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Archive for the ‘Co-Dependency Enabling’ Category

How Codependency Sabotages Your Life

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Codependency is something that often needs to be addressed because it can be a huge obstacle in your life, and learning to say no is crucial to removing this obstacle.

Codependency is most simply defined as a tendency to take too much responsibility for the problems of others. While it’s good to care for, help and support people, the codependent crosses a line in the relationship – the line of responsibility. Instead of being responsible to others, the codependent becomes responsible for them. And, unless the other person is your child or someone whose care is entrusted to you, the line of responsibility between the to and the for can become quite blurred. The result is that instead of caring and helping, you begin enabling and rescuing. Enabling and rescuing do not empower anybody. They only increase dependency, entitlement, and irresponsibility. Love builds up strength and character, whereas codependency breaks them down.

Codependency unchecked can take you right off the rails of what you want to achieve in your life, get in the way of goals and sabotage your dreams. And it’s all too easy to be completely unaware of it. This is because while distractions, toxic people and worthy-but-untimely things are outside of you, codependency is within you. Sometimes it’s just too close to see. But it is there, at least in small part, in most of us.

For example, you are late to your night class in the MBA track because a co-worker drops the ball and asks you to work late to bail him out. Or you want to take flying lessons, but your wife doesn’t like to try new things and prefers to stay at home. Since she feels lonely when you are gone, you stay home, which actually ends up being worse for the both of you. Or perhaps you feel guilty for the fact that your efforts at online dating are paying off, while your girlfriends are moping and complaining about their lack of prospects. So you hid your success from them, or even slow down the process.

Most of the time, the problem caters on the unhappiness of the other person. Since we care about them, we don’t want them to be sad, hurt, disappointed or unhappy. And that kind of care is a good thing. However, no one has ever yet made an unhappy person happy. You can’t take the emotions of another person and change them. You can help, love, accept, empathize, advise, challenge, confront and support. But at the end of the day, their feelings belong to them. So you must say no to enabling and rescuing behaviors. Life gets better and people become more successful when they are able to shoulder their own responsibilities.

When you start saying no to your own codependency, however, you will also find yourself saying no to people you have been rescuing. So be ready for some twinges of guilt. You may feel like the bad guy or fear that the other person will think badly of you. These feelings are normal; consider them part of the price of reaching your dreams. Just remember to stay loving and caring while respecting the line of responsibility. The guilty feelings should resolve in time, and you will become a freer person.

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10 Things You Need to Know About Codependency

SOURCE:    / PsychCentral

Codependency is often misunderstood. It’s not just a label to slap on the spouse of every alcoholic. It encompasses a wide-range of behavior and thought patterns that cause people distress to varying degrees. I hope this article will help clear up some of the misconceptions about codependency and help you to understand codependency better.

