Teenagers in Codependent Relationships

Seeing their teenager in a codependent relationship is heartbreaking for parents 1. Teens often rebel if parents don’t approve of their partners, according to the Empowering Parents website. Instead of breaking up with him, it can make the codependent teen even more determined to make the relationship work 1. This puts the parents in a quandary -- they don't want to encourage the teen to do the opposite of what they intended.

Codependency Defined

Viewing a relationship as more important than yourself is codependency, according to the WebMD website 1. The person who is codependent might kowtow to the other person so much that her own needs, wants and desires seem to disappear. This is an unhealthful relationship, yet it fulfills a need in the codependent person 1.

Circumstances That Result in Codependency

In the past, the term codependent was often used as a label for relationships in which one of the partners was abusing drugs or alcohol. The partner who was not abusing the substances often did everything within her power to make the abuser’s life sustainable, thereby removing every excuse to abuse drugs or alcohol. Nowadays, the term refers also to couples where one individual is self-absorbed or indifferent to making the relationship work. This results in a battle of wills over control. One of the partners flourishes in being persuaded to care while the other person is prideful in believing she can make the individual come around to her way of thinking.

Reasons Why Your Teen Becomes Codependent

Teens can be fickle when it comes to relationships, yet they often believe that being part of a couple is key to social advancement in middle school and high school. They might do just about anything to make the relationship seem to work, even though it is not fulfilling. According to WebMD, children who see their parents or caregivers in a codependent relationship often model the same behavior in their own lives 1. This is because they are raised to believe it is perfectly acceptable to sacrifice themselves in order to make a relationship work 1.

Helping Your Teen Recognize Codependency

Help your child recognize signs of codependency. Sit down with your teen in a cozy environment where you can discuss the problem alone. Tell her you suspect she might be codependent, but you want her to decide for herself based on a few facts. Explain the questions she can ask herself to determine whether her relationship is beneficial to both parties. She should ask herself whether she is the only one putting energy and effort into the relationship. Another thought-provoking question is whether the bond with her partner is more important to her than her own happiness. Finally, she should ask herself what sacrifices she is making for this connection to work. Explain that typically codependent relationships rarely satisfy both partners. Much of the time, the only action that will bring about effective changes is to end the relationship.