Clichés often become clichés because they have an element of truth to them. For example, Shakespeare’s line, “… too much of a good thing” rings true in real life. Too much ice cream leads to a stomach ache. Too much vacation leads to boredom. But what about offering family and friends support? Can too much help be bad? Yes, it can. There is even a term for it—codependency.
When people compensate for their loved one’s addiction or irresponsible behavior or when people sacrifice their own financial, mental, or physical health for another’s needs/wants, then helping has cross from healthy interdependence into unhealthy codependence. Take, for example, Robin’s situation.
Robin loves being a mom, and she would do anything for her child. Robin has a 20-something daughter who is capable, and Robin has a great plan for her to finish up school and transform the world. In the meantime, Robin is paying her tuition, rent, and utilities. Her daughter has started and stopped classes several times. With each semester that passes, Robin grows more and more frustrated with her daughter for not taking advantage of the opportunities she has provided. Robin is glad to provide, though. She tells herself, “if I didn’t do this, who would?”
There is no doubt, Robin loves her daughter, but is Robin helping or hurting the situation? Despite her good intentions, Robin is most likely contributing to—if not causing—this stressful situation with her daughter because of her codependent behaviors.
Many people have come to see that their actions, though intended to help, have actually caused harm to themselves or to their loved ones. That is why Thriveworks Cedar Park offers counseling for codependency. Our therapists love seeing their clients overcome codependency and establish healthy boundaries and relational patterns.
Codependent Behavior Patterns
Codependent individuals often choose relationships with people who have addictions and/or irresponsible behavior patterns, and then codependents focus their attention upon fixing the other person. They may sacrifice their own well-being to cover for another person or to fulfill needs/wants the other person is capable of fulfilling.
Codependent people can exhibit unhealthy behaviors in a variety of relationships—as a spouse, parent, child, co-worker, friend, and more.
At first glance, many codependent behaviors appear to be selfless and nice, but often, a more sinister motivation underlies them. People who struggle with codependency often feel intense insecurity shame, and passivity. Instead of working on their own feelings, they try to fix other people to prove that they are worthy. The result is often not love and acceptance but resentment—both within the person giving the help and within the person receiving the help.
Distinguishing between healthy forms of support and enabling forms of support is often tricky. The following characterize unhealthy, codependent, and enabling behaviors:
- Dependency: The famous lyrics, “I want you to want me. I need you to need me,” describe codependents perfectly. When it comes to relationships, they may tell themselves, “if my spouse (child, parent, co-worker, et cetera) needs me, then my spouse will never leave me.” However, this thought is not true and can lead to severe relational turmoil.
- Obsession: Driven by anxiety and fear, codependent people may obsess over others. Some of the obsession may involve fantasy as a way to escape dealing with the reality of their behavior or their love one’s behavior.
- No/few boundaries: On the inside, codependent people often think, “no,” yet, they usually say, “yes.” They may worry that their loved one will retaliate if they ask for what they need or deny a request.
- People-pleasing tendencies: Codependent individuals often take responsibility for how others feel. They often work to ensure everyone is happy, and when people are angry, disappointed, or upset, they may blame themselves.
- Low self-esteem: Guilt, shame, and inadequacy often haunt people who struggle with codependency. In response, their behavior is often motivated by trying to prove their worth instead of drawing from their inner strength.
- Poor communication skills: Because they often fear upsetting others, codependents may not communicate their own feelings, needs, or thoughts.
- Minimization: Codependent people have a hard time accepting responsibility for how their own feelings and behaviors have contributed to problems. They often blame other people in their lives.
- Caretaking: A codependent’s identity is often intertwined with their caretaking. Declining help is often taken as a personal rejection.
It is possible to replace codependent behaviors with healthy ways of relating. Many people need the guidance of a therapist, and if you are ready to make change, counseling might be the best path forward. Thriveworks Cedar Park offers codependency counseling because many people struggle to help in ways that are truly helpful. You are not alone.
When you call Thriveworks Cedar Park to schedule counseling for codependency, there a few things that may be good to know. Our office has evening and weekend appointments available. We work with most major insurance providers, and new clients may see their counselor the day following their call.
Healthy relationships should not wait. Call Thriveworks Cedar Park today.