  • Codependency is a response to trauma. You probably developed codependent traits starting in your childhood as a way to deal with an abusive, chaotic, dysfunctional, or codependent family. As a child in an overwhelming situation, you learned that keeping the peace, taking care of others, denying your feelings, and trying to control things were ways to survive and cope with a scary and out of control home life. For some people, the trauma was subtle, almost unnoticeable. Even if your childhood was fairly “normal”, you may have experienced generational trauma, meaning your parents or close relatives passed some of their trauma responses down to you.
  • Codependency feels shameful. The foremost shame researcher, Brené Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” Children who grow up in dysfunctional families learn early on that there is something fundamentally wrong with them. Your parents may have explicitly told you this by calling you stupid or worthless or you might have gotten this message when your parents blamed you for their marital problems, addiction, or unemployment. We all know that there’s still a huge stigma around addiction, abuse, and mental illness, so we’re afraid to talk about having these problems ourselves or in our families. Shame grows when we can’t tell people about our problems; we feel alone and inadequate as if these struggles are our fault and the direct result of our flaws. We come to believe that we’re not as good as everyone else and this belief is reinforced further when people mistreat, reject, or abandon us.
  • Codependency is an unhealthy focus on other people’s problems, feelings, and needs. Focusing on other people is a way to feel needed and to avoid or distract ourselves from our own pain. We become so focused on others that we lose ourselves in the process. Many codependents describe feeling addicted to another person; the relationship has an obsessive quality that’s hard to quit even when you know it’s unhealthy. Your self-worth and identity are based on this relationship. You might ask yourself, “Who am I and what would I do without my spouse (or child or parent)?” This relationship gives you a sense of purpose without which, you’re not sure who you are. And your loved one needs you and depends on you to do things for them. You’re both dependent on each other in an unhealthy way (this the “co” in codependent).
  • Codependents are very sensitive to criticism. Codependents tend to be a sensitive bunch. Our feelings are easily hurt; we’ve dealt with a lot of hurt, blame, and criticism in our lives. We do everything we can to avoid displeasing others. We’ll bend over backward to keep other people happy and divert attention away from ourselves. Sometimes we try to stay “small and quiet” so we don’t draw any attention to ourselves.
  • Codependents are super responsible. Codependents are the glue that keeps a family going. We make sure the rent gets paid, the kids get to baseball practice, and the windows are shut so the neighbors don’t hear the yelling. Most of us were very responsible children who, out of necessity, became responsible for taking care of parents, siblings, household chores, and school work without parental assistance. We find it easier to care for others than ourselves and we gain self-esteem from being responsible, dependable, and hard working. But we pay the price when we over extend ourselves, become workaholics, or grow resentful when we do more than our share.
  • Codependents wall off their own feelings. Avoiding painful feelings is another coping strategy that codependents often employ. However, we can’t wall off only the painful feelings; we end up disconnected from all our feelings, making it harder to fully enjoy life’s joys, as well. Even the painful and uncomfortable feelings give us important clues about what we need. For example, if your coworker takes credit for your work in an important meeting, it would be natural to feel hurt, disappointed, and/or angry. These feelings tell you that you’ve been mistreated, which isn’t OK, and then you can figure out how to deal with it. If you pretend or convince yourself that you’re not hurt or angry, you’ll continue to allow people to take credit for your work or mistreat you in other ways.
  • Codependents don’t ask for what they need. One of the offshoots of suppressing our feelings is that without attuning to and understanding our feelings, we don’t know what we need. And it’s impossible to meet your own needs or ask others to meet them when you don’t even know what they are. And because of our low self-esteem, we don’t feel worthy to ask our partner, friends, or employer for what we need from. The reality is that everyone has needs and the right to ask for them to be met. Of course, asking doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be met, but it’s much more likely when we ask assertively rather than staying passive (or waiting until we’re full of rage).
  • Codependents give, even when it hurts. Caretaking and enabling are hallmarks of codependency. What makes it unhealthy is that codependents will put their time, energy, and money into helping or doing for others even when it causes them distress or hardship. This caring nature also makes us susceptible to being mistreated or taken advantage of. We struggle to set boundaries and need to strive for a balance between helping others and taking care of ourselves.
  • Codependency isn’t a mental health diagnosis. Many people with codependency have clinical levels of anxiety, depression, and PTSD due to trauma and genetics, but codependency itself isn’t a mental disorder. Also, remember that going to counseling or psychotherapy doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you; you may feel empty and defective, but that doesn’t mean you are!
  • You can change your codependent patterns. People can recover from codependency. I’m not going to lie and tell you it’s easy, but I do know it’s possible. Change is a gradual process that requires lots of practice and an openness to try new things and to feel a little uncomfortable in the process. You may find that professional therapy is very helpful in addition to self-help resources such as books or 12-step programs (Al-Anon, Adult Children of Alcoholics, and Codependents Anonymous are popular choices).   Codependency is not your fault, but you are the only one who can change it.

