Loved ones are there for each other—it’s what it means to be in a relationship. When somebody needs help, everyone pitches in, and everyone needs support at some point in life. In healthy relationships, the give and take are not transactional, but there is balance. Everyone gives help at some point. Everyone accepts help at some point. Unfortunately, not every relationship is healthy. Sometimes, one person only gives. They may take on the consequences of a loved one’s actions. They may intervene before their loved one has the opportunity to learn, grow, or solve the problem. When this happens, the person who gives and gives and gives may be putting their own health at risk, and they may also be codependent. It is hard to imagine that helping a friend or a family member could actually be hurting them and hurting ourselves, but the truth is that not all help is helpful. Some help is actually enabling, controlling, and codependent.
“A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.”
—Melody Beattie, Codependent No More
Thriveworks in Somerville offers counseling for codependency. We have worked with many clients who love an addict or who are caring for a loved one with serious medical issues or who give and give and give. Our therapists and counselors have walked with many people who are codependent and helped them prioritize their own self-care and learn when to say, “yes,” and when to say, “no.”
A Picture of Codependency
Codependency is a word that is being used more and more, but what does it mean to be codependent? Think about Bob’s situation.
Bob loves his wife, Karen. They have been married for almost two decades and have three children. Karen is the light of Bob’s life, and he would do anything for her. Karen drinks a lot—too much. Bob knows she does not mean to do it, so he has called into work for her a few times. He keeps an eye on her during family events, and Bob will shuffle Karen home if she is getting tipsy. Bob holds his family together. He is researching rehab programs for Karen, and he hopes this time, she will recover. Bob tells himself that this is all worth it because someday, Karen will be better and their family will be happier. He is going to make it happen.
There is no doubt that Bob loves Karen, but there is also no question that Bob is taking on more than he can handle. He may be codependent. Having a family member who is an addict or who has significant medical issues can be a challenge. Know when, where, and how to help without enabling is a tricky line to walk. People can easily fall into codependent behaviors.
What Is Codependency?
Codependent people often form relationships with other people who have high needs, especially addicts, people who have serious medical issues, or who participate in irresponsible behavior. The codependent often enters into the relationship to fix the other person. Codependents may try to try to neutralize their loved one’s bad decisions while putting their own physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and financial health at risk.
It can be very tricky to know what actions are helpful and which are enabling and codependent. In order to clarify, the following are common characteristics of codependent behavior and may signal that enabling has occurred.
- Difficulty community one’s own needs: Codependent people push down their own feelings, thoughts, and needs. They may have difficulty even admitting their own desires to themselves, much less to others. This behavior is often fueled by a fear of rejection.
- People-pleasing tendencies: Codependent people often accept responsibility for how other people feel. If their loved one is happy or sad or upset or scared or content, codependents will take the blame or the credit. They may work extremely hard to keep their loved ones happy. The reality is, however, that people are responsible for their own feelings, not the feelings of others.
- Caretaking: Often, codependents have melded their identity with caretaking. Who they are (identity) is the same as what they do for their loved ones. When they are unable to help, they often feel deep shame—as if something must be wrong with them for not offering assistance. Codependents may also feel personally rejected when loved ones do not need their help.
- Denial: One of the many reasons codependent people fixate upon other people is that they are in denial about their own physical and mental health problems. Helping other people actually becomes a self-serving way for codependents to distract themselves from their own problems.
Codependency Counseling with Thriveworks in Somerville
As you read through the description of codependency, did you recognize anything about your own behavior? If you did, know that change is possible. If you are ready to work with a counselor on healthier ways of relating, know that Thriveworks Counseling in Somerville has appointments for codependency. When you contact our office, you may be meeting with your therapist within 24 hours. Many new clients do. We also work with many insurance companies and accept a variety of insurance plans. Weekend and evening appointments are offered, but you will not be put on a waitlist.
Let’s work together for a stronger you. Call Thriveworks Counseling in Somerville today.