When you hear the word codependency, many people think of being married to an alcoholic or growing up in a family with addictions. You might also think of someone who is addicted to relationships. Although these are both manifestations of codependency, there are other ways to be codependent that are more common. We see many people who suffer from codependency that are not in addictive relationships or in homes with an addict or alcoholic.
Picture this: You are overly tired because you were up late baking 10 dozen cookies last night. Someone from your son’s school called you at 6pm asking you to have them ready by 8 am and you said yes! You are walking up the stairs carrying 2 laundry baskets while your spouse is sitting on the couch. You are mad at them for not helping. The thought crosses your mind to ask for help but you don’t because you think you shouldn’t have to ask. When you make it to the top of the stairs the phone rings. It is your sister who never calls unless she is upset and needs to vent (which is all the time!). Your kids haven’t had their baths, it is past their bedtime, but you don’t want to tell her you can’t talk because it might hurt her feelings. When you get off the phone you gripe to your spouse about your sister and why she always calls you to vent. After the kids are in bed, your spouse wants to fool around and you resentfully do so because you don’t want them to be mad at you. You go to bed angry and hurt because you feel no one cares about your feelings. Is this you?? This is an example of a codependent.
Although the codependent usually has good intentions and a heart of gold, because they are so worried about pleasing everyone else and avoiding conflict, they often feel hurt, angry, and overwhelmed. Here are some characteristics of a codependent:
- Low self esteem
- Feeling insecure and second guessing yourself
- Dependency- usually shows itself in needing others to make you feel confident or good about yourself
- Your emotions shift with who you are around (chameleon)
- Having difficulty setting boundaries
- Having difficulty keeping boundaries you set
- Being other centered (and ignoring your needs in order to take care of or fix everyone else).
- Trying too hard to make others happy
- Being passive (having difficulty saying what you mean/want)
- Avoiding conflict
- Giving your control to others
Can you identify with any of these characteristics?
Recovering from codependency can be a challenge but it is amazing how good you can feel about yourself when you have control over your life and feelings. Recovery from codependency is a 3-part process
- Identifying where your codependency comes from
- Recognizing how it is manifesting itself today and where it is causing you difficulty
- Taking steps to make positive changes to manage your codependency
Notice I said “manage” your codependency. Codependency is much like any other addiction; you will always be codependent, just to a smaller degree. That is also why it is called recovery instead of being a recovered codependent.
It may be difficult in the beginning when you start making changes. Your relationships may change. People are used to you doing whatever they want, saying what you are “supposed” to say, and keeping the conflict at a halt. Don’t be surprised if you actually lose some relationships. This can be painful but in the long run, you will begin attracting more healthy people into your life. People with a lot of problems, emergencies, addictions, and frankly, drama, are inclined to find relationships with codependents. They are the only people who will put up with them! If you are around those types of people, you are not going to attract healthy people into your life.
Recovery is freeing, exciting, and can dramatically increase your self-esteem. But it is challenging to do it alone. Be sure and get professional help from a therapist that has expertise dealing with codependency. Or find a codependent support group. All of our therapists at Imagine Hope are experts in Codependency. Feel free to check out our website at www.imaginehopecounseling.com for additional resources or to fill out a comment card. For an appointment to begin making changes call us at 317-569-0046. We are the leading relationship experts in Indianapolis including the Metropolitan areas of Carmel, Fishers, Westfield, Noblesville, and Zionsville.
- Beattie, Melody: Codependent No More
- Beattie, Melody: The New Kind of Codependency
- Hemfelt, Minirth, and Meier: Love is a Choice
- Melody, Pia: Facing Codependency
- Books associated with recovery that may be helpful:
- Arterbum, Stephen: Healing is a Choice
- Cloud and Townsend: Boundaries