Are you stressed from anticipating the needs of all of the people all of the time?

Do you go out of your way to make sure particularly difficult people are pacified and have everything they need in an attempt to head off any problems or conflict?

If you’re nodding your head, then this episode is for you. 

I’m breaking down what I’ve coined “Codependent Anticipation” and giving you some steps you can take to stick to your side of the street and stress a little less.

Prefer the audio? Listen to it right here! 

Years ago, I was planning a family trip and one of my in-laws at the time was a very difficult personality. I found myself ruminating over all of the ways I could preemptively avoid conflict with this person who had a history of ruining family events. How could I make them more comfortable and meet all of their needs so they wouldn’t instigate drama or torture my family member they were married to? 

The more I thought through different scenarios and backup plans, the more I began to realize what I was doing wasn’t exactly healthy. I was codependently organizing myself around this person. And that wasn’t my job. My job was to let the chips fall where they may (no matter how uncomfortable it might make me feel). 

One difficult person in a dynamic can activate the hell out of someone with codependent tendencies. Codependent anticipation is the anxiety and codependent behaviors that precede a situation where there could be conflict. It looks like worrying in advance and then over-planning, over-doing, and over-functioning in an effort to control the outcomes. 

This behavior takes up so much bandwidth and can negatively impact your day-to-day life. Codependent anticipation keeps you in a stressful loop of anxious thoughts obsessing over what others will need.

If this is ringing a bell for you, I want to give you some ideas of things you can do to recognize this behavior to create less stress and more joy (especially with the holidays in full swing!). 

Codependent anticipation is similar to auto-accommodating, which is a state of hyper-awareness and hypervigilance. It is always being ready to lessen someone’s burden or help, even without being asked (and getting totally burnt out in the process). 

If you’re an empath and/or highly-sensitive person, chances are, your antennas are usually scanning every room and reading each person’s mood and energy. Add codependent tendencies into the mix and you’re even more vulnerable to jumping into situations that do not directly relate to you to smooth over conflict or correct a problem. 

If you resonate with being an auto-accommodator, you might also struggle with codependent anticipation. The difference between the two is that while auto-accommodating happens in the present moment, codependent anticipation is about what’s going to happen in the future. Both behaviors have a cost. 

Codependent anticipation usually comes with an extra heavy load of emotional labor. Emotional labor is the invisible, unpaid work many of us do to keep the boat of our lives/families/businesses afloat. You can also think of it as the time, energy, emotional and psychological bandwidth it takes to keep other people comfortable. 

When it comes to codependent anticipation, we can end up spinning our wheels, taking on emotional labor that seemingly never ends, which is ultimately exhausting. 

If you suffer from conflict avoidance, it can fuel codependent anticipation. Though we may be trying to control the outcomes and other people’s choices to avoid conflict at all costs, if we take a step back we can see the only thing we can actually control is ourselves.

Over-functioning, over-doing, and over-committing go hand in hand with codependent anticipation. Have you ever taken something on because you think someone else will feel resentful or cause problems if they are asked to do it? How often do you find yourself saying, “It’s fine. No problem. I got it,” even when it’s not on your side of the street?

If this is you, I encourage you to raise your awareness of secondary gain. While it may seem counterintuitive, the secondary gain is the hidden “benefit” we get from staying stuck in unhealthy behavioral patterns. 

In this week’s downloadable guide, I’m giving you a tool to help you identify any secondary gain you may be getting from codependent anticipation and all that comes with it. You can download it here now. 

Here are some steps you can take to get proactive about curbing your codependent anticipation this holiday season and beyond: 

1. Take an Anxiety Inventory

Who are the people in your life who kick up codependent anticipation? Is it situation-specific? In the guide, I’m giving you some questions to help you gain more clarity around who and what activates anxiety and codependent behaviors for you. Raising your awareness is the first step to changing anything.

You can grab your Curb Codependent Anticipation guide here now. 

2. Prioritize Your Feelings + Desires

In order to make your feelings and desires a priority, you’ve gotta know what they are! You don’t need to keep sacrificing your own life to keep the peace, because if you’re really honest with yourself…it’s not peaceful at all, right? 

Grab your journal, make yourself a cup of tea and take some time and space to think through how you want to feel. What do you want to spend your time doing if you were completely free to do anything? 

What would make you feel good? Think through all of the things you usually do around the holidays and throughout the year. Are you doing these things because you want to or out of obligation? Give yourself permission to acknowledge how you truly feel about it all. 

It’s time to put yourself and what you desire on your agenda!

