family circle but by you being proactive and seeking out help, it will help you to be able to cope and at the very least, to be able to understand why such behaviors occur. Unburdening your own inner feelings to the counselor can help you to feel much calmer and less irritated going forward and if you are supported by the rest of your family, the family unit can become much stronger as a result of the communication airwaves being opened up.

Depression and anxieties are commonly experienced as part of this condition and this can lead to unsettled and even volatile behaviors which could make you feel frustrated and angry. If you release your anger however, the codependent will often instinctively tap into their role of victim which will ultimately make you feel bad for your outburst. Typically codependents hate someone responding with anger as it further impacts their feelings of low self-esteem or inadequacies and may result in feelings of guilt and judging themselves harshly. Living with a codependent can be like living with an alcoholic, sometimes there is no reasoning or cajoling and it can be like walking on eggshells. Alanon meetings may be of benefit to alcoholics but the principles of alanon are valid in that they are a support group for the sufferer and their affected family members and this goes to show that speaking to others who are in a similar situation can be greatly beneficial.

If you try to progress within your own life, the codependent nature of your family member may instinctively respond to their fear of you progressing and equate this to losing you. This increased emotional pressure can be difficult to contend with but it’s important that you stand strong and continue to focus on your own life and not be swayed by others. This is the healthy action and you should remain focused on your own goals. Your family member may not like the changes that occur as a result but they will endure it.

Even if the codependent in your family does not wish to seek professional help, remember that it is important that you do so that you fully understand this condition and how it affects those close to you. Remember that everyone has a responsibility for their own lives and you cannot hope to find a solution for others. If they wish to seek help for their codependency behaviors and take steps for recovery, then help will be there for them. Whilst this condition is often shrouded in mystery, think how you would cope if living with an alcoholic, as there are similarities in that both are addictions that affect behaviors and those around them. If your codependent family member acknowledges that they have a problem, then this is the time where you can offer support and encouragement as they start on the road to emotional recovery.

How to deal with a codependent family member

Codependency is a sensitive issue, as it involves feelings of insecurity, low self-worth, shame, and guilt. Approaching the topic of codependency with friends and family can be incredibly difficult since the loved one most likely already feels ashamed, unworthy of love, and a disappointment. Allowing a codependent relationship to continue, however, will only exacerbate the problem and may do more harm than good. When it’s time to take action to resolve a codependency issue, it is vital to learn how to do it with tact and care.

Understanding Codependency as an Issue

Understanding why someone develops a codependency issue allows you to deal with the problem effectively. Codependent relationships are dysfunctional and are defined by one person supporting or enabling another person’s problems. These problems can be related to mental health, irresponsibility, under-achievement, or addiction. Codependency occurs when someone relies on another person excessively, to the point of needing the other person to provide approval or a sense of identity.

The phrase “codependency” originally arose from an individual’s dependence on friends or family in prolonging a problem, typically having to do with drugs or alcohol. Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous realized that a person’s addiction was not solely the problem of the addict, but also the problem of his or her network of friends and family. Since then, the meaning of codependency has broadened to encompass any situation in which one person is fixated on another for sustenance, approval, and beyond.

Adverse Childhood Experiences

In most situations, codependency stems from childhood. A child growing up with a parent addicted to alcohol or drugs or who experienced emotional or physical abuse/neglect is likely to learn how to suppress his or her own needs in order to give care to the parent. The role reversal between child and parent can lead to a child developing codependent behaviors in his or her adult relationships.

Shame is often at the core of a codependency issue. Shame is a strong physiological response within the nervous system, causing a person to feel inadequate or inferior. It can translate into self-loathing and low self-esteem, making the person want to hide or run away from others. Shame can make a person feel naked, humiliated, and exposed – afraid that everyone can see his or her flaws.

For most people, shame is fleeting and will eventually pass once a situation resolves itself. However, for addicts and codependents, shame is residual, leading to anguished feelings and eventually relationship issues. Codependent people are afraid to speak their minds, take initiative, and get close to someone.

