Codependents & Their Struggle For Power & Control

Codependency refers to relationships which revolve around unhealthy helping dynamics. A codependent partner tends to struggle with low self-esteem, a lack of emotional control, self-blame, as well as setting healthy personal boundaries. All of these behavioral patterns can result in power struggles and imbalances in relationships and cause the individual to seek assistance in a codependent relationship retreat. 

But why do codependents struggle with control? Do they seek power even though it seems they are happy to relinquish control? 

In this article, we will explore the role of power and control in codependent relationships and try to understand why codependents struggle in this area. If you have a codependent individual in your life, struggle with codependency yourself, or simply want to learn more about the behavioral condition, read on. 

Are Codependents Controlling?

Although most relationships have more or less balanced power structures, codependent relationships are often characterized by severe feelings of powerlessness and deep urges to seize back that power. Such structures are a common codependency symptom, and is frequently encountered in relationships which feature a codependent/narcissistic dynamic.  

In fact, control is one of the defining characteristics of codependency, whether it has to do with controlling oneself or others. Since codependents struggle with empowering themselves and being assertive, they tend to seek control and power from external sources in order to feel good. A codependent may try to change others in order to find happiness, and feel helpless if their partner doesn’t appreciate the help. 

How Are Codependents Controlling?

While being controlling may not be the first characteristic you think of when you think of codependent individuals, the need to change, fix, or control other people is one of the primary symptoms of codependency. Here’s how it manifests. 

The Need To Feel Needed 

If you struggle with codependent traits, you might feel in control only if you feel like your partner or other people in your life need you. Noticing that your partner can do without you or that they don’t need your help to deal with their personal problems may cause you to feel powerless or helpless. 

Taking Responsibility For Others’ Feelings 

A codependent often feels like they have control over other people’s actions and feelings, while not being able to control their own. They tend to feel like their partner can’t resolve their own issues without their help, and will do everything in their power to seize control over the situation.

Controlling Through Enabling 

Enabling means doing for others what they can’t seem to do for themselves. For instance, if your partner is an addict, you may help them avoid the consequences of addiction or mental health issues and prolong the problem by doing so. This can also be seen as a form of control, because the addicted or mentally ill partner becomes fully dependent on the codependent individual. 

Why Do Codependents Need To Control?

Codependent individuals often grow up in settings with dysfunctional relationships to power. They were often emotionally and sometimes physically mistreated by their parents or caretakers. For some individuals, they may have been parentified at an early age.  Parentification is the process of a role reversal whereby a child is obliged to act as parent to their own parent or sibling. 

Causes Of Controlling Behaviors In Codependents 

How Are Codependents Controlling?

In order to paint a clearer picture, here are some common causes of codependency and the need to control: 

  • The family they grew up with was unpredictable and chaotic, without clear boundaries and control dynamics 
  • They learned that people pleasing and accommodating others is the only way to feel loved and cared for 
  • The dysfunctional relationships with power often harbor resentment and cause passive-aggressive and indirectly controlling behavior 
  • They never learned how to be assertive and control their own lives, so they try to change or fix others in order to feel empowered 
  • They may be afraid of their own, deeply buried power, so they believe they can only have their needs met if they are accommodating and indirect in relationships 

If you have codependent tendencies, the first step towards overcoming them is understanding that you should look inside, rather than outside to find strength and empower yourself. Control over others may make you feel better in the short term, but won’t get you closer to finding balance and happiness in your life. 

How Do I Control My Codependency?

If you’ve fully understood the detrimental effect your codependent patterns have on your personal relationships, know that you’re not stuck. There are ways you can overcome codependency and learn to find peace and love in your life.

  1. Learn The Difference Between Codependency And Support

    It is easy to confuse supportive behaviors with codependency, especially because support is a natural part of any relationship. Unfortunately, codependent behaviors have an entirely different end goal – they are driven by the need to control or direct the behaviors of your partner. Although you may not be aware of your need to control, your partner might become more and more dependent on your support over time and stop helping themselves. And, then often resent you for it later down the line.

  2. Uncover Your Codependent Patterns 

    Understanding yourself will help you immensely on your path toward self-realization and healthy balance. Look into your past and try to see how your environment and upbringing influenced your personality. Of course, the best way to do so is by speaking to a relationship professional who can help you heal your core wound using expert techniques. The Survival Pattern module in the PIVOT process can begin this process.

  3. Practice Setting Healthy Boundaries 

    In order to overcome your codependency, you have to learn how to say “no” and focus on meeting your own needs instead of worrying about the problems of others. Understand your own limits and don’t get involved in helping other people when it drains your own resources. The Relational Circle Boundaries in PIVOT will give you the ability to do this.

  4. Learn What It Means To Be Truly Assertive

    Being assertive doesn’t mean having control over others. On the contrary, it means having independence and understanding who you are and where you stand, and finding the courage to realize your potential and operate from the Healthy Adult concept in PIVOT. 

Find Your Power In PIVOT Codependency Intensive Workshops 

Living in denial and lying to yourself may be tempting, but understanding your own codependency and working on overcoming it will give you the power and confidence you never knew you had. And with PIVOT on your side, you can find the strength you need to build healthier relationships and overcome codependent patterns

At PIVOT, we offer comprehensive retreats and workshops for codependents, as well as professional and insightful individual coaching sessions that will help you heal your core wound. Reach out to PIVOT today and find the support you seek.