Codependency and Parenting: Break the Cycle in Your Family

SOURCE:   Kathy Hardie-Williams, MEd, MS, NCC, LPC, LMFT/GoodTherapy.org

There are some common misunderstandings about what codependency is. It used to be that when one heard the term codependency, it was associated with being in a relationship with someone addicted to drugs or alcohol. The term codependency is now more commonly associated with being emotionally dependent on others in relationships. While we are all emotionally dependent on others to some degree, when we make decisions that go against our value system in order to avoid rejection and anger, we are creating a codependent dynamic within the family system.

As parents, we want to avoid family dynamics that perpetuate codependency. Research (1999) indicates that patterns within the family system can be passed down through generations. Parents need to be aware of codependent patterns within the family system so that they can recognize when it’s necessary to break the cycle. If the cycle continues and is passed down as codependency patterns within the family system, the children may be likely to enter into codependent relationships and pass codependency patterns down to their children as well.

Some behaviors for parents to be aware of in order to recognize and avoid perpetuating codependency patterns include:

Being too rigid: When parents are so controlling of their children’s behavior that children don’t have the opportunity to explore their own choices, parents send a message to their children that they aren’t responsible for their choices and that someone else has all the power. Their children may then be more likely to choose relationships where they feel powerless.

Using your child to get your needs met: Parents need to ensure that they get their own needs met in other areas of their life such as hobbies, work, and relationships so that they don’t live vicariously through their children. Parents who live vicariously through their children risk sending their children the message that they must have their parents’ approval. While it is normal for children to go through a phase where they seek their parent’s approval, the need for parental approval could carry on into adulthood.

Acting on the desire to solve their problems: When children talk about their problems, parents need to listen more without offering advice as opposed to becoming reactive and/or trying to rescue children from their problems. If given the opportunity through a safe place to explore their feelings and options, children may be more successful at learning how to solve their own problems. Parents can provide support to encourage their children to be creative in finding ways to solve their problems.

When parents come up with a plan of action instead of allowing their children to develop a plan of action, they are interfering with the opportunity to develop problem solving skills. Children then receive the message that they are not capable of solving their own problems and that someone else needs to solve their problems for them. As adults, they could potentially be more likely to enter into relationships where they are told what to do.

How Can Parents Avoid Perpetuating Codependency Patterns Within the Family System?

In order to avoid passing down codependency patterns within the family system, parents need to facilitate children in developing a strong sense of self. By implementing some of these practices, parents can be proactive in helping their children develop a solid and healthy sense of self-esteem:

  • Be mindful of their safety, but give children the freedom and opportunity to solve their own problems.
  • Don’t emotionally neglect children.
  • Don’t be overly controlling or overly pampering. Doing so may result in some children creating a dependency on others and an inability to make independent decisions, while other children take on too much responsibility and are forced to give up their childhood.
  • Be mindful of your own patterns of behaviors such as passive-aggressive comments, giving children the silent treatment, disrespecting children’s boundaries, or being dependent on children for emotional support.
  • Encourage positive self-talk.
  • Teach children that value doesn’t come from pleasing a parent.
  • Parents need to practice self-care and ensure they are taking care of their own needs. This will help a parent avoid building resentment that often gets turned inward.

Reference:

Burris, C. T. (1999). Stand by your (exploitive) man: Codependency and responses to performance feedback. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 18(3), 277-298. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/224867940?accountid=1229

8 Steps to Break a Cycle of Family Dysfunction

SOURCE:  TIM SANFORD/Boundless

Destructive relationship patterns can get passed down from one generation to the next.

Here’s how you can set a new precedent for your future family.

