Do you judge yourself to be codependent? Do you tend to focus a lot more on another person rather than yourself?
Do you make what they want more important than what you want?
Of course we as humans depend and rely on others for support, safety and physical closeness. After all, we are herd animals and historically we’ve survived only in groups. Moreover, unlike other species, we remain dependent on others (especially our parents or caregivers) until our late teenage years. So yes – humans are dependent by nature.
Relying on others and wanting others in your life is not codependency. Making ourselves happy, angry or sad when the other is feeling that way isn’t codependency either.
Codependency is a way of being where you ongoingly put the other person or persons before you and make their wishes, emotions, problems and actions more important than yours. And by doing this you create unhappiness, expectation of appreciation from the other (without telling them) and often unexpressed resentments.
You serving your loved one and being there for others is not codependency. The behaviour becomes codependent when you continually do things for the other you don’t really want to do and put your own wishes aside and secretly feel angry or bitter towards the other. I tend to say that a “healthy” split of focus is 20% on the other and 80% on yourself. Using “I” language rather than “you” language is also helpful in turning the focus to yourself.
But more about the solutions next week!
The sad thing about ongoing codependent behaviour is that you don’t really show yourself to others, they don’t know you, your wishes, dreams and struggles because you don’t show yourself.
You make “everything” about the other.
For many it’s a safe place to be (even though in the end – just an illusion of safety): you don’t need to take the risk of showing yourself and your desires and be rejected or abandoned because of them.
I came up with this list and it’s just a guide which might be helpful – not meant to be taken as the truth.
Some of the signs that indicate you might have codependent behaviours:
- You don’t know and/or pay attention to what you want.
- You don’t verbalize what you want and you make what the other person wants more important than what you want.
- You put the wishes of others before yours. You agree to go with what the other one wants even though that’s not what you want and secretly resent them for your choice to put them first.
- You don’t communicate and keep up healthy boundaries; a kind of “anything goes” attitude.
- The majority of your focus is on the other (or others) and what they say, think and want rather than on yourself.
- You feel unappreciated, angry and resentful, and you don’t express that directly. You might express things indirectly in guilt tripping or by making yourself “victim” / “martyr”. You are also afraid of retaliation if you stop “rescuing” or taking care of the other.
- You remain in an unhealthy relationship(s) despite you feeling ongoing unhappy / abused in the relationships.
- You are overprotective and taking on all/most responsibility for your partner or loved one.
- You minimize or deny the problem or issues and take any sign of small progress meaning the problem disappeared.
- You value the approval of others more than valuing yourself.
- You lack trust in yourself and have poor self-esteem
- You have difficulty identifying your feelings.
There are reasons why we develop and maintain codependent behaviours. For many of us that’s what we learned at home as kids from one or both of our parents. And for several people it was a way to survive, get love and recognition as children. We were appreciated when we were willing to serve and support the adults rather than being able to stay as kids with wants, needs and being loud and even unreasonable.
One more thing I want to say is that I don’t like labels much. You labelling and self-diagnosing might be counterproductive.
And I think definitions like codependency, anxiety or depression are not that important, even though they can be useful understanding our behaviors and ways of reacting and can lead to be self-defining behaviour when we start to believe we are codependent rather than we are dynamic ever changing human beings who have codependent traits.
This topic has been and is relevant to many in our Honesty Europe community. It has been big in my life and in my romantic relationships too. It’s such a thin line when our way of being is serving us and when it’s no more serving us and we are kind of caught in an unhealthy place and struggle to find a way out.
What thoughts and sensations are coming up for you while you read this text?
What other topics do you want me to write about? Let me know!