Being in a Codependent Relationship With Your Adult Child


Being in a codependent relationship with your adult childBeing in a codependent relationship with your adult child
Being in a codependent relationship with your adult child

Being in a Codependent Relationship with Your Adult Child...

This is something I've recently concluded is an issue for me: My 18-year-old daughter and I are codependent. Up to this point I wouldn't have cared but let's dig deep here for a bit...

Let's start by understanding what the term codependent actually means.

Codependence is a complex pattern of excessive selflessness and preoccupation with another person that does not serve both people optimally. Codependency (or codependence, co-narcissism or inverted narcissism) is a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways that negatively impact one's relationships and quality of life. - Wikipedia.org

When you look at this definition you see that a codependent person is someone who is unable to function on their own. They depend on another person to help them think, process, and essentially live. In doing so they're essentially people pleasers - putting the other person's needs ahead of their own. This leads to problems with making decisions and acting interdependently in relationships.

Signs You Might be in a Codependent Relationship with Your Adult Child


Everyone is subject to becoming somewhat codependent on another person. However, being in a codependent relationship with your adult child is one of the worst types of codependency there is. This is because not only does the parent suffer, but the child also suffers right along side of them. This is because a parent has become unknowingly addicted to their child. Unfortunately, oftentimes this isn't something that parents have planned on doing. Instead, the parent may not even realize it's happening. 

Take for instance my situation...

I was a single mother from the time my daughter turned 2-years-old. It was me and her against the world I told myself (since I faced a lot of struggles when she was growing up). She was homeschooled for numerous reasons and to this day is mostly thankful that I chose this path for her. However, that meant that since I was on disability and she was being homeschooled we were together 24/7. I didn't think anything of this until now. 

Signs you're in a codependent relationship with your adult child
Signs you're in a codependent relationship with your adult child

Currently as I look at our situation I see many of the signs of codependency here. The typical signs showing that a parent is in a codependent relationship with their adult child include:
  • Addictive personality disorder: Other addictions (e.g. alcohol, drugs, etc.) can easily cross over into other types of addiction. In the case of being codependent you're very likely to become extremely passionate about, obsessed with, or fixated on the person with whom you're in a codependent relationship.
  • Dependency: Being afraid that your child will abandon or reject you is another sign. This is especially true if you allow your child to cross your boundaries, break your rules and become an alpha figure in the household instead of allowing yourself to maintain authority.
  • Caretaking: When you find yourself doing more for your child than what's age appropriate or healthy (e.g. reminding your young adult about showering, brushing their teeth) you have a big red flag. Many times you'll even find yourself putting your child's care ahead of your own even though you know that your child is old enough to be independent.
  • Painful emotions: You'll find yourself torn between doing that which feels right and placating your addiction to your child. The worst thing that you believe could happen is for your child to grow distant or angry with you so you don't exert healthy boundaries or rules.
  • Low self-esteem: You may discover that you only feel happy about yourself when your child is happy with you. Otherwise you find yourself worrying and feeling like a failure.
  • Denial: This happens when a person refuses to admit they're codependent on their child. It's probably the worst problem because it prevents you and your child from getting much needed help. Denial can take many forms but you'll notice it if anyone else has tried to point out the codependent relationship to you. 
  • Obsession: Codependency is being addicted to another person. It is just like any other addiction except for here you become obsessed or married to your child. When someone questions you in this regard you find yourself becoming offensive immediately.
  • Poor Boundaries: Although you may choose to set rules, you also choose to allow these rules to be broken without any consequences. This is because you feel as though you're responsible for your child's feelings and any issues that are occurring in their life.
  • People pleasing behavior: When you need to tell your child no you'll feel stressed by doing so. It's also a real struggle for you to be able to set boundaries and maintain consistent rules with your child.
  • Control issues: You'll become both controlling and manipulative of other family members. This is because you're trying to change everyone else so they fit your dysfunction. Those who don't follow suit, you go out of your way to find fault with them.
  • Reactivity: Your defenses are high and when anyone questions you they leave you feeling as though you've been attacked.
  • Dysfunctional communication: Although you may think that you're protecting your child, you're manipulating others to cover up or hide the truth.

Are you still wondering if you might be a codependent parent? Take this quiz and discover for yourself.

Breaking Free From a Codependent Relationship with Your Adult Child

Now that I've realized what's happening in my own life and how it can't continue to be this way, I need to take a step back to stop this vicious cycle. I really want my daughter to be successful so this is yet another difficult journey I must take.

