We often talk about and express a lot of anger in Radical Honesty workshops. Expressing…
Last week I wrote about codependency and gave a list of 12 signs of codependent behavior.
What thoughts are arising for you right now reading the word codependency?
Codependency, which is sometimes called relationship addiction, is an excessive, all-consuming dependency on a specific relationship or sometimes several relationships.
Why do we fall into codependent behaviors?
Many times we have learned codependent behaviors at home. Either one of the parents or caregivers exhibited codependent behaviors. Or we learned explicitly or implicitly that we got love, attention and care as children when we were helping and serving the adult. In those cases we basically learned early on that the ”right” way to be was to help and serve and that is the way we will survive and ”earn” love, care or intimacy.
So what happens when we deploy codependent behaviors in our relationship?
Although ”the caretaker” in the codependent relationship usually has good intentions and generally acts out of a sincere desire to help a partner or loved one, those actions tend to have unintended effects. The situation typically ends up backfiring.
Over time, the caretaker tends to start to feel unacknowledged and taken for granted. They most likely will go to victim and martyr mode, they often expect appreciation and praise and don’t express that wish to the other. They start to believe that the helping they did was the helping the other one wanted without checking in. There tends to be a degree of manipulation from one or both parties in a codependent relationship.
When the helper tries to manipulate the other into appreciating and being dependent on them, the other might feel helpless, unable to take care of themselves and their life. The one being helped might start to assume that the other one doing everything for them is normal, and goes into guilt tripping in case the helper tries to help less.
In codependent relationships there tends to be a lot of assuming and far less direct questions and communication.
The sad thing is that by constantly protecting the loved one from the consequences of his or her actions, the relied-upon partner actually helps to foster even more of the destructive behaviors.
So how to move forwards from here?
Here are 9 healthy steps you can take to start to heal from codependent tendencies:
1) Start being honest with yourself and your partner, family members or others around you.
Every step matters!
2) Start to establish healthy boundaries
You decide where you will draw the line when offering financial, emotional, and/or physical support.
3. Remember, ”I am I and you are you”.
Don’t take things personally if you can. I propose you remind yourself again and again what the other person does and says is about them, not about you. This is part of the daily work to get towards healthy boundaries and healthy separation. You can love and care about someone and their wellbeing and happiness is not your responsibility.
4. Stop rescuing your loved one from the consequences of their behaviors.
Providing resources for getting help with an addiction, for example, is much more loving than covering up for the person’s actions and watching that person slowly ruin his/her life.
5. Give yourself time, self-care and love, don’t require perfection and immediate big changes. Healing from codependent behaviors and patterns is a process. Allow yourself to have breaks.
Do something fun and nice for yourself every week. Plan it, mark it to the calendar and make sure you won’t trade your self-care time to serving others.
For inspiration you can check out my blog article on self-care tips.
6. Acknowledge your own wants and start to take them as a priority.
This is often one of the most difficult things for people on the caretaking end of a codependent relationship to do, but it’s one of the most necessary, too.
7. Spend more time with friends and other people with whom you don’t have codependent patterns.
Try to develop a larger support system and community that you can turn to when you need someone to depend on. Learn to ask for what you want and ask for help and support. Most likely more people are willing to listen and be there for you than you think!
8. Recognize and celebrate your progress.
I propose that you celebrate every time you speak up, ask for what you want, express your emotion or share something vulnerable. Even with baby steps, you’re doing the work!
9. Seek support and help.
Consider group work, counseling/therapy/coaching or join a peer support group such as 12-step group Codependents Anonymous (CODA).
Here are two videos I made about overcoming codependency:
How was this text and the videos for you? Did you find them useful? What else do you want to read or hear about?
And what about you – the most important person in your life!
What fun things are you going to do today to celebrate the person you are? What do you want to plan for next week just for fun and your pleasure?