Your Top Ten Codependency Questions – A Detailed Look

Last month we polled many of you by email with one open-ended question:

“What are your top two questions that we absolutely NEED to answer about codependency?”

Immediately the responses started rolling in, and we began collating the data to start making sense of it. Through analyzing our data, and beginning to have one on one conversations with several of our audience, we’ve been learning a lot about the reality of codependency in order to help.

Basic Conclusions

Our three biggest basic conclusions have been:

  1. Not all codependents are struggling with romantic relationships, nor do all codependents have a similar upbringing. In fact, many codependents are having issues in other types of relationships, like parent / child relationships, friendships, work relationships, or any relationship where enforcing healthy boundaries is an issue.
  2. While there are many different questions about codependency, to overgeneralize, you basically want to know 2 things – How did I get this way? How do I get better, or help someone else get better?
  3. Many of you are enthusiastic about getting more knowledge on the topic in general, and gaining insight into your own struggles. You particularly want advice or knowledge directly from experts, along with exercises or homework you can do on your own time to get on the right track. Essentially, many would like some type of a course created specifically on the topic of codependency, and we’re going to create it for you!

But first, back to our poll question.

Poll Results

Here’s what you asked us, by category and percentage: pieChart_jpg Not surprisingly, “How To Recover” was the biggest piece of the pie by far with over 40% asking a recovery-related question. This was almost a forgone conclusion, If you’re reading this page, there’s a good chance that you yourself or someone you know needs help recovering from codependency. We further divided several of these topics into sub-categories. So, with over 200 questions being asked, here are the full results:

  • How To Recover (40%)
    • General Recovery Questions (17%)
    • Setting and Enforcing Healthy Boundaries (13%)
    • Developing Self-Love (9%)
  • Interpersonal Dynamics (18%)
    • Control Issues (5%)
    • External Approval (4%)
    • “People Pleasing” (4%)
    • Saying “No” (3%)
    • Dealing with Narcissists (2%)
  • Why Do I Stay / How Do I Leave? (10%)
    • Why Do I Stay? (7%)
    • How Do I Leave? (3%)
  • Why Am I Codependent? (9%)
  • Mental Clarity (8%)
    • Developing Better Focus (4%)
    • Self Deception (3%)
    • Dealing with Obsession (1%)
  • Attachment / Detachment (4%)
  • Generational Codependency (4%)
  • Am I Codependent? (3%)
  • When Am I Healthy Enough To Date Again? (2%)
  • Dealing With Guilt (2%)

A Deeper DiveQuestion Marks

To dissect this a bit further for you, we’ve provided example questions that were conglomerated under each emerging category:

  • How To Recover (40%)
    • General Recovery Questions (17%)
    • Setting and Enforcing Healthy Boundaries (13%)
    • Developing Self-Love (9%)

These were questions with an underlying desire for tactics or knowledge to help get better. General Recovery Questions included “What do I do once I’ve identified the problem?”, “What is the most efficient way to break through my codependency issues?”, “What’s the most important thing I can do to begin breaking the cycle?”

Setting and Enforcing Healthy Boundaries included questions like “How do I have a healthy relationship without losing myself?”, “What are some practical tools to create healthy boundaries?”, “How do you set boundaries that are fair? Not an overreaction, but a healthy boundary?” , “Where do you draw the line between being kind and overdoing it like a codependent?”

Developing Self-Love included questions like “How do I learn to like and depend on me, not others?”, “How do I relax and know I am enough?”, “How do you improve low self-esteem and anxiety”, “What does it mean to love yourself?”

  • Interpersonal Dynamics (18%)
    • Control Issues (5%)
    • External Approval (4%)
    • “People Pleasing” (4%)
    • Saying “No” (3%)
    • Dealing with Narcissists (2%)

Another large piece of the pie had to do with how to handle very specific situations in the context of interpersonal relationships. This group of questions centered again on tactics, the “how to’s” of conducting yourself in a particular moment or situation, as well as breaking presumably engrained bad habits with respect to your relationships.

Control Issues included questions like “What healthy steps can I take to overcome the obsessive and damaging need for control in relationships?”, “How can I recognize manipulation in a relationship?”, “How can I manage the finances without being told I’m controlling when I know my partner will spend money on frivolous things?”

External Approval included questions like “What are some techniques to be okay with myself without the approval of others?”, “Why do I let the opinions of others dictate so many of my personal decisions?”, “Why do I still keep needing his approval and input when I know I can be better on my own?”, “How do I stop relying on others for happiness?”

People-Pleasing included questions like “How do you handle codependent behavior in the workplace, where we’re encouraged and even paid to ‘please’ others as part of our job?”, “How do you learn not to please people at your own expense?”, “How do I fight my natural instinct to please others all the time, like doing things for my family even when I’m too tired to do anything for myself?”

