Most of us have had times in our relationships where we struggle to feel as though we’re our own person. As we get older and more defined by our relationships, we can lose sight of who we are and only see ourselves as a wife, a husband, a partner, a mother, and so on. Codependency at its core hinders one's ability to have a healthy, fulfilling relationship with another person.
What is codependency?
Codependency in relationships can show up in an array of different ways. Some examples may include:
Being unable to tell other people “no” for fear of them being upset with you
Rejecting your needs for the needs of your partner
Avoiding arguments or disagreements to “keep the peace”
A feeling of rejection when your partner or friend does something without you
Feeling responsible for another person’s emotional response or behavior
And so on, and so forth. All of these behaviors may seem completely valid in the moment when you’re avoiding a fight or struggling to be alone, but they contribute to the codependent nature of your relationships. Codependency is talked about mostly in terms of romantic relationships, but those with a codependent nature can see these patterns show up in their friendships and familial relationships as well.
Don’t get codependency confused with people-pleasing behaviors. Both can be detrimental to your mental health, but they are unique. The rule of thumb is that all codependent people are people-pleasers, but not all people-pleasers are codependent. Codependency is more extreme and usually someone that is codependent battles with feeling as though they can’t function without another person.
What can I do to stop myself from being codependent?
The good news is that if you recognize yourself in this blog post, there are some steps you can take to try and combat this codependent relationship. My first recommendation, of course, is therapy. Nothing beats an unbiased third-party telling you if what you’re experiencing is codependency or not. If you’re not ready to take the plunge and start therapy, that’s okay too. There are some things you can do.
Recognize the importance of noticing codependent behaviors. Codependency is a learned behavior, and sometimes it’s a survival skill based on attachment styles.
Work on building your self-esteem. If you know that you are a complete and wonderful person without someone else, it’s easier to fight those codependent urges.
Create and respect boundaries. If your partner does something that bothers you, communicate with them and set a boundary in your relationship. It might be scary, but it will help you build stronger boundaries in the future.
Use assertive communication. Be clear and direct when setting your boundaries. Use “I statements” (I feel __ when you __ ). Your voice deserves to be heard.
Build your identity. Instead of thinking of yourself as a partner, or a mother, or a friend, figure out who you are outside of those roles. What do you like to do in your free time? What’s a goal you had for yourself before you started this relationship?
The most important thing I can say when battling with codependent tendencies is to give yourself room to slip. This is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be times when you struggle to set boundaries or can’t think of why you shouldn’t bend to someone else’s will. Maybe you want to avoid conflict and live in a world where no one is upset at you. Sometimes it might be easier to think like that. However, you’re not being true to yourself if your entire worldview is shaped by someone else and their needs.
If you and your partner are struggling with codependency, or if you’re struggling with it alone, therapy can provide a safe place for you to discuss your feelings. A counselor can help you work on those assertive communication skills and can help you set firm boundaries.
Shelby Case is a new therapist at Mindsight Louisville! Shelby's favorite things include spending time with her animals and her spouse, watching television (currently they are watching Big Brother), and taking road trips. When she isn't providing therapy to clients, she can be found playing video games (her favorite is The Sims 4) or spending too much money at a thrift store. Shelby's favorite color is green and her guilty pleasure is reality TV shows.
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