Do you often find yourself letting another person’s feelings dictate how you feel? Do you find yourself dependent on your partner for your sense of well-being? If this sounds familiar then you might be showing signs of codependency within your relationship. Often times, we think of codependency in terms of substance abuse or addiction, but you can be just as dependent on your partner in your relationship. Typically these behaviors and how we act in relationships are learned through watching our parents as children. This, along with society’s ideals about romantic relationships, can make it hard to realize and identify these patterns in our behaviors and relationships because we think we are doing what is right. Women, especially, are often seen as caregivers within relationships, and due to that are expected to meet ALL needs of their partner, happily. But this isn’t always how a healthy relationship should be.
Some common traits of codependency include:
- Low self-esteem (i.e. not liking yourself, feeling like a failure, concerned about other’s opinions)
- Pleasing others and giving up yourself/Relying too much on others opinions
- Poor boundaries (i.e. too weak or too rigid)
- Dysfunctional Communication
- Difficulty expressing thoughts and feelings
- Difficulty setting boundaries — saying “No