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How Religion And Culture Influence Codependency

For the record, we’ve written about codependent relationships many times before on our blog page. And through the research we’ve uncovered, this type of behavior can often be traced back to childhood. If your parents (or role models) exemplified these types of traits, then there’s a good chance you may exhibit them as well. But one other interesting component that doesn’t get touched on very much concerns the roles of culture and religion. For those who were brought up in strict households, these may play a significant factor.

NBC News recently covered this topic, delving into the roots of codependency. At its core definition, this type of relationship involves a “giver” and a “taker” role. It is always imbalanced and can often lead to abuse, emotional turmoil and resentment from both sides. Enablement is another key factor, creating a vicious cycle where the “taker” continues to manipulate and the “giver” continues to be victimized.

For those who have strong religious or cultural backgrounds, the need to stay in an unhealthy relationship may be heightened. Devout communities often preach against divorce or (in the worst case scenario) turn a blind eye to abuse because the male figure is put on a higher pedestal. Dr. Shawn Meghan Burn discussed this scenario on the NBC site, emphasizing that this behavior is more common than most people think.

“When you’re codependent, you can over-internalize religious or cultural values that prescribe self-sacrifice for others,” she explained. “Being the giver in a codependent relationship can also satisfy needs such as the need to matter to someone, the need to feel competent, the need to feel close to someone. As far as takers go, they are sometimes selfish and manipulative, irresponsible and entitled. But some are just troubled or addicted or lacking in life skills.”

Indeed, even “takers” may have been brought up to believe that they are culturally dominant. We know, at their core, that various religions and cultural values are meant for good. But certain families and tight-knit communities can take the letter of the law a little too far, misinterpreting certain aspects and even condoning a toxic relationship (perhaps if an arranged marriage is involved).

We understand how difficult it can be to defy teachings and family members who have been close to you your entire life. But if it is leading into an unhappy and potentially abusive relationship, you always have the right to walk away. Having a conversation with a trained counselor is a positive first step and one we highly encourage for anyone caught in this challenging scenario.

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