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Codependent – The Caretaker and The Rescuer

Feb 20, 2017 08:30AM ● By Don Short

Codependency begins as a survival plan that a child develops so that their life will be more bearable in response to the abuse and/or neglect they are experiencing at that time. What helps one to survive childhood is often counterproductive as an adult. As an adult we have more control. Codependent persons feel responsible to clean up the mess of others while at the same time neglecting themselves. Codependent people lose their own identity. Codependents don’t see how they are responsible for creating their own problem. They see their effort to help an ungrateful troubled person and blame them for their misery. Being helpful and caring are good traits. It is the obsession to solve the other person’s problems is when it becomes problematic.


   1. Are excessively ‘other’ centered

   2. Feel they need to make the other person        happy

   3. Have poor boundaries

   4. Assume responsibility for the lives of               other people

   5. Have low self-esteem

   6. Feel a lot of guilt     

In the beginning the codependent looks like a “savior” but in the end they feel crushed. The other person’s life becomes the codependent’s life. They often tolerate an abusive spouse and feel responsible for their happiness, health and comfort. They are seeking their spouse’s approval and are really yearning for it. Codependent people tend to bond to individuals who are not there for them emotionally. This feels normal to them and loving someone and not receiving love back is what they are familiar with. Codependents fail to see what is really going on in their relationship.

We should not take responsibility for other people’s problems. Helping someone occasionally is fine, but when we routinely take responsibility for another’s problems, we are acting irresponsible. When codependents try to have a separate life they feel guilty and selfish. Codependency can become a bad habit for parents because they learn to calm their anxiety by rescuing their children from their problems. We must remember that there are lessons to be learned through one’s struggles and failures. A person’s struggles and failures are often the best teachers.


1. Do not get over involved in solving someone else’s problems.

2. Only give healthy and loving support.

3. Maintain healthy boundaries with everyone in your life.

Codependent individuals are sensitive souls and they seek peace, predictability and loving acceptance. They will be careful that no one gets hurt, no one that is, except himself or herself. Two ways of making sure no one gets hurt is to be a caretaker or a rescuer. Caretakers cannot bear to see others feel bad or suffer. Constant caretaking, however, can severely deplete oneself emotionally which will then create frustration and usually generates resentment that leads to anger.

The codependent person loves to rescue. They will rescue others from their responsibilities and from the consequences of their actions. They will take on the suffering of others, they will say yes when they should say no, meet the needs of others without being asked, think for others, speak for others and solve problems for others.


Respond to each of the following questions on a scale from 0 = no -------10 equal yes.

     Do you feel insecure and/or guilt in any of your relationships?

     Do you feel compelled to help people solve their problems?

     Do you feel responsible for other people—their feelings, needs?

     Do you feel empty if you don’t have someone else to take care of?

     Do you find yourself unable to stop worrying about individuals and their problems?

     Do you stay in unhealthy relationships and tolerate abuse?

If your answers tend to be close to 10, an absolute yes, I would suggest that you seek counseling to address these issues. If your answers tend to be closer to or at 0, then these are not your issues and you find it easier to have healthier relationships.


Don Short is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). His practice focuses on clients with marriage, relationship and family issues. He is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. To learn more contact 337-781-4565 or

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