Dear Barb – Co-dependency

Dear Barb: HELP! For some reason I always become involved in relationships with women that I have to take care of and I don’t mean that in the traditional sense. Most of the women I become involved with end up having serious emotional, mental or addiction problems. My intent is always to make things right, or to help them get over a rough time. However, it seems that when I help them through one crisis, another one erupts. Then, I feel obligated to help them though that crisis. My last two relationships ended when the women didn’t seem to need me anymore. I’m beginning to wonder if there is something wrong with me or am I just an easy target? Is it possible that there is something in my personality that attracts these types of women? I’ll be looking forward to your advice, hopefully before I meet my next needy girlfriend.

William in Cornwall

Hi William, thanks for writing. You may be right; there may be something in your personality that is attracting a certain type of individual. Think about your other relationships with friends and family, are they similar, in that you often seem to be helping someone through a bad time? Have you always been the kid in school that seemed to be drawn to the underdog or were they drawn to you? My guess is that your answer will be ‘yes’. You may be suffering from a codependent personality. You seem to have a reached a point where you feel a need to make some changes.

Some of the following characteristics are associated with codependency: a need to be needed, deriving your happiness through someone else, having a fear of rejection or failure, constantly trying to make things right for others and trying to “fix” them, and taking on others’ responsibilities while neglecting your own. If you can identify with these characteristics you probably are codependent. The term codependent is more often used when describing women, for men the term is “rescuer.”

Don’t despair William, there are things you can do to overcome this behavior and you have taken the first step by realizing there is something unhealthy in your present relationships. As well, you need to begin to focus on yourself and your needs. Learn to love yourself and don’t feel guilty when you do things for yourself. Setting boundaries is imperative if you are to be successful in overcoming codependency. Learn to say “NO.” You don’t have to fix everyone. Their problems are their own, not yours.

A visit to your local library would be beneficial, as several books are available on codependency. In addition, consider the help of a counselor to perhaps get you into group therapy.

Below is an excellent definition of a rescuer that I found:

“The Rescuer gets their needs met by taking care of others. They rush in to try and solve others problems and look after them. This keeps them from looking at their own problems. They do things for the other person rather than show the person how to do them for themselves. This keeps the other person stuck so they can keep looking after them. The rescuer is actually a victim in disguise” (Whitehouse, 2003).

Good Luck William, please keep me updated on your progress.

Whitehouse, D. (2003). From Hollywood to Here. In press. Retrieved from

E-mail your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

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