How to stop being in a codependent relationship with your adult child
How to stop being in a codependent relationship with your adult child


Truth be told: Knowing that you're in a codependent relationship with your adult child is only half the battle. You can't forget that there's still work to be done to correct the relationship. Some of the steps you must take include:
  • Practice self-care: When you're in a codependent relationship you lose sight of yourself because you're spending most of your time and energy fixing the other person. Moving forward towards creating healthier relationships requires you to take time to explore yourself (e.g. your likes, dislikes, needs, thoughts, feelings). Take some time for Bible study so you can find true rest in God. When you don't take this time for yourself you'll easily slip back into the pattern of codependency.
  • Learn to be independent: You need to start doing things alone without feeling like you always need to be around your child. This is important because most people who experience codependency will oftentimes find that it's difficult to be alone with themselves. They've grown dependent on others for self-fulfillment. Overcoming the fear of being alone plays a powerful role in breaking the cycle of codependency. 
  • Set realistic expectations: Nobody can fulfill you but Christ. Unless you're realistic here you'll be let down. This is why it's so important to learn how to be happy with yourself as a person. In doing so you won't be depending on anyone but Christ to be the sole provider of your happiness.
  • Practice setting boundaries: Unfortunately codependency in relationships means there have been very few boundaries established. Instead you've invested a lot of your time and energy into worrying about the other person. Now it's time for you to learn how to say no instead of continuing to be a people pleaser. Remember, this doesn't mean that you're being selfish or disrespectful. It simply means that you're looking out for your own well being.
  • Deal with your past: Oftentimes codependency results from past trauma (e.g. abuse, neglect). These traumas can make you feel uncomfortable with yourself, thus resulting in codependency. Remember, it doesn't have to be this way: God is our great physician and can heal any wound.

Conclusion

Hopefully you've learned something about yourself here. Please know that you're not alone. Christ is right there beside you to work it out because he wants you to learn to be codependent with Him, nobody else. Is this going to be easy? No. Will it take a lot of work? Yes, but you know what? It's worth it and you're strong enough to do it.


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Comments

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you for letting me know as that's exactly what I hope to do with this blog.

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  2. This is a powerful post. I feel like there was a time when I was in a codependent relationship with my oldest. Thankfully, we've gotten those issues resolved. Good for you for trying to make forward!

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    1. I'm glad you were able to resolve it. It's my hope that my daughter and I will be able to do the same.

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  3. These are really great tips! Parent child relationships are so complicated even in normal circumstances.

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    1. Thank you. Honestly I never thought we were abnormal until my therapist really got down into things with me.

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  4. Wow, I have never experienced any information regarding a relationship like this. I feel for the people in the world that have additional mental health barriers because of their lifestyles.

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    1. Unfortunately that's what happened... My daughter grew up having to help me because I've always been a sick, single mom. I knew things weren't normal but I didn't think we were at this level. Unfortunately I still have a lot of things to work out.

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  5. Thank you Brenda for sharing such personal and powerful post. I have learnt the signs of codependent relationship now and I will ensure I take action before my children becomes adult.

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  6. I learned so much from this. My son is still a minor, though, but I'm hoping he gets to be an independent adult. -LYNNDEE

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    1. Now is the time to work on helping him with this journey so I'm glad you've been able to learn something new today :)

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  7. Thank you for sharing your experience so honestly. I know it will help others, and I pray that your journey will be an easy one for both you and your daughter. Thank you for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Link Party community. Take care.

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    1. Thank you for your prayers and for hosting the link party.

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  8. This is a post that a lot of parents of students that I service could really use this. I think that they are so codependent on their child that it is crazy.

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    1. I used to think that the relationship was natural, nothing wrong with it. I had to hit a certain point before I could see this isn't healthy. I pray that they'll come to this point too.

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  9. So few people understand what it takes to manage and be in a relationship like this. I hope you two are doing well!

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    1. We're starting a journey towards separation but God willing, we'll succeed.

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  10. Thankyou for this reminders, It will help a lot specially thos le suffering this kind of situation, And thankyou for reminding us that God is always in our side in every problems.

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  11. I've never heard about the codependent relationship. Thanks for talking to us about this and your story!

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    Replies
    1. It's surprising how many people haven't heard of it but it's definitely something that needs more attention.

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  12. I can see how this could happen without realizing until it was too late.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, this is definitely what happened to us. I didn't realize it was happening until it was too late. Now all I can do is work to make things right.

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  13. I wasn't familiar with this kind of relationship. It sounds like a very difficult and unhealthy situation, and there are some people I have known that I would guess were in this kind of relationship.

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    1. It all starts with helicopter parenting. I never thought that I did that until it was too late. I was told about this a year or so ago but wasn't ready to hear it and deal with it until now.

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  14. I've always heard of a being codependent relationship with your partner. Never thought of it as parent/ child. Although, I can see how this can happen.

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    1. Yes, most of us know about the codependent partner relationship but more of us need to become aware of the codependent parent/child relationship. I'm glad you could understand how it could happen though.

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  15. I learned a lot from this! I somehow have been in a codependent relationship but I am now free and well.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for offering me some hope that I'll be able to get free and be well.

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  16. Wow this was really interesting read. Thanks for sharing your story so honestly. I never knew there is such thing as codependent relationship.

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    1. I'm glad you were able to learn a lot from reading this. I really want to be this transparent and honest throughout this blog so I thank you for letting me know that I was able to accomplish this here.

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  17. I think your post is very timely. There are probably many on the cusp of holding on too tightly to their kids to the point of codependency and due to all the current stressors could be very likely cement that into a downward spiral! Thanks for sharing at Fiesta Friday this week.

    Mollie

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    Replies
    1. I honestly never thought about that. You make a great point here. Thanks for stopping by to share it :)

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