Saying “No” included questions like “How do I know when I should give him what he wants and when I should stick with my ‘no’? How do I know where the line is?”, “Once you start to change and say ‘no’ to people who are used to you giving in, how do you not get defensive?”, “How do I tell my kids ‘no’?”

Dealing With Narcissists included questions like “How do we safeguard our hearts from attracting narcissistic / bpd personality types that we seem to attract like bees to honey?”, “Why do I still capitulate to the narcissists even when I know he or she is the one who is wrong?”

  • Why Do I Stay / How Do I Leave? (10%)
    • Why Do I Stay? (7%)
    • How Do I Leave? (3%)

This category deals with questions contemplating leaving a relationship. Many have reached the conclusion that their relationship is unhealthy or even harmful, but something keeps them involved. They seek the fortitude to stand up and walk away.

Questions in this category included “Why is it so easy for my mind to tell me to move on when my heart tells me no?”, “Why do I stay when the relationship is toxic and everyone around me, including myself, knows I should leave?”, “Why do I have such a hard time letting go of people who hurt me?”, “How do you let go of the people that you are codependent on? How do you get over your fear of losing people you’re codependent on as you move towards recovery?”

  • Why Am I Codependent? (9%)

Naturally, lots of people are curious about how they came to be codependent. Questions is this category included “How do I find out the reasons behind my codependency?”, “How did I become such a pushover / how did I become codependent?”, “What is the root reason you believe yourself to be responsible for everyone?”, “How is it that I ended up codependent when I grew up in a family that wasn’t dysfunctional to my knowledge, and had no substance abuse or other addictions?”, “How did I get here when I’ve had so many healthy relationships?”

  • Mental Clarity (8%)
    • Developing Better Focus (4%)
    • Self Deception (3%)
    • Dealing with Obsession (1%)

Another interesting category unfolded regarding mental strength and clarity. Those who asked these questions recognize that their perceptions were off base, or that they need help redirecting their thoughts when they’re under stress.

Questions in this category included “How do I let go and calm my mind? I have too much anxiety all the time.”, “How do I tell with absolute clarity that I am slipping back into codependency before it becomes another crisis situation?”, “How can I stop obsessing and worrying when my addict is out with friends who use?”, “How do become more aware of self-deception, like glossing over maltreatment or being convinced that someone really does need my help?”, “Why did I not see this happening?”

  • Attachment / Detachment (4%)

Questions in this category included “How do I detach and why is it important?”, “How do I maintain my sense of empathy and still make a detachment from an unhealthy relationship?”, “Why do we need to feel needed?”

  • Generational Codependency (4%)

Several respondents were curious or concerned about whether their codependency would be passed on to their children. Questions from this category included “Did my childhood make me this way and will it pass on to my kids?”, “How do I avoid having my children become codependent after watching the relationship between their father and I?”, “How does one help their young adult children be aware that this has been the family dynamic so it doesn’t automatically continue in their families and relationships?”, “Are my kids going to have codependency issues just because I do?”

  • Am I Codependent? (3%)

Questions in this category included “How can I tell if I’m codependent?”, “What are the top 5 traits of a person with codependency?”, “Does wanting to please everyone mean I have codependency?”

  • When Am I Healthy Enough To Date Again? (2%)

Questions in this category included “Is it best to refrain from having a romantic relationship if you’re codependent? At what point is it okay to get involved?”, “How do you know when you’ve healed enough that you truly long for companionship as a natural part of being human vs. ‘need to be in a relationship’?”, “When do I know when I’m ready to move on to healthy relationships?”

  • Dealing With Guilt (2%)

Questions in this category included “How do we put ourselves first without feeling guilty?”, “How do you handle ‘guilt’ feelings that come from doing things for yourself during recovery?”, “Why do I always feel so guilty?”

Miscellaneous

There were also some uncategorized questions asking about topics such as dealing with setbacks, abandonment issues, domestic violence, living alone, and wanting to know if it’s okay to stay codependent and find a compatible mate.

Overall, we were encouraged by both the immediacy of responses and significant number of responses collected from a quick email. This data provides an excellent glimpse into what our audience is thinking about or struggling with in reality.

Why Are We Collecting This Data?

At the beginning of this post, we mentioned many are enthusiastic about a deeper dive into codependency lessons, so we’re taking the steps to extract exactly what you want to know including topics, types of content, and format. We also polled readers with another question. On a scale of 1-5, we asked readers to rate each of the following according to interest: CNM 5-Star Content Poll As a result, we’re moving forward to assemble a course containing expert advice (4.81), research (4.43), and real exercises (4.52) you can do toward recovery. We’re also considering producing a collection of stories (4.04) on personal codependency struggles, as many find comfort in knowing they are not alone in their codependency issues. As noted in the chart, there was significantly less interest in a group support (2.91) component at this point.

We’re Always Looking to Create Great Resources to Help, and Your Input Is Needed!

