There are times in relationships when we cross that sometimes invisible line between truly being helpful and supportive or acting as enablers, thus becoming codependent with another person. Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse, in her work with families, suggests that 96% of the general population, and persons in helping professions especially, exhibit some forms of co-dependent behavior at one time or in fairly consistent patterns or both. What does that behavior “look like”?
1. Do you find yourself worrying about a person in ways that consume your time, or do you find yourself trying to come up with solutions to his/ her problems rather than letting that person do the solving?
2. Do you find yourself afraid for this person, or convinced that he/she “cannot handle” a situation or relationship without “falling apart”?
3. Do you ever do something for a person which he/she could and even should be doing, in order to learn him/herself?
4. Do you ever excuse this person’s behavior as being a result of “stress, misunderstanding, or difficulty coping,” even when the behavior hurts or inconveniences you?
5. Have you ever considered - or have you - giving this person money, your car, or talked to someone for this person as a way of reducing this person’s pain?
6. Do you feel angry if this person does not follow through with something you have suggested -- or do you worry that you may not be doing enough for this person?
7. Do you ever feel you have a unique and special relationship with this person?
8. Do you feel protective of this person - even though he/she is an adult and is capable of taking care of his/her life?
9. Do you ever wish others in this person’s life would change their behavior or attitudes to make things easier for this person?
10. Do you feel responsible for getting this person help?
11. Do you feel reluctant to refer an individual to a source of help or assistance, uncertain if another person can understand or appreciate this person’s situation the way you do?
12. Do you ever feel manipulated by this person but ignore your feelings?
13. Do you ever feel that no one understands this person as you do?
14. Do you ever feel that you know best what another person needs to do or that you recognize his/her needs better than he/she does?
15. Do you sometimes feel alone in your attempts to help a person or do you feel you may be the only person to help this individual?
16. Do you ever want to make yourself more available to another person, at the expense of your own energy, time, commitments?
17. Do you find yourself realizing that an individual may have more problems than you initially sensed and that you will need to give him/her your support or help for a long time?
18. Do you ever feel, as a result of getting to know this person, that you feel energized and can see yourself helping people like him/her to solve their problems?
19. Have you ever begun to “see yourself” in this person and his/her problems?
20. Has anyone ever suggested to you that you are “too close” to this person or this situation?
If you have answered "yes” to two or more of these questions, it is likely that, at one time or another - or on a regular basis - you have crossed the line from being supportive to being an enabler or codependent.