Boys who witness domestic violence in their own home are three times more likely to become batterers.[1]

Children of alcoholics … are much more likely to perpetuate the cycle of alcoholism in their own lives … they have a four-fold increased risk of becoming alcoholics as adults compared with the general population.[2]

One’s dysfunctional personal behavior becomes a model or example to the next generation, and the cycle can be repeated over and over again.[3]

Most experts believe that children who are raised in abusive homes learn that violence is an effective way to resolve conflicts and problems.[4]

Yeah, that’s what you read on Google. But do destructive, hurtful and dysfunctional relationship patterns really get passed down from one generation to the next?

The answer is simple — YES.

Why?

That answer is simple, too.

In elementary school you learned one plus one equals two. What would you teach a first-grade class if you were the substitute teacher for arithmetic?

One plus one equals two.

That’s what I taught my daughters. But there was no way I was going to teach them anything about microbiology. I don’t know anything about microbiology. Besides, knowing nothing about the subject means I don’t know what I don’t know. A huge part of what keeps destructive behaviors going is individuals who don’t know they’re dysfunctional and don’t know they don’t know. We pass on through words, actions and attitudes — consciously or not — what we know. We can’t pass on what we don’t know.

“(I) …the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of whose who hate me …” (Exodus 20:5, emphasis added). Dysfunction does beget dysfunction.

But that’s not fair.

Right, it’s not fair. Ever since sin invaded the world of humanity, few things in life have been fair. People get hurt when they didn’t do anything to deserve it. People who intentionally hurt others seem to get away with it. The most unfair circumstances occur when helpless children get injured by parents who are supposed to be their protectors.

So yelling at my girlfriend isn’t my fault because that’s what my dad did to me.

Slow down, and be extremely careful. If you blame your father, he could blame his father who could blame his father. We could go all the way back to Noah and blame him. After all, he’s the one who built the ark and saved the human race. If he hadn’t, your father’s father’s father’s father wouldn’t have been born. Nobody would have yelled at anybody. So it’s all Noah’s fault.

Lousy logic and faulty theology, because it’s not an either/or situation. It’s a both/and.

Follow me on this. When your father yelled at you, who did the yelling (the dysfunctional action)?

My father.

That yelling is your father’s fault. He’s the one guilty of yelling at you.

When you yell at your girlfriend, who’s doing the yelling this time?

I guess I am.

This yelling episode is your fault. Your father “dealt you a bad hand” (not fair, true). Still, it’s up to you how you play those cards. The actions that follow are yours. You had no control over your father’s actions toward you. You do have control over whether you repeat the cycle — or not.

Can this cycle truly be broken?

This answer is simple, too: Yes, it can.

Keep reading the Exodus passage quoted above. God follows up the punishment declaration with verse six, “…but (God) showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (emphasis added). Dysfunction begets dysfunction. So, too, function begets function, health begets health, and truth begets truth.

So how do I change?

1. Become aware of your family’s destructive relationship patterns. This is the first step in moving toward healthy functioning. You can’t teach what you don’t know, and you can’t change what you’re not aware of. Awareness is a big first step.

And it’s highly likely you’re not aware. You truly don’t know, so ask around. Seek out individuals who you think are healthy and stable, and ask them what questions are the good questions to ask. You may decide to seek professional therapy to help you see what you aren’t able to see on your own.

2. Take ownership of your own actions, attitudes, beliefs and emotions. Admit, “It’s my problem. I need help. I’m the one needing an attitude adjustment. I may be the one who’s wrong in this situation.” Whether you know all your dysfunctional ways or not, take responsibility for the ones you know.

3. Purposely observe, compare and contrast other families’ interactions with how your family handles similar situations. Have you noticed other family groups who — in your way of thinking — are just plain weird? They don’t overreact to anything it seems. They speak their minds. They listen and actually hear each other. None of this is how your family interacted. That’s what makes it seem so weird to you. What do they do? How do they interact? What do they believe that makes them different and more stable or healthy?