How a Therapist Can Help the Healing Process

Most codependent people must revisit, explore, and talk about events in their past that led to the problem. For example, if a boy grew up taking care of an alcoholic mother, he may have to reevaluate his childhood from a new perspective. He may be haunted by feelings of a lack of control and inadequacy. Exploring shame-inducing scenarios of the past can help a person let go and move on.

Healing someone with a codependency issue typically requires the attention of a professional therapist or counselor. An experienced therapist can create a safe environment for the person to recount past experiences, explore current emotions, and address the problem at its roots. Often, a codependent person needs regular therapy to incrementally self-reflect on feelings of shame and self-loathing until these feelings dissipate.

Treatments for Codependency

Codependency problems generally start in youth and are reinforced over the years. Thus, resolving codependency can be difficult to overcome. However, psychotherapy can help people understand why they adopted certain behaviors in the first place, i.e., why they tend to overcompensate, why they feel the need to fulfill others’ needs before their own, and how to develop self-compassion. Psychotherapy sessions can ultimately help a codependent person improve relationships, control anxiety, overcome depression, and boost self-esteem.

Consider introducing your friend or family member to group therapy sessions for codependents. Group therapy or support group settings such as Codependents Anonymous (CoDA) can go a long way towards healing someone with ongoing feelings of shame or self-doubt. CoDA has a similar program to that of AA, with a 12-step model for healing. Al-Anon is a group therapy that supports the friends and families of alcoholics and helps people break habits of dependency.

Once an understanding of the beginnings of codependency is achieved, the root cause of the problem can be resolved. Above all, codependents require love, care, acceptance, and empathy. If you or someone you know is dealing with codependency, it might be time for an intervention. Do not let the problem grow any longer.

How to deal with a codependent family member

If you struggle with codependency, wonder if you’re codependent, or just have questions about codependency, this introductory post will give you an overview: What codependency is, where it comes from, and how to start recovering.

What is codependency?

Codependency is a focus on other people’s problems, feelings, needs, and wants while minimizing or ignoring your own. Codependents see other people as more important than themselves and prioritize taking care of them in order to feel needed, loved, or worthwhile. While we all need and rely on other people, codependents are overly dependent on others emotionally. They need others to tell them that their feelings and needs are valid, that their opinions are acceptable, and that they are good enough. They rely on others for their identity and sense of worth.

Following are some of the most common symptoms of codependency. You don’t need to have them all to consider yourself codependent. I find it’s helpful to think of codependency on a spectrum: Some of us experience more symptoms and distress due to codependent traits than others.

  • Fixing, helping, or rescuing others gives you a sense of purpose and makes you feel needed (or lovable).
  • You focus on other people and their problems and ignore your own feelings and needs.
  • You may enable, give unsolicited advice, nag, or be controlling.
  • You often feel worried or anxious, guilty, and ashamed.
  • You’re self-critical and possibly perfectionistic.
  • You feel responsible for everyone and everything.
  • You don’t have a strong sense of who you are, what you like, how you feel, or what matters to you.
  • You’re a people-pleaser who will sacrifice what you want or need to avoid upsetting or disappointing others.
  • You have trouble setting boundaries and being assertive. , open communication, and trust are difficult.
  • You have difficulty asking for and accepting help.
  • You’re afraid of abandonment, criticism, and rejection, which can lead to people-pleasing, a lack of boundaries, and tolerating mistreatment.
  • You’re probably hard-working, overly responsible, and give to the point of exhaustion or resentment.
  • You suppress or numb your feelings and absorb other people’s feelings.
  • You have low self-esteem, feel unlovable, or not good enough.
  • You want to feel in control and have a hard time adjusting when things don’t go according to plan or the way you want.

What is a codependent relationship?

Codependent relationships are unbalanced. Typically, one person becomes overly responsible, which enables the other to under-function and avoid responsibility. Often the other person struggles with addiction, mental illness, or emotional immaturity. And they remain stuck, in part, because the codependent makes excuses for them, takes over their responsibilities, and makes sure they’re taken care of.

You can develop a codependent relationship with a spouse, child, parent, or friend. And it’s quite likely that if you have multiple codependent traits, that many of your relationships are affected.

