How do I know if I am acting codependent or loving? This is an excellent question and often confusing for many for different reasons. Let’s look at the definitions of codependent and loving and see what we find.

Love: An intense feeling of deep affection. For the purpose of this article, we will include some distinctions of love:

Codependency: Codependency for the purpose of this discussion is a recognizable system of learned personality traits that negatively affect knowing one’s self and others.

Codependents become dependent on “others” approval and control the situation in order to get this approval. Codependents often avoid honesty and confrontation, which can enable abusive behavior. Thus, the codependent does not require the abusive person to change or improve.

When we compare love and codependency, I believe we will find actions from love are different than codependent – actions which are based in fear. In general, it takes an emotionally strong person to live in love – not codependency.

As we said in our definitions: Codependents are driven by wanting other’s approval, so the fear of not having that approval is driving the behavior. People operating out of love are not driven by fear. Codependents may be blind to their codependency…and their fear. This way of being is just how they unconsciously decided they needed to act in order to survive.

Truth vs Deceit
If my partner lost his/her job and, after a sufficient amount of recovery time, is not looking for a new job, spends hours on the computer playing games, and watches hours of TV, I can still love my partner and be frustrated/indignant at the behavior.

Love includes my truth, which includes observations about paralysis, possible depression, inaction, and other sabotaging behaviors. Codependency has me saying “dishonest/deceitful” things to all of us. I pretend not to notice my partner’s behavior; I make up excuses to justify this behavior, and I create dishonest stories to avoid telling my partner my truth. Remember: As a codependent, I need your approval so I control the situation by being nice and enabling.

If you come home every night inebriated, fall on the floor, vomit, and stay there until you wake up in the morning, I can still love you – the person that went out sober – and be indignant/sad/frustrated that you are lost to our family during these hours. I can be indignant/sad/frustrated that we have to wake up to that vision, rather than a parent/partner who wakes us all up after a good night’s sleep, participates in getting all of us off to a good day, and someone we can count on to be there for us.

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Author's Bio: 

Dr. Anne Brown, Ph.D., RN of Sausalito, California, formerly from Aspen, Colorado in her private practice has served as the trusted advocate and advisor to Influential Corporate leaders, Trial Attorneys, Athletes, Leaders, Physicians, and their families, many of whose connections extend well beyond the town of Aspen.