4. Do Google searches on:

  • The rules of dysfunctional family systems
  • Family roles or scripts
  • Read up on what it means to be the: Addict, Enabler, Hero, Scapegoat, Clown or the Lost Child. Which one sounds like you?
  • Codependency/enabling
  • Adult attachment pain
  • Adult children of alcoholics — even if there was no alcohol in your house
  • Boundaries in relationships
  • Signs somebody may be manipulating in a relationship

As you read, identify the things that fit your life story. Take notes on ways to change the unhealthy things you learned as a child. Ask yourself:

  • What is healthy in a friendship?
  • What is an accurate way for me to see me?
  • How am I supposed to treat a person of the opposite sex?
  • What is my belief system? How do I think? What do I think?
  • What assumptions do I have, and what perceptions do I cling to so tightly?

5. Evaluate your present relationships. Are they going smoothly and benefiting both parties? Do you know what healthy boundaries are, and do you keep them? How would the other party answer these same questions?

6. Read Proverbs. It identifies many healthy — and unhealthy — ways of living and relating. Ask God to open your eyes and mind to what true and healthy living looks like and what changes you need to make.

Do all these things with the goal of becoming aware of and changing the dysfunctional ways you learned as a child.

7. Practice. Healthy living is learned experientially. Awareness and understanding is your starting place. Now it’s practice, practice, practice. It’s not natural, yet it will be.

With practice comes “trial and error” which means there will be some “errors” in your practicing. That’s normal; it’s OK. This brings us to the last point.

8. Be patient with yourself and others. Patience is one of the functional ways of dealing with the world.

“But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts” (Psalm 103:17, emphasis added).

You’re not condemned to repeat how your parents parented. You don’t have to be a 25-year veteran of healthy living before you pass functional relationship patterns on to the next generation. All you need to be is one step ahead of where they are.

It takes one generation to turn the tide from God’s punishment to one of God’s love being passed down. That’s all — just one. Start here. Start now.

It’s never too late to move from dysfunction to function.

Never.


REFERENCES

How Codependency Affects the Quality of your Life

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Codependency is something that often that needs to be addressed because it can be a huge obstacle in your life, and learning to say no is crucial to removing this obstacle.

Codependency is most simply defined as a tendency to take too much responsibility for the problems of others. While it’s good to care for, help and support people, the codependent crosses a line in the relationship – the line of responsibility. Instead of being responsible to others, the codependent becomes responsible for them. And, unless the other person is your child or someone whose care is entrusted to you, the line of responsibility between the to and the for can become quite blurred. The result is that instead of caring and helping, you begin enabling and rescuing. Enabling and rescuing do not empower anybody. They only increase dependency, entitlement, and irresponsibility. Love builds up strength and character, whereas codependency breaks them down.

Codependency unchecked can take you right off the rails of what you want to achieve in your life, get in the way of goals and sabotage your dreams. And it’s all too easy to be completely unaware of it. This is because while distractions, toxic people and worthy-but-untimely things are outside of you, codependency is within you. Sometimes it’s just too close to see. But it is there, at least in small part, in most of us.

For example, you are late to your night class in the MBA track because a co-worker drops the ball and asks you to work late to bail him out. Or you want to take flying lessons, but your wife doesn’t like to try new things and prefers to stay at home. Since she feels lonely when you are gone, you stay home, which actually ends up being worse for the both of you. Or perhaps you feel guilty for the fact that your efforts at online dating are paying off, while your girlfriends are moping and complaining about their lack of prospects. So you hid your success from them, or even slow down the process.

Most of the time, the problem caters on the unhappiness of the other person. Since we care about them, we don’t want them to be sad, hurt, disappointed or unhappy. And that kind of care is a good thing. However, no one has ever yet made an unhappy person happy. You can’t take the emotions of another person and change them. You can help, love, accept, empathize, advise, challenge, confront and support. But at the end of the day, their feelings belong to them. So you must say no to enabling and rescuing behaviors. Life gets better and people become more successful when they are able to shoulder their own responsibilities.

