Offering support and help is a normal part of friendship and family life. Everyone needs help at some point, and loved ones usually pitch in willingly. But when one person needs support and one person feels responsible for providing that support, things can get difficult. It is often easy to acknowledge that the person receiving the help contributes to the difficulty, but is it also possible that the person giving the help contributes as well? Codependency is a behavior pattern that is receiving a lot of attention because a fine line separates helping and enabling. Reality is, helping in the wrong way or too often can lead to a lot of harm.
But how can helping make a situation worse? Consider Paula’s behaviors.
Paula thinks of herself as a caring, kind person. She can anticipate what people need, and she often takes care of people before they even ask. Paula loves her husband and would do anything for him. In fact, he has lost thousands of their hard-earned dollars through an online gambling habit, but Paula knows everything will be fine. She added hours to her work schedule and cancelled her trip to see friends on the coast so they could make up the difference. Paula also put a password on the computer so he cannot gamble without asking her first. If she can distract him in the evenings, Paula knows they will be fine.
Without a doubt, Paula feels intense love for her husband, but in many ways, Paula’s actions are harming herself and her husband.
With the hope of helping a loved one, some people may shield others from the consequences of their poor decisions, or some people may forfeit their own needs to fulfill another’s. These types of behaviors can be very harmful and are considered codependent.
Thriveworks Lynchburg provides counseling to help people overcome their codependent behaviors and allow them to prioritize their own well-being.
How Does Codependency Work?
When people are codependent, they prioritize another person’s thoughts and actions above their own in a way that harms themselves and enables the other person. Often, codependent people seek out relationships with addicts or people who struggle with irresponsible behavior.
Codependent people often feel intense insecurity and shame, and they think that fixing another person will lead to feeling loved and accepted. Codependents may forfeit their own mental or physical health to offset a loved one’s addiction or inadequacies. They may expect gratitude for their sacrifice, but others often feel like codependent people are using them as they help them and may even resent the help. Codependent people often waffle back and forth between offering help and feeling resentful toward their loved ones.
Am I in a Codependent Relationship?
Codependent relationships can form between parents and children, spouses, friends, co-workers, and more. Feeling connected and offering support can be healthy parts of vibrant relationships, so when has a relationship crossed from healthy dependency into codependence? Here are a few signs of codependent relationships. When one person…
- Shields the other from the natural consequences of irresponsible or addictive behavior.
- Fears retaliation if they stop compensating for the other’s poor choices.
- Will not leave the relationship despite experiencing emotional harm.
- Feels resentful, angry, or unappreciated for taking care of the other’s needs.
- Cannot/will not set limits or boundaries.
- Prioritizes another’s needs above their own.
- Is overprotective of their partner.
- Problems are minimized or denied.
- Has difficulty expressing their emotions and needs.
Healing from Codependent Behaviors
It can be hard to acknowledge that your actions—that were intended to help—have actually harmed yourself or someone you love. But taking responsibility for your own actions may be the first step toward healthier ways of relating. It is possible to build relationships with people who appreciate you—not what you can do for them.
Therapy for codependency has given many people the guidance they needed to make healthy changes in their lives, such as, to…
- Explore how the codependency formed, explore patterns of codependent behavior, and make necessary adjustments.
- Stop fixing or rescuing other people (unhealthy) and start being there for them as you are able (healthy).
- Prioritize your emotional, financial, and physical well-being and enter into relationships with self-confidence, not a need to be needed.
- Establish healthy boundaries (saying, “no”) with kindness and compassion.
Is it time to prioritize your own needs? Are you ready to work on your codependency? Thriveworks Lynchburg is ready to help. We have appointments available for codependency counseling.
When you call Thriveworks Lynchburg, know that weekend and evening appointments are available. We work with many insurance companies, and many new clients see their counselor within 24 hours. But you will never be put on a waitlist, because we do not have one. We want you to receive the help you need—call today.