Codependents focus on trying to please, help, fix, and control other people and situations. We can become so wrapped up in other people’s problems—obsessed at times— that we lose track of who we are, what we want, and how to be happy within ourselves.

What causes codependency?

Many people who grew up in dysfunctional families struggle with codependency in adulthood. Codependent traits usually develop as a result of childhood trauma, often in families in which a parent is addicted, mentally ill, abusive, or neglectful. These traits can be passed down from one generation to the next in dysfunctional families. Codependent traits serve a purpose in childhood —they help us cope with scary, confusing, and unpredictable family lives—but they cause us problems in adulthood.

How do you recover?

Healing from codependency means rebalancing ourselves: Instead of focusing so much on what others need, we must consider our own needs and make them a priority. This doesn’t mean that you should never consider other people’s needs or take care of them; it just means that your needs are as important as other people’s and that if you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll end up depleted, resentful, and unfulfilled.

Healing from codependency includes not only knowing what you need, but asking for it. We can’t continue to feel and act like victims or martyrs. We must learn to communicate assertively, stand up for ourselves, set boundaries to protect ourselves from being mistreated, and create relationships where we give and receive.

Healing from codependency also includes getting to know yourself. Often, codependents spend so much time thinking about and trying to take care of or appease others that they lose touch with themselves. So, we need to intentionally explore who we are—what we like, what’s important to us, what our goals are, and so forth.

And as we heal from codependency, we need to treat ourselves with kindness. Codependents tend to be hard on themselves, self-critical, and unforgiving. This is both unwarranted and unhelpful. Instead, we should offer ourselves kindness, acceptance, and support, treating ourselves as we would a dear friend. Self-compassion is another way to value and care for ourselves and it’s been shown to increase resiliency and motivation and decrease stress.

You can conquer codependency. Recovery is a process and it can be overwhelming when you think about all the changes you want to make. But the good news is that recovery isn’t all or nothing. You can benefit from making even just a few small changes. Take it slowly, and with consistent practice, support, and learning new skills you will gradually feel more confident and know you’re on the path to recovering from codependency.

What is it like to live with a drug addicted family member? Every day you are sharing a part of the struggle that the addict has set in motion for themselves. Sharing that burden and struggle may seem like the right thing to do, but it is just ‘enabling.’

How Do You Deal with a Drug Addicted Family Member?

How you deal with a drug addict son, daughter or any other family member is – more or less – how you don’t deal with them. The more that you enable and comfort them, the more likely they are to continue. Drug addicts (and alcoholics), what its like to live with one is: they will take advantage of you and they will beat you down mentally. They will guilt you, they will shame you, and they will sell you false hope.

Drug Addicts Promise They’ll Get Help Tomorrow, But Tomorrow Never Comes

They will promise that they will quit – they will promise everything tomorrow. They will convince you they will quit, but tomorrow never comes and the cycle continues. Drug interventionists aim to intervene in this cycle and help create a new path to where the promise is fulfilled, and the addict is able to become and stay sober.

Why Don’t Families Get Help for Drug and Alcohol Addiction?

Families don’t know what to do in the face of addiction, and often end up in a holding pattern. When faced with a literal life and death decision, not making a decision is better than making the wrong decision, right?

Wrong. The problem that ends up happening – after a family sits in said holding pattern – is that families become comfortable in the uncomfortable. Before, you wouldn’t be okay with your loved one using drugs in your home, but now you begin to rationalize it.

Allowing Addiction to Continue: Becoming Comfortable in the Uncomfortable

Nobody likes change, even when its better. Change is scary, and we – as humans – will run away from change, even if there is the hope of a better life in that change. We need someone to push us into that change. This is true with both addicts and the families of addicts.

“At least they are in a safe place where I can take care of them if anything happens”

Do you assert this or similar justifications to try and rationalize what is taking place in your life right now? Don’t justify these actions – stop them!


Family members too are afraid of that change, not just the addict. However, the longer you let this continue, the more it becomes the ‘normal.’ That new, toxic normal needs to change, and families too feel the pain of change and react to it. This is codependency sneaks into families, and otherwise healthy family members begin acting in very unhealthy ways.

