Today is a super special episode of The Terri Cole Show because my friend and fellow relationship expert, Mark Groves, is joining me and we’re breaking down one of our favorite topics: codependency.
We share a fascination with decoding codependency because as relationship experts, we know that it is one of the biggest blocks to seeking, curating, and maintaining vibrant, durable love and healthy relationships.
So how do you know if you’re codependent?
We both get the, “how do I know if I am codependent” questions A LOT from our respective crews, so that’s why we’ve teamed up to talk symptoms and red flags that might point to codependency in your behavior patterns.
Whether it’s in your romantic relationship, in your family, in your friendships or at work, codependent behaviors can limit your potential for authentic connection, block intimacy, make it difficult to set healthy boundaries, and at the end of the day leave you feeling exhausted and alone.
We’re here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way. You can make different choices that support YOU, your mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing and still be a deeply caring, loving person, partner, and friend.
That’s why we’re giving you a rundown of real-life codependent scenarios to help you start to recognize what’s healthy and what’s not plus what you can do about it so you can learn how to CRUSH codependency.
What do we all want in our lives?
To feel valued, seen, understood, loved, and known.
The challenge of codependency is we can become overly dependent on others to give our lives meaning…and we might not even realize that we’re doing it.
When you take a step back and really look at our culture, our society, and the media, it’s easy to see why codependency thrives under the radar. Millions around the world swooned over that famous line from the movie, Jerry Maguire, “You complete me.” (along with, “Help me, help you.”) So many of the stories we grew up hearing about “true love” and what it means to be a good person/daughter/son/friend place value on self-sacrifice and the denial of our own needs in service of others.
That if we find the “right one” we will find ourselves. We’ll finally be complete.
No, Tom Cruise. Just no.
Codependency can be described as looking to someone else to fill a hole within ourselves that only self-love can or will ever fill.
We have so many ways to distract ourselves from doing the work and trying to make ourselves feel worthy of the love and relationships that we want.
How about let’s just start within?
Deepak Chopra would say: “Give what it is that you’re seeking”. So if you want more love, give more love, but I will add an addendum to that:
“Give more love to yourself first, then outward.”
Because when we’re codependent, we’ll give more love to others alright… in the form of over-functioning, overgiving and covertly controlling, and the result is not actually feeling that loving OR that loved.
Why is it we’re doing everything we were taught to do…and yet we’re still not feeling satisfied?
Why is it that we can be thriving in every other area of our lives, but we still have a tendency to self-abandon when it comes to relationships?
I call that high-functioning codependency.
When codependency first came on the psychological scene in the ’80s, it was characterized by enabling behavior and addiction. From what I’ve seen and experienced in over 23 years of my psychotherapy practice, that narrow definition needed an expansion.
A high-functioning codependent knows how to get stuff done. They are often smart, successful, and accomplished. You likely don’t identify with being dependent, because you’re the one doing everything for everyone else. The question is: what’s the cost to YOU?
If you have a compulsion to add value to everyone else’s life, like you have all the answers, and like it’s your job to make everyone feel good…take note. For so many years, I felt responsible for doing the right thing always and for helping literally anyone who needed help. It took a cancer diagnosis in my early 30’s for me to realize I was over-giving and over-functioning in nearly every area of my life. And pretty bitter as a result.
Mark and I both always keep it real, so know we both consider ourselves recovering codependents.
If you’re struggling right now, we sooo get it. It can be really hard to differentiate between caring and codependent behaviors.
You might feel like, well, this is just the way I am and the way things are.
Translation: you’re constantly over-focused on others, overgiving, exhausted, and deep down resentful.
So how do you know if your behaviors are codependent or caring?
You know you are codependent in a romantic relationship if:
- You are unable to find satisfaction in your own life outside of a particular person.
- When your relationship isn’t in a good place, you’re never in a good place.
- Dating is the center point of your life.
- You’re always trying to fix the other person.
- The health of your relationship determines the wellbeing of yourself and of your life.
- You know your relationship is bad, but you stay anyway.
- You take responsibility for all the needs of the other person.
- You give support to your partner at the expense of your emotional, financial, mental, and/or physical health.
- You keep close tabs on your partner.
- Your partner’s problems feel like they are your problems.
- You’re constantly monitoring emotional cues.
The person you’re with is in crisis. Their car breaks down and they don’t have any money. You might think to yourself, “Well, what can I do? They have to get it fixed.” So you put it on a credit card, knowing that you’re not going to be able to pay it off anytime soon. But hey, what are you gonna do? They NEED their car fixed.