3. Be More Discerning

You get to be discerning about who you spend your time with! Whether it’s a family member or a friend, please remember relationships are optional (excluding minor children, of course). You have choices around who gets your attention, time, and energy. 

If you know there is someone in your life who activates codependent anticipation for you, can you get honest and ask yourself, “Is spending time with this person mandatory?” Even if it is a family gathering and you don’t have control over the guest list, can you spend time with the people there who you enjoy and limit your time with that one difficult person? Can you go for a limited amount of time instead of being the last person there doing everyone else’s dishes? 

There are ways to interact with difficult people and protect yourself energetically and emotionally. You have no obligation to be vulnerable or to answer every intrusive question. I have an entire chapter dedicated to how to deal with boundary bullies and difficult people in my book Boundary Boss for good reason. You can do this. 

4. Up Your Mindfulness

The number one thing you can do to move away from compulsive behavior patterns like codependent anticipation is to get a mindfulness practice in place. 

Guided meditation, breathing exercises, journaling–all of these practices create more internal space and self-awareness. When you tend to your internal sacred space it allows you to respond with mindfulness instead of with a knee-jerk reaction. The more you flex your mindfulness muscle with simple practices daily, the easier it will be to shift away from auto-accommodating. It grants you more reaction time and strengthens your ability to catch yourself in the moment and recognize where you are over-functioning. 

Codependent anticipation can literally take the joy out of the things that are supposed to be fun. Can you give yourself permission to change the way you do things? Would it be possible to open up to more sharing, more delegating, and spending more quality time with the people who make you feel amazing this holiday and beyond? I so want that for you. 

I hope this adds value to your life! I would love to hear from you so please, drop me a comment here or connect with me over on Instagram @terricole and let me know, do you experience codependent anticipation? 

I hope you have the most amazing week and as always, take care of you.

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  1. Hi Terri, I really appreciate the way you clearly communicate such essential info re boundary setting.
    I particularly enjoyed this article. Being both an empath and a HSP, despite decades of inner work, and being a therapist, this stuff can still trip me up?.
    Thanks again for your work for humanity?? Leigh

  2. Thanks you for sharing! I had never heard the term “codependent anticipation” before, and I’ve just had a huge A-ha moment!
    I lived and grew up in a family business where codependant anticipation of clients needs was our livelyhood and came above all else (hospitality) and learned from a mother how to tip-toe around a bully of a father (rarely successful). I am now dealing with an adult child for whom I bend over backwards to please and accomodate for fear of unleashing his contempt (added bonus-he suffers from ADD related rejection sensetive dysphoria)
    Codependant anticipation is so deeply ingrained in me I fear it’s in my DNA and I will never have joy and peace in my life. It’s caused so much stress that both my mental and physical health have been affected.
    You are the first person to name it for me. Sometimes it just takes someone to point it out to set you in a direction of understanding, and hopefuly, healing. Thank you.

    1. Hi Beatrix,
      Yes! Understanding where our codependent behavior comes from is a huge first step! You’re on track to unlearn these behaviors, and I’m so glad you’re able to see these patterns ❤️

  3. So needed to hear this right now! I’m trying to figure out how to have my divorced parents visit Christmas day while being able to relax and enjoy everything with my daughter. So stressful but it doesn’t have to be. Thank you!

  4. Terri,
    Thank you for giving this codependent behavior a name. I have been struggling for weeks with this anticipation. Thanksgiving went better because I took time to meditate on my relationship with sisters who still want me to stay in a codependent role. I feel I was in an authentic place and didn’t stay to “clean up the dishes”, however my sister Kate who I have been more honest with lately about feeling unheard and unseen by her, just shared she was bleeding on Thanksgiving and may have cancer.
    Cancer is a family disease that took our mother and several females, and so now I am feeling some regret about my honesty and am fighting feelings of guilt that I may have caused her more pain at a time she was already suffering. This brings up a very tender woundedness, since my dad blamed me for my mom’s cancer when I was thirteen. He said I made her worry all the time right after she died. I have gone through years of therapy and have a solid meditation practice and I know in my core this is not the truth, yet I am experiencing a deep sadness that feels somewhat paralyzing. I will journal and read the download you sent. Thank you for bringing this subject to light. Namaste Marne

  5. Unfortunately can’t make the other person respond so let – elderly mother with beginnings of dementia. She has always been demanding and I’ve spent my whole life trying to ‘read her mind’. My current strategy is to only interact in short, well-spaced intervals. She feels neglected but, oh well.

    1. Hi Joann,
      Thank you for sharing and for being here. I’m glad you’re setting boundaries and demanding your own space ❤️

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