“When Families Sit in a Holding Pattern, They Become Comfortable in the Uncomfortable.”

Codependency Sneaks In When you Take on the Role of Caretaker to an Addict

When you (often subconsciously) accept a codependent role in your loved one’s addiction, you take on the role of being the caretaker to the addict. You also take on the role of serving a purpose in the relationship.

When Families Get Stuck in a Situation Where Addiction is Allowed to Continue

Ultimately, breaking the codependent relationship boils down to making the current situation uncomfortable enough to spark change. Looking at the “Change Formula of Life,” we know that change cannot happen until there is a dissatisfaction with the way things currently are.

In a codependent addiction familial relationship, the situation has become so comfortable (in an uncomfortable way), that the fear of change is greater than the fear of staying the same. This is how a horrible situation in a good family can be allowed to develop and can be allowed to continue – we just get stuck.

How to deal with a codependent family member

Success Rates of Interventions & Addiction Treatment Programs Are High

Family First Intervention’s Founder and Arizona Interventionist explains that, when dealing with a family member who has a drug addiction or serious alcohol abuse issues should be approached just like any other serious disease.

How to deal with a codependent family member

Mike Loverde, Founder & Interventionist

“When you look at any other fatal illness – whether it be cancer, HIV, or etc. – people do everything they can to stop it; with addiction, we don’t. We just kick the can down the street, thinking that it’s a moral dilemma, that their willpower will just kick in and they’ll just stop. I was just talking with my wife recently and her mother has [colon] cancer, it is in the stage where you have a 14% of survival (5 years out), and there was no question that we could get her help.

The second she resisted, the family pushed back and said, why wouldn’t we take the chance? That’s a 14% chance of success, and the success rates of recovery from addiction are far higher than 14% (with proper treatment), and the outcome of interventions are even higher than that. We kick the can down the road and put it off until later with addiction, but with cancer and a 14% chance, we grasp at the hope for a slim chance.”

We are beaten into oblivion into thinking that we need to wait for change to happen with addiction, or that they are going to quit tomorrow, or that it is somehow our fault (as the family), and so we do nothing.

How Do I Make the Change and Take the Steps Necessary for My Loved One to Recover from Addiction?

As illustrated above, making the change is the most difficult part. This is where many families simply need the help of another to initiate the change. Our local drug and alcohol Interventionists can help initiate the change for your family. Call us today.

How to deal with a codependent family memberToxic relationships include relationships with toxic parents. Typically, they do not treat their children with respect as individuals. They won’t compromise, take responsibility for their behavior, or apologize. Often these parents have a mental disorder or have a serious addiction.

We all live with the consequences of poor parenting. However, if our childhoods were traumatic, we carry wounds from abusive or dysfunctional parenting. We may not recognize it as such. It feels familiar and normal. We may be in denial and not realize that we’ve been abused emotionally, particularly if our material needs were met. Unfortunately, when they haven’t healed, toxic parents can re-injure us in ways that make growth and recovery difficult. The first step to protect yourself is awareness, followed by detaching and setting boundaries.

Toxic Behavior

Here are some questions to ask yourself about your parents’ behavior. If this conduct is chronic and persistent, it can be toxic to your self-esteem.

  1. Do they over-react, create a scene?
  2. Do they use emotional blackmail?
  3. Do they make frequent or unreasonable demands?
  4. Do they try to control you? “My way or the highway.”
  5. Do they criticize or compare you?
  6. Do they listen to you with interest?
  7. Do they manipulate, use guilt or play the victim?
  8. Do they blame or attack you?
  9. Do they take responsibility and apologize?
  10. Do they respect your physical and emotional boundaries?
  11. Do they disregard your feelings and needs?
  12. Do they envy or compete with you?

Detach from Toxic Parents

Detaching is an emotional concept and has nothing to do with physical proximity. It means not reacting, not taking things personally, nor feeling responsible for someone else’s feelings, wants, and needs. Our parents can easily push our buttons. That’s because they’re the ones that put them there! It’s harder to not react to our parents than to our friends and partners, with whom we’re on more equal footing. (See “Getting Triggered and What You Can Do.”) Even if you move as far away as you can, emotionally, you may still react and have trouble detaching.

