The term codependency originally described family members and loved ones of people who attempted to rescue a person with an addiction. They engage in behaviors such as enabling, and in being so focused on the other, they frequently lose sight of themselves. Currently, codependency describes relationships across the board that fall into specific unhealthy patterns.
In this unhealthy dynamic, individuals focus so much on pleasing the other person that they often allow their self-care to be depleted. They may pretend to like the same things as their loved ones just to be accepted and loved. They often lose their own voice. They are often conflict-averse and will try to keep the peace at all costs instead of being assertive and standing up for themselves.
Humans biologically are wired for connection. We have an innate desire to depend on one another, but we need to do it in a healthy way. When someone is interdependent, they feel comfortable in their skin, standing on their own two feet, and able to express what they need, want, desire, and feel. You can speak to your partner in kind, loving, direct ways from this grounded and centered place. You do not need to give in to their every whim. You attend to your personal needs, not losing sight of who you are. When your partner is having a bad day, you don’t go down into the dark hole with them when you are in a good mood. Instead, from your healthy place, you offer empathy. When you focus your attention first on yourself, then you can attend to your partner and be there for them without getting swallowed up by their pain. There is a healthy separation between the two of you. You feel safe to be truly and completely yourself without fear of being judged or rejected.
If you have been caught in this codependency trap for years, you might want to consider reaching out to a therapist or going to a CoDA meeting (Codependence Anonymous). Recovery is possible, and often it takes support from others to be able to give yourself the support you need. Strive for healthy interdependence where you can dance between autonomy and union, remaining centered in your own experience. You can love someone without feeling like you somehow have to rescue them. You can simply put, just be you.