In order to refine our course content, we’d like your feedback as to which topics are important to you. Please give us a thumbs up or thumbs down for each topic. Are You Interested in Learning About:

 

Dealing with Narcissists 

 

 

Setting Healthy Boundaries 

 

 

The 12 Step Process As It Applies To Codependency 

 

 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy 

 

 

Cognitive Behavior Therapy 

 

 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming 

 

 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 

 

 

Ending / Leaving A Relationship 

 

 

Why Do I Stay In A Bad Relationship? 

 

 

The Grief Process 

 

 

Cultivating Mindfulness and Mental Clarity 

 

 

Parent / Child Codependency 

 

 

Ending The Addiction Cycle 

 

 

Self Esteem / Self Love 

 

 

External Approval and People Pleasing 

 

 

Learning to Say “No” 

 

 

How To Recover 

 

 

When Am I Healthy Enough To Date? 

 

 

Understanding Codependency Symptoms 

 

 

Why Am I Codependent? 

 

 

Dealing With Obsessive Thoughts 

 

 

Does This Resonate With You?

If you have other ideas, or you’re just really interested in contributing to our project, we’d love to hear from you. Feel free to comment below!

20 Comments
  1. Thanks for this!

  2. very interesting feedback. Thank you

  3. Thank you! I found the information gathered interesting.

  4. Thank you sincerely for your efforts in collecting then analyzing the questions that no doubt took tremendous work on your part. I have excellent relationships with family and friends and feel that I am loved wherever I go. There is no person currently in my life whom I do not welcome. However, on the romantic side it appears that I am unable to discern the real quality of a man and have not pondered long enough to become sensible as obsession in finding someone special seems to rule. Is there a book or course that could be of benefit to me while I struggle to be part of a healthy relationship?

    • Thanks Helene,

      We’re working on a course right now, but it will be several months before it’s released. As far as books go, Codependent No More by Melody Beattie is a classic, and I bet you’d fine it helpful!

      William

  5. I thought by leaving this comment it’s the only way for you to get my ratings as I didn’t see any other way to submit them.

    Thanks for everything you’re doing to help codependents.

    Have a nice day!!

    Jackie

    • Thanks Jackie,

      We started this blog almost four years ago and never expected the great response we’ve gotten so far. Many people out there need help, so we’re doing the heavy lifting of taking your questions and connecting the dots to find the best answers.

      William

  6. It occurred to me last night that the way women view their bodies, faces, hair and clothes is generally unfavorable due to media, pressure from other women and even men. Age is also a huge factor, thus the industry of wrinkle free product promises! This is all a sign of codependent behavior, when we think we need to change ourselves to look a certain way so that others accept and love us! I spoke to a bunch of women last night, who all wanted to lose more weight and the lengths that they went to. Many have eating disorders because they are running after the illusion that they are not enough! This Codependency has the ability to kill. Men have a similar issue with their cars, jobs and self-esteem related to those, or how about the guys building Herculean bodies to impress. Why do we need to impress others? Can we not love ourselves just the way we are? By the way. I hate that I have fallen into the same trap in many areas, and won’t leave the house without my make-up! I am proud of you guys for this amazing effort!

    • Thanks Joanne. What an interesting insight; the meaning of codependency seems to be evolving into a more broad definition. It would interesting to investigate that further. Thanks!

      William

  7. First let me echo previous comments: Thank you, thank you, thank you for the tremendous effort put forth for this project.

    I am 55 years old. I realized in my 20’s that I was codependent when I read a book that described codependent characteristics and I swore they wrote the book about me. It still took me another 20 years to realize that I could recover from codependency. I read as much as I could; I went to counselors and support groups; I led support groups; I completed self-help workshops. Knowledge has been power. The turning point for me was in a meeting with a counselor. I had a list of codependent traits, the ones that applied to me. I said, “I don’t know how to stop doing these things.” He said, “Just do the opposite.” It seemed so elementary, but it worked!! One at a time I practiced “doing the opposite.”

    Self-awareness is key. We have to be willing to look at ourselves and admit that we aren’t perfect. That we need help getting through this thing called “life.” It doesn’t make us weak to ask for help it makes us human. Life isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. Consider it an adventure. Live and learn. Turn those mistakes into lessons. Enjoy every step of the way!

    I am excited to be a part of this project. To help myself learn and grow and to help others through their journey as well.

    • Thanks Debbie, and thanks for sharing! Love the advice – just do the opposite. Reminds me of some advice I got years ago, to move TOWARD uneasiness until it’s easy. In other words, if you have anxiety about something, be proactive and pursue it until you master it.

      Thanks for being willing to help!

      William

  8. Thank you for caring about us people pleasers.

  9. I didn’t see how to submit my ratings so this is why I’m leaving a comment.

    Thanks for all the work you’re doing!!

    Jackie

  10. I am looking forward to participating in all of this! I am so grateful to have found you!