Codependency For Dummies
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Although men can and do fall victim to codependency, women comprise the majority of codependents. There are many reasons in many categories: biological, developmental, political, cultural, religion, and societal.
  • Biological: While both women and men are biologically wired for relationships, under stress, men tend to prepare for action, while women’s hormones prepare them to make sure their relationships are healthy and intact.

  • Developmental (gender identity): Generally, girls are more dependent upon and emotionally involved with their parents. Loss of a relationship may be their biggest stressor. They tend to be more accepting of parental values, and a separation that threatens the emotional attachment with their parents creates anxiety. Thus, autonomy is their biggest challenge. Males tend to have a drive to separate from their mothers and identify with their fathers in order to establish their male identities. For males, intimacy can be a challenge.

  • Political: Universally, women have been subordinated to men and marginalized from access to equal money, rights, and power. Oppression for generations has made women more compliant. This continues today. They’re traumatized by physical and sexual abuse far more than men, which, among other serious medical issues, lowers their self-esteem.

  • Cultural: In most cultures, girls are more restricted and have less opportunity for autonomy. Both hormones and societal norms encourage adolescent boys to be more rebellious and autonomous. They’re given more freedom and are willing to struggle for it.

  • Religion: Many patriarchal religions view women in a subservient role to men and advocate that women defer to their husbands, brothers, and other men. Women have less freedom and rights, and may have less access to education or positions of authority.

  • Societal: Women suffer from low self-esteem and depression far more than men. It’s not clear whether this is a cause, by-product, or concurrent with codependency; however, societal attitudes are a contributing cause.

    A Dove study found that over 40 percent of women are unhappy with their looks, and over two-thirds suffer low confidence about their bodies. Many blamed the airbrushed, ideal models for setting unrealistic, unattainable standards. Unfortunately, it starts in childhood. Seven in ten girls are dissatisfied with their looks, and a large number practice self-destructive behavior.

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Darlene Lancer, JD, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in relationships and codependency. Ms. Lancer has counseled individuals and couples for 28 years and coaches internationally. She's a sought-after speaker to professionals at national conferences and in the media.

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