When you start saying no to your own codependency, however, you will also find yourself saying no to people you have been rescuing. So be ready for some twinges of guilt. You may feel like the bad guy or fear that the other person will think badly of you. These feelings are normal; consider them part of the price of reaching your dreams. Just remember to stay loving and caring while respecting the line of responsibility. The guilty feelings should resolve in time, and you will become a freer person.

Why You Can’t Change a Toxic Person

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

When Katie broke up with her boyfriend, her crying troubled me. It didn’t seem like the normal pain of breaking off a relationship. That kind of grief is sad to be with, but I felt more disturbed at the tone of her sobs. There was a certain feeling of despair more than grief. I asked her about my concern, and she replied, “It just seems so hopeless. I thought he was ‘the one.’ Everything was so good, and I was wrong again. I don’t have any hope anymore.” I could see that the pattern of choosing men poorly had taken its toll on her. She was close to giving up.

I recalled the beginning of their relationship when she had told me how “wonderful” he was. This time she was sure. But, I also remembered being troubled even then. As charming and wonderful as he sounded, there were some scary things that were easily seen, if one were looking. What Katie saw was a person who was attractive, outgoing, witty, financially successful, etc. What I saw was a self-centered person who gave to get and would probably be unable to make a commitment to her in the end. I tried to warn her, but ultimately, she had to find out for herself.

And find out she did, when after pressing him a bit more for some kind of commitment, he began distancing himself more and more, ultimately to another woman. Katie watched “Mr. Perfect” go away, and with him her dreams for all that she had wanted. I had told her in the beginning that she was “flirting with danger” and that this guy was showing nothing worth committing to. But she continued to believe his charm, and gave more and more of herself — emotionally, spiritually and physically. And here she sat, with no one but herself to blame.

I felt sad for Katie, but did not share in her despair. I knew that if she could learn something that we do not hear enough about, evaluating character, then she would finally be able to find the things that she was looking for.

When evaluating people to share your heart with, ask yourself some questions about these issues:

  1. Are you able to be happy with the level of maturity the person now possesses, or are you hoping they will change? Many times people will see what is wrong, but think that the other person will grow out of it or that they can change them. You must be able to accept them for who they are at this very moment.
  2. Are you being honest with yourself about who they really are and what it really feels like to be in a relationship with them? Sometimes, either our wishes for who they are, our needs, or our past patterns can blind us to the reality of a person. Ask your close friends what they see and compare notes. Usually, they can see more clearly than you can.
  3. Do they possess the ability to see when they are wrong, confess it, apologize and then change their behavior? Your Creator does not require perfection, and neither should you. But, He does require us to own it when we are wrong, see how we have hurt Him or others, and then do something to change. You need to require the same thing in your relationships.
  4. Are there weak areas that you can live with over time in close friendship, dating or marriage, or are they areas that might break your ability to cope? We all have problems, but there are some issues that are too much for some people to handle, where they would have no trouble handling other faults. For example, if you were raised with perfectionistic parents and are still trying to recover from those hurts, do you want to be married to a perfectionistic person who repeats the cycle all over again? We cannot find perfect people, but we can find the imperfections that we can best live with.
  5. Are they a growing person who does not blame others, but instead is actively involved in the growth process? One of the saddest things that I see is when one person “hungers and thirsts” for righteousness and growth and is always trying to push the other along. Find someone you have to run to keep up with instead of someone you always have to goad into growing.

Remember, the time to evaluate character is before you get too deeply involved. Once you are involved, it is more difficult to get out. When the attachment deepens, so the reasoning weakens. I see a lot of people who instantly fall into things with people who are not OK, in relationships based more on fantasy than reality, and then find themselves in trouble. Give yourself and your heart to people who prove themselves trustworthy. You are then less likely to end up like Katie, flirting with and ultimately caught up in danger. Good character cannot produce bad fruit, and bad character cannot produce good fruit. Learn to tell the difference, and you won’t be disappointed.