That’s where boundaries come in. When you’re codependent, boundaries can be so challenging because, in order to draw them, you have to know yourself, you have to know your preferences, your deal breakers, your non-negotiables. You have to know who you are and what is and what isn’t ok with you.
If you struggle with setting boundaries with the people in your life, you might be codependent.
It’s important to be clear that codependency isn’t just limited to romantic relationships. Codependent behaviors and patterns can happen in friendships, sibling, and parent/child relationships — even at work.
You might be codependent in the office or workplace if…
- Other people’s problems become your problems.
- You often find yourself getting sucked into gossip and drama.
- You do more than your share of the work.
- You might even do work to cover for others on your team.
- You do things that people don’t ask you to do.
- You often feel unappreciated for everything you do (maybe even kinda bitter).
I get a lot of questions about codependency and raising children. Because the seeds of codependency are so often planted in the experiences we had growing up and what we learned in our family of origin, it makes sense that when we start to grow our own families, our codependent tendencies kick right up.
If in your parents or caregivers, you witnessed a codependent dynamic, you are likely to grow up to repeat what you learned. Breaking the cycle is possible and valuable..because trust me if you’re doing everything for your kids into their adulthood, you’re not doing them any favors.
You might be codependent with your children if…
- You do more for your child than what is age-appropriate or healthy.
- For a minor child, this could look like you still dressing them or brushing their teeth for them when they are old enough and capable to do it themselves.
- For an adult child, this could look like you still doing their laundry or paying off their credit card debt.
- You want your children to always need you.
- You want to stay in the center of their world.
- You have struggled or still struggle with your kids growing up.
- You often bail your child/ren out of their own messes or make excuses for their behavior.
The message you’re sending is “I need you to be a child because I need to parent you to be ok. I hang my happiness on you.” There’s so much pressure on an adult child in this situation. It can be so painful and difficult to heal from this kind of codependency.
If you are an adult child in a codependent relationship with one or both of your parents, I promise you, it is possible to stay lovingly attached to a codependent parent while drawing beautiful, healthy, appropriate boundaries with them.
In our chat together, Mark and I give other examples of how codependency shows up in friendships and even with strangers and random people (who definitely are not in your VIP section!), plus deeply personal stories of our own experiences, so if you haven’t watched or listened to the episode..do IT!
Ultimately, codependents are covertly trying to control the outcomes, choices, and feeling states of other people. When you raise your awareness of these tendencies and begin to work through these issues and do the work, it will uplevel ALL of the relationships in your life.
Codependent relationships, no matter how much love is there, could be better if they weren’t codependent. Healthy relationships have mutuality. The goal is interdependency — that is, each person has a right to boundaries and a responsibility to take care of themselves first.
When you get there, (and we know from experience) it is such a RELIEF. Because bottom line? Codependency isn’t healthy love.
Real love is taking care of yourself and taking care of the people you love in an appropriate and mutual way. It’s not being the martyr and taking on everyone else’s issues and emotions as your own. It’s not trying to solve everyone else’s problems.
Now at this point, you might be thinking…where do I even START?!!!
Here’s the good news:
Just by reading this, you’re one step closer to raising your awareness and healing your codependency.
Here’s the even BETTER news:
Mark and I have created a course to essentially (virtually) hold your hand and guide you to do the work it takes to change your ingrained behavioral patterns. We take small steps to build real self-awareness, self-knowledge, and self-love so you can stop looking to others and what you do for them to fulfill you.
We are so excited to introduce you to our first teaching merger…
Recovery from codependency is not only possible, it’s wildly liberating. The process we walk you through in the course will finally allow you to focus on yourself and your needs. We’ll encourage you to prioritize your preferences and teach you how to show up for YOU first. You’ll be able to unpack years of unconscious behaviors with our guidance.
Listen: any behavior that prevents you from really finding peace and happiness is a behavior that deserves your attention and commitment to change.
You deserve to be happy.
You deserve to be your own best support.
You get to decide where the bar is set for how people treat you.
Inside Crushing Codependency, we’re going to help you uncover what you actually want and then help you re-write the manual on how you (and others) will treat you.
We can’t WAIT!!!
If you liked this episode, share it on your social platforms and tag us @terricole and @createthelove. We want to know how you’re feeling, if this resonates with you and if you have any Qs for us!
A deep bow of gratitude to Mark Groves, my partner in crushing codependency, you’re the best!!! We are both so excited to journey with YOU!
All Love + Liberation,