Do you ever wonder if all of your caring in your life ever spills over into codependency?
If you feel like all of the things you do and the way you relate to others (your romantic partners, friends, family, kids, and colleagues at work) might be blurring the line between caring and codependency, this episode is for you.
You’ll learn the difference between caring and codependency plus signs and symptoms of codependent behavior to look out for to get more clarity on your relationship dynamics.
Codependency is being overly invested in the decisions, feelings, circumstances, and outcomes of the people in your life, to the detriment of your psychological, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
I know there can be confusion about what codependency actually is. Where is the line between caring behavior and codependent behavior?
We love the people in our lives, so of course, we are invested in their well-being. But there is a difference between being invested and being overly invested.
You might not even know you’re doing it. I realized after many years in my therapy practice that people only associate codependency with enabling addiction, and while that is one form of it, it isn’t always the case.
I coined a new term, High Functioning Codependency because I was seeing codependent behaviors that fell outside of the old school addiction/enabling model with many of my clients. They were usually successful, high-functioning women who in no way identified with being weak or dependent.
These high-functioning women were doing it all – great careers, successful businesses, keeping the ship of their family life afloat, volunteer work, vibrant social lives, you name it but at the expense of themselves.
On the outside, they made it look easy, so no one would peg them as codependent. And yet, on the inside, they were struggling, exhausted, burned out and resentful.
The truth about high functioning codependency is the more capable you are, the more codependency doesn’t look like codependency.
But if you are overly invested, overfunctioning and overgiving, and it is compromising your inner peace and well-being, that is codependency.
So what does it look like in real life? If someone comes to you with a problem and you immediately feel responsible for fixing it, you might have codependent tendencies.
There can be an urgency to codependent behaviors, a compulsion to fix, over-function, and overgive.
One of the tell-tale signs of codependency is we’re unclear about what is our side of the street and what is the other person’s side of the street. Meaning, what are you actually responsible for? What is healthy for you to be responsible for?
You are only responsible for yourself, for your decisions, for your life, and for your circumstances (this excludes minor children, of course).
It takes so much bandwidth to go through life in a codependent dynamic with multiple people. Believe me, I know this. I am a recovering codependent, and still, when someone in my life is in a tough situation, I want to do everything I can to help them…but before I take any action, I consider what is on my side of the street and what is on their side. And I stick to my side.
What I’ve realized through years of therapy and becoming a recovering codependent is this:
It is much more helpful and respectful to the people in my life to assume they know what they should do more than I do. I can hold space for them, but ultimately, it is their life to figure out.
Acting codependently is not good for our relationships, because even though we feel like we are helping, it can make people feel like projects.
The truth is, at the heart of codependency is the desire to control outcomes for other people to make ourselves feel a false sense of security and avoid pain.
So if you are giving and doing from a place of need, to feel valued, recognized or loved, that is potentially dysfunctional, codependent behavior.
We might unconsciously do things to feel like we’re irreplaceable and essential to someone’s day-to-day life. When we are codependent, deep down, we feel our value is in fixing, doing, or always having the answers.
So let’s get into relationship-specific examples of codependent behavior in practice because raising your awareness is the first step to healing.
You know you are in a codependent romantic relationship if…
- You are unable to find satisfaction in your own life outside of a particular person.
- You recognize deeply unhealthy behaviors within your relationship but stay anyway.
- You are giving support to your partner at the expense of your own emotional, financial, mental, or physical health.
- You keep close tabs on where your person is and what they are doing.
- You take on their mood. Let’s say you’re in a great mood and they come home cranky. Suddenly you are focused on fixing their mood in any way you can and your great mood goes out the window.
You know you are codependent at the office if…
- You gossip.
- You get sucked into the drama of others (think triangulation, where you talk to another person about a third person who isn’t there).
- You do more than your share of the work (and might be feeling resentful and unappreciated for all you do).
- You do work that is not yours or cover for others.
- You do things for people that they don’t ask you to do.
You know you are codependent with your children if…
- You do more for your child than what is age-appropriate or healthy.
- You do things for your adult children (and really any age) that they can and should be doing for themselves. A parent’s job is to give kids the skills that they need to successfully navigate the world, but a codependent parent might try to keep their children as dependent as possible.
- Your fear of your child’s rejection impedes your ability to appropriately discipline or guide them. (Which can be a burden, not a benefit to the child.)
You know you are codependent in your friendship if…
- You are the advice-giver (or getter) and you might get pissed when the person doesn’t take your advice.
- There is a giver and a taker – the roles in the relationship are well defined. One person is always in crisis, the other always “saving”.
- You feel resentment for always doing and giving more and feel used or question the other person’s ability to actually care about you.
Listen, this isn’t about feeling bad about yourself or beating yourself up about what you’ve been doing. It’s about getting clear about where you might be acting out codependent behavior patterns, because, I promise you, it will not build the kind of healthy, equitable relationships you crave.
The great news is, you can heal from codependency.
Here’s what being in recovery from codependency looks like:
- You know where you end and other people begin. You are not so enmeshed with others.
- You do not feel responsible for the choices, decisions, or feeling states of the people in your life.
- You realize that the only person (besides minor children) you are responsible for is yourself.
- You can tolerate the people you care about being in pain or a situation without taking it on as your own or feeling compelled to FIX or problem solve.
Did you just take a big deep breath and sigh with relief? This is possible for you too.
Think about how much more loving it is to ask expansive questions to the people you love to help them build resilience and self-trust rather than telling them what you think they should do.
Think about how much more energy you will have when you aren’t compulsively micro-managing everyone around you.
Think about how much freedom you will feel when you can speak your truth and relate to others in an authentic, heart-centered way. The people who love you want the opportunity and the privilege of authentically knowing you.
Inside this week’s guide, you’ll be able to uncover your Codependency Blueprint so you can get more clarity around what’s going on for you under the surface of your behavior because self-knowledge is the first step to changing anything.
And if you’re ready to go deeper, Crushing Codependency, my course with Mark Groves (@createthelove) is coming next month!!!!
Over 6 weeks, Mark and I will guide you through simple steps and strategies that will help you break the cycle of codependency in all of your relationships.
If you’re struggling with codependency, please know that you are not alone. We created this course because millions of people all over the world struggle with these feelings and behaviors.
As recovering codependents and relationship experts, we know that recovery is possible and we know how to help you create your own roadmap to FREEDOM.
Here’s the link to join us! Class starts on April 6th!
Have an amazing week and as always take care of you.