Clichés may hang around for decades, if not centuries, because they are often beneficial pieces of advice. Hundreds of years after Shakespeare asked, “can one desire too much of a good thing?” people still say, “too much of a good thing.” Intuitively, people know this to be true. One doughnut may be delicious, but eating a dozen is too much. The same is true for helping loved ones: some help is good, but too much often causes trouble. In this case, the behavior even has a name: codependency. Consider Valerie’s story.
Valerie loves being a parent. It does not matter how old her daughter is, she will always be Valerie’s little girl. Now, her daughter is in her young twenties, and finishing up her education. At least, her daughter would be finishing up her education if she had not changed majors three times. Valerie is trying to be patient, but she pays her daughter’s rent and tuition. If her daughter only stuck with her original major, the one Valerie suggested, then she would be finished with her education and working a fulltime job by now. But Valerie tells herself that seeing her daughter happy is worth all the effort. Besides, Valerie never had these educational opportunities, and she is happy to provide.
There is no question, Valerie loves her daughter, but could her actions be contributing or possibly creating her daughter’s difficulties? Yes. Valerie may be intending to help, but she may actually be harming herself and her daughter. Valerie may be codependent.
If you can relate to Valerie or if you have found yourself compensating for a loved one, know that you are not alone. Many people struggle with how to help without causing harm, and Thriveworks Alpharetta has guided many codependent people away from unhealthy and enabling behaviors and toward healthy relationships.
Identifying Codependent Behaviors
Codependent people often pick relationships with people who struggle with an addiction or have a history of irresponsible behavior. Codependents then center their lives around their loved one who needs significant help. In the process, they may sacrifice their own physical, emotional, and financial health to try and fix their loved one.
Codependent relationships can develop between friends, spouses, coworkers, and more. When codependent people have children, they may raise their children to need them instead of allowing them to become independent adults.
At first glance, codependent people appear to be selfless and kind, but on closer inspection, their behavior is often motivated by a deep-seated need to prove their own worth and competency. Instead of acknowledging and working on their own challenges, they distract themselves by rescuing other people.
Codependency often results in deeply hurtful behavior, but knowing the difference between healthy connection and codependent behavior is a challenge. The following are identifying characteristics of codependent behavior:
- People-pleasing tendencies: Codependent people often want to make sure their loved ones are happy. When anyone is upset, disappointed, or angry, codependents may feel responsible or anxious.
- Low self-esteem: Inadequacy, shame, and guilt are overwhelming feelings for the codependent person and often motivate their actions. They may tell themselves that they will be loved, belong, and be competent through what they do for others.
- Poor communication skills: Afraid that their thoughts, needs, or feelings may upset their loved ones, codependent often struggle to communicate. They may even have trouble admitting their true thoughts, needs, and feelings to themselves, much less others.
- No/few boundaries: Codependent people often struggle to set limits or say, “no.” They may even risk their well-being to fulfill an inappropriate request.
- Caretaking: Without ever being asked, codependents may anticipate what their loved ones need and fulfill it. In many ways, caretaking becomes a codependent person’s identity. Refusing their help is often taken personally.
- Dependency: Rejection and abandonment are often a codependent’s most basic fears. They soothe this fear by forming dependent relationships, telling themselves, “if my loved one needs me, they will not leave me.” Unfortunately, dependency does not cure the codependent’s fears.
- Minimization: People who struggle with codependency often face serious personal challenges, but they often minimize their own struggles, distracting themselves by fixing others. They have a hard time seeing the harm this causes to themselves and to others.
Freedom from Codependency
If you recognize some of these codependent behaviors and attitudes in your own life, know that there are better ways to feel loved, worthy, and competent than focusing upon other people. Usually, the first step toward freedom and away from codependency is focusing upon your own needs, feelings, and thoughts. It is okay to seek help for yourself, and you are not alone. Thriveworks Alpharetta is ready to be a support and a guide toward a healthier you.
If you call our office to schedule therapy for codependency, know that you may be seeing your therapist the following day. We also offer evening and weekend appointments, and our clients will never be put on a waitlist. We also work with many different insurance companies and accept many different plans.
Is it time to leave codependency in the past? Call Thriveworks Alpharetta today.