Be Assertive and Set Boundaries

Sometimes, it’s impossible to hold on to healthy behavior when we’re around our parents. Our boundaries were learned in our family. If we don’t go along, our family, especially parents, may test us. You may have trouble setting new boundaries with your parents. Perhaps, you have a mom who calls every day or a sibling who wants to borrow money or is abusing drugs. Confused, they may attack you or blame your new limits on your partner or therapist.

Relationships with toxic parents can be hard to walk away from. You may need distance from your parents to create the boundaries that you’re unable to make verbally. Some people cut off from family for that reason or due to unresolved anger and resentment from childhood. Cut-offs may be necessary for very abusive environments. However, although they reduce emotional tension, the underlying problems remain and can affect all of your relationships.

Many family therapists suggest that the ideal way to become independent from your family is to work on yourself in therapy, then visit your parents and practice what you’ve learned. It’s far better for your growth to learn how to respond to abuse. (See “Do’s and Don’ts in Confronting Abuse.”) I’ve witnessed clients who felt uncomfortable returning home do this. They gradually transitioned from reluctantly staying in their parents’ residence during visits, to becoming comfortable declining invitations home, to staying in a hotel or with friends without guilt. Some could eventually stay with their parents and enjoy it.

When you visit, pay attention to unspoken rules and the boundary and communication patterns. Try behaving in a way that’s different from the role you played growing up. (See Codependency for Dummies.) Pay attention to the habits and defenses you use to manage anxiety. Ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?” Remember that although you may feel like a child with your parents, you aren’t one. You’re now a powerful adult. You can leave unlike when you were a child.

Where active drug addiction and abuse are present, consider what boundaries you require in order to feel comfortable. Know your bottom-line. Is it a one-day or one-hour visit or only a short phone call? Some adult children of addicted parents refuse to talk on the phone or be around them when their parents are drinking our using drugs. You may have siblings who pressure you to rescue a parent, or you may be tempted to do so. With difficult family situations, it’s helpful to talk with a therapist or other people in recovery from codependency.

The Truth about Having Toxic Parents

Healing a relationship begins with you — your feelings and attitudes. Sometimes working on yourself is all it takes. That doesn’t imply that your parents will change, but you will. Sometimes forgiveness is necessary or a conversation is required. Here are some things to think about when it comes to your family:*

  1. Your parents don’t have to heal for you to get well.
  2. Cut-offs don’t heal you. You still need to recover your power and self-esteem.
  3. You are not your parents.
  4. You’re not the abusive things they say about you either. See “Codependency is Based on Fake Facts.”
  5. You don’t have to like your parents, but you might still be attached and love them.
  6. Active addiction or abuse by a parent may trigger you. Set boundaries and practice non-attachment. Join my mailing list for “14 Tips for Letting Go.”
  7. You can’t change or rescue family members.
  8. Indifference, not hatred or anger, is the opposite of love.
  9. Hating someone interferes with loving yourself.
  10. Unresolved anger and resentment hurt you.

What You Can Do

Start therapy and attend CoDA, ACoA, or Al-Anon meetings. Learn to identify abuse and manipulation. Learn How to Raise Your Self-Esteem and heal shame and childhood trauma. (See Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You.) Have a support network, and become financially independent from your parents. Do the exercises in my ebook, How To Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Set Limits and webinar, How to Be Assertive. With abusive and difficult parents, my ebook, Dealing with a Narcissist: 8 Steps to Raise Self-Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People lays out particular and specific strategies for confronting bad behavior with highly defensive people.

©Darlene Lancer 2018

* Adapted from Codependency for Dummies 2 nd Ed. 2014, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

T ell me if any of this sounds familiar: You can’t stop ruminating about a conversation you had earlier in the week and you keep replaying the situation over and over and over… worrying about what was or wasn’t said. Or, you start to have a complete out-of-body if you ever sense that you aren’t “needed” by someone… a family member, boss, friend, whoever. Or maybe you find yourself making sure that everyone else is okay so damn much that you have no idea what you truly like, value, or enjoy. If any of those concepts ring a bell, you may have a bit of codependency on your hands.

