Many researchers agree that the first studies into codependency began in 1932 with psychologist Karen Horney’s work with the spouses of alcoholics.
Horney, as well as the mental health professionals that followed, saw codependency as a coping mechanism, although the scope of the definition has expanded since these early studies. While not considered a diagnosis in its own right, psychologists describe codependency as a subclinical and situational behavioral condition, characterized by overcaring, inability to set boundaries, and overwhelming acceptance. The road to recovery is long but it begins with unlearning these behaviors.
The recovery process for a codependent is very personal and individual. Codependency often begins with long-held beliefs and behaviors, that can date all the way back to a dysfunctional childhood.
Telling yourself to change a behavior may only provide a temporary solution. Stress, anxiety, being overwhelmed, or narcissistic manipulation by a partner can trigger those dormant codependent behavior again. This needs to be considered at all times through recovery.
In the beginning of recovery, working with a psychotherapist to uncover the deeply hidden aspect of the codependent behavior is essential. Typically during this initial phase of recovery, the therapist recommends avoiding all types of dating relationships and working on building healthy relationships with your support network or healthy family members.
When you have built up your self-confidence, developed the ability to set boundaries, and trust your independence, you’ll be ready to look for a new relationship.
The Codependency Challenge
Anyone who has been codependent in the past has to actively try not to slip into old habits. You’ll need to learn new coping strategies, self-care, putting yourself first, but also critical how to spot the early signs of a narcissist or unhealthy dating partner.
A life coach or a therapist can assist you in staying on your personal growth plan. Professionals can also hold a mirror to your relationship.
These professionals can also help you to assess when you are ready to move into the world of dating. There is no magic timeline, but it is important to take all the time you need and only move forward when you are emotionally, mentally, and physically ready.