How to Avoid Codependency When You Help Someone in Need

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

Challenge Codependency occurs when we don’t have an accurate awareness of our boundaries and behaviors, and we allow someone else’s needs to control and take over our lives.

Solution You may be inclined to jump in and “save the world.” But there are better things you can do for that individual that will improve their quality of life and spare you from the toxicity of a codependent relationship.

“I’ve been in an accident,” Bethany whimpered. Her voice was filled with pain-staking fear. “I’m ok, but can you come get me?”

I assumed she meant the hospital. She was sitting in jail.

My blurry, tired eyes adjusted to the harsh glow of my cell phone as I looked at the time. If I left within the next few minutes, I’d have a head start on morning rush hour.

As I pulled up outside the Metro Detention Center, I saw Bethany waiting on the sidewalk for me. She stood there looking down at the ground with a defeated look on her face, perhaps still hungover. Her arms were crossed over her torso, clinched tight around her frame.

My door locks clicked. She got in my car, never lifting her head. Her disheveled hair draped over her eyes as if to hide her embarrassment. I didn’t even make it to the first traffic light before her face fell into her hands. Bethany let out deep sobs with diaphragmatic breaths. I offered a napkin from my center console.

“I hit a pole,” she quivered. “No one else was involved, but I think I have a drinking problem, and I honestly have no idea what to do right now.”

When you watch a friend or loved one struggle with pain in their life, your first response may be to do whatever it takes to ensure they don’t have to endure any more than they have to.

Why?

Although you care for that person, what you’re witnessing is uncomfortable for you, so you may be inclined to jump in and be the hero. But there are better things you can do for that individual that will improve their quality of life and spare you from the toxicity of a codependent relationship.

1. Show empathy
Though I had never been in Bethany’s situation, I knew what it was like to experience sadness. I was all too familiar with hurt, and I understood what it meant to feel shame. Bethany didn’t need me to tell her what she had done wrong. She knew, and if I spent time telling her what I think she should have done, it would have closed the door to trust.

2. Set and maintain boundaries
Bethany was in need of emotional support, and the circle of people she trusted was small. She was having trouble processing her feelings and was having anxiety over the legal consequences she’d have to endure. She called frequently, all hours of the night, and while I was at work.

After a few days, I had to let her know I couldn’t always answer the phone, so I sent her a text. “Hey, Bethany. I’m sorry you’re experiencing this right now. I can’t talk at the moment but let’s set aside a time later this week, and I’d be glad to listen to you.” It may have hurt her feelings, but it saved my sanity.

3. Remember it’s not your battle to fight
Bethany had lost her car, her job and her dignity. She was facing more jail time, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to watch her struggle. Part of me wanted to help her make everything go away, but I couldn’t step in and offer to pay her attorney or her court costs.

I knew that what was happening in her life was part of her journey, and if I disrupted the course, I would be denying her the lesson she was meant to learn. If Bethany was going to change, she would have to endure the consequences of her actions.

4. Realize you can’t change someone
I helped Bethany find several local AA meetings to attend and put her in touch with an outpatient recovery program, but I couldn’t make her go. It had to be her decision. Sometimes she went; sometimes she didn’t, and I couldn’t force her into making the choice I wanted for her.

5. Your feelings matter, too
Helping someone in need can leave you feeling exhausted, resentful, angry, hurt, sad or frustrated. Not only is it ok to have these feelings, but you need to be able to express them to the person you’re helping. Sometimes I had to tell Bethany, “You know, what you’re going through is really tough, but I’m feeling overwhelmed with helping you right now.”

When you feel compelled to help someone with a serious problem, whether it’s out of love or as a favor to a friend, it could breed a codependent relationship if you continuously sacrifice your needs for the benefit of someone else. There are myriad reasons why you may find yourself in such situations, but by having an awareness of your own habits and behaviors, you can avoid a potentially dysfunctional relationship.

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