Now, before you freak out and self-diagnose… It’s important to know that we are all a bit codependent in some way. And, it’s not always a bad thing. On this week’s pod, I’m thrilled to dial up Vanessa Bennett, a psychotherapist and codependency coach who shares a shit-ton of info on how to identify various codependent behaviors, why we tend to do these behaviors to begin with, and what we can do to shift them.

Vanessa sheds light on the connection between codependency and narcissism and the ways we use maladaptive coping mechanisms to keep ourselves safe from narcissistic parents, partners, colleagues, and friends. Have a listen as we unpack what’s truly going on with someone on the narcissistic spectrum and what you can do to preserve your personal power when dealing with such individuals. This convo was so packed with deep and delicious nuggets of wisdom, I will be tuning in over and over again myself. Enjoy!

This pod explores:

  • Common symptoms of codependency (Spoiler alert: You WILL see yourself in some of these!)
  • The difference between codependency, enmeshment, and interdependency and why all those descriptions may not matter all that much
  • How codependency relates to narcissism and what you need to w atch out for
  • The first step to take in order to shed codependent behaviors




Is this the year you go from a people-pleasing, guilt-tripped perfectionist to a bold and boundaried badass? Um, yeah. I think it is!

If you’re DONE feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed out because you’re constantly doing, doing, doing for everyone else, then you must grab your seat in this brand-new workshop! You’ll learn the exact five-step process I take my clients through so they can let go of all the stress and angst of striving for “perfect” and caring waaaaay too much what everyone else thinks.

It’s time to finally believe in yourself, find that self-confidence you crave, and start living your life for YOU. So, clickety-click RIGHT HUURRR or click that image to the right to get on The List! #yourewelcome


Additional Resources:


How to deal with a codependent family memberVanessa Bennett gravitated toward yoga, meditation, and therapy after feeling the effects of a decade grinding in the New York City advertising world. As a former Producer and Marketing Manager for global powerhouses like Coca-Cola, Unilever, and P&G, she realized she desperately needed to find a way to increase focus, decrease stress, and achieve more balance. She shifted her focus in life through becoming a therapist and deepening her study of yoga and meditation in order to help others bridge work fulfillment with leading meaningful and fulfilling lives and relationships.

Currently, she lives in Los Angeles and works as a Psychotherapist and as both a Mindfulness and Codependency Coach. She leads retreats and corporate workshops, teaches a series of classes on Understanding the Codependent Effect on Relationships and is the co-host of the Cheaper Than Therapy Podcast as well as the It’s Not Me, It’s You Podcast . She also works as a consultant with entrepreneurs, brands, and companies who are looking to launch into the world of wellness, integrate wellness into their existing culture, or who want to approach growth or projects in a more mindful and soul-conscious way.

Find out more about Vanessa at and connect with her on Insta and TikTok .

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Sharing a tight bond with your partner is a wonderful thing, especially if you spend time doing activities you both get a kick out of and are on the same page in terms of values and goals.

But there is such a thing as being too closely connected to the point that it hurts you and your relationship in the long run. It’s called codependency, which means you’re too encapsulated in your significant other—dependent on them for approval and a self-esteem boost and always allowing their emotions and actions to take the lead and influence your own.

Codependency can be defined as “an unhealthy, dysfunctional, or dangerous reliance on another person,” says Andrea Miller, author of Radical Acceptance: The Secret to Happy, Lasting Love. “I think of it as a relationship that’s characterized by scarcity and fear over love and abundance.” While it’s normal to want your partner’s support and feel certain that what you two have is unique and special, people who are codependent need validation all the time.

A codependent relationship can be one where both partners have this dysfunctional reliance on the other, or it can be totally one-sided, with only one person looking to the other, who may actually like having so much control. If you think you might be the codependent one, this expert-backed checklist will help you figure it out. (And if any apply to your partner, they might be codependent on you.)

Categorized as IT