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How to Deal With Siblings and Co-Dependent Behavior

by Ginger Voight

The ties that bind turn easily into the bonds that strangle when you have an unhealthy relationship with co-dependent siblings. This behavior is rooted deeply in their own inferiority, where they feel incapable or unworthy of being in a healthy, reciprocal relationship. Selflessness masks control, which feeds off ongoing crisis to sustain itself. Often co-dependency is a learned behavior that thrives within the unhealthy rules of a dysfunctional family dynamic. To break this destructive pattern, you must first change the rules.

Identify the Problem

A co-dependent person finds self-worth by being the selfless caretaker in an unbalanced relationship, putting the needs of the other person over the needs of self. This takes unconditional love to an unhealthy extreme. Martyrdom masks an underlying need to control, and co-dependents will often seek out individuals who are out of control in order to save or fix these individuals. A co-dependent person thrives on being the one in control and the one who is prized for taking care of family members that are out of control, so he may not recognize how his behavior contributes to crisis after crisis in the family.

Seek Solutions Together

Many times co-dependent behavior manifests from ongoing patterns in the family. Perhaps problems were buried, and your siblings felt compelled to protect those experiencing a crisis or difficulty, such as an addiction or abuse. Because these patterns are often deeply rooted in a dysfunctional family dynamic, you must renegotiate how you relate to one another in order to break the cycle. Uncomfortable feelings need to be unearthed in a safe atmosphere. Seek professional therapy to learn how to connect as equals in order to restore a healthy balance in your relationships.

Build Each Other Up

Because the co-dependent relationship is based on low self-esteem, make each member of the family feel important and valued based on who they are rather than what they do for others. As you build self-esteem from personal accomplishment, you establish a more concrete foundation for relationships in the future. Basing worth on external sources, such as relationships with others, sets up your siblings to flounder when there is no one around them they can "fix." Encourage your siblings to take care of themselves instead or to accept a helping hand, a compliment or a gift without feeling guilty.

Break the Cycle of Need

Because the co-dependent siblings require you to be out of control so they can care for your needs, you break the cycle of need by becoming more independent. Don't feed the destructive patterns that brought your family to this point by allowing your siblings to be your crutch or to fix your problems. The more you need to be rescued, the more your co-dependent siblings will attach to you to sustain their own unhealthy identity. Establish healthier boundaries by allowing each family member to express his true feelings, even negative ones, and to say "no" without guilt.

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