I just want to say that I love y’all. I usually save it for the end, but I wanted to get that off my chest right off the bat. Y’all are the reason that I keep writing and I love you for it. Thanks for giving this giver what she needs to keep going!
This season of growth has been quite an adventure! I’ve learned quite a bit about myself. My new therapist has been opening my eyes to so many different things that I haven’t been addressing in my life. We can talk about all types of things and I’m very comfortable with her.
She has been showing me her case notes after our sessions, which is something new. I’ve never had another therapist that has done that. She asks me if our session felt complete and if I think she missed anything. Which was another novel idea to me. If this happens for anyone else, let me know but it seems like something that doesn’t happen often. While I was in her business after one of our sessions, I noticed a couple of words that I had never applied to myself.
One was perfectionism, which I already discussed in an earlier post.
The other word was codependency, which was a surprise.
It was, frankly, shocking news to me. I asked her if I was codependent.
“You fulfill a lot of the criteria”. She stated. Then, we had a quick conversation, and I got some homework to do.
What is it?
Codependency refers to a focus on other people’s feelings, problems, wants, and needs while minimizing or ignoring your own. A codependent person believes that other people’s concerns are infinitely more important than their own. This can stem from a variety of reasons that can include but are not limited to being raised in a dysfunctional family setting or various other childhood traumas. Codependency can also arise in people with loved ones that have struggled with mental illness or addiction. These people can be so focused on trying to help the other person that their own needs are being totally neglected.
Give and Take
Most people think about codependency in terms of relationships. Romantic partnerships certainly, but any relationship can be codependent, parent/child, friends, and family members can be at fault as well. Codependency describes “one-sided” relationships where one party is a “giver” and the other is a “taker”. The “giver” does most of the emotional labor in the relationship.
The giver in codependent relationships tends to be overly responsible and take over obligations needlessly. This seems like a positive thing, but it can be a huge negative. Givers can be highly self-critical and can lean towards perfectionism as well. Fixing others makes them feel needed. This works great for the taker as they can struggle with emotional maturity, mental health, or addiction.
Givers are typically caring and highly functional, but they are usually covering for the shortcomings of the taker. The giver’s caretaking can serve to increase the behavior of the taker because they know that the giver will handle what needs to be handled. For example, a parent may give money to their drug-addicted adult child so that they won’t go and commit a robbery for the cash to fuel their addiction.
Being a natural giver can be a double-edged sword. Giving of yourself can be wonderful but there is a thin line between that and codependency. A person can be caring and nurturing but there may be something darker at the heart of the matter-low self-esteem, poor boundaries, or excessive need to please others can create a sense of responsibility for their dysfunctional partner’s actions. A good sense of self-awareness is crucial in these situations.
Rebalance the Load
If any of those descriptions hit a little close to home, don’t despair. I, too, am a codependent giver. More times than not, I have put everything I have into another person only to be rewarded with them asking for more. It’s tough. I’m better than I used to be and I’m still a work in progress. These are some of the things I’ve working on to deal with my own codependent tendencies.
- Getting to know myself–Learning what my triggers are has helped a lot. I’m a sucker for kids and other disabled folks. I have to help where I can. Everyone else is questionable now.
- Be kind to yourself—All that compassion I’ve been giving away has been staying at home. I’m working on speaking kindly to myself and making myself a priority. This involves being a little selfish. My time and energy belong to me and I decide who I want to share it with.
- Ask for what you need – Closed mouths don’t get fed. If you never say you’re tired, you will get overworked. How are people supposed to know you need support if you never seek it out? How will that taker know when the well is tapped out if you never say it to their face? You are allowed to state your needs and to expect them to be fulfilled.
- Set those boundaries—Be assertive with your boundaries. Let others know that there is no more room at the inn. If you have nothing left to give, let it stand. Don’t magically come through for that taker because they will keep pushing until you cave again. The wheel can’t stop turning until you stop pushing.
You are Worthy!
This is just the beginning when you start researching codependency. There are loads of studies going on around the world about people’s interpersonal relationships. Since the beginning of the pandemic, this field has gotten a lot more attention in the psychology/sociology realm. Hopefully, these investigations can turn up more helpful advice for all of us that are working through codependency. There has to be some kind of support group that we can all throw ourselves into to enable each other properly.
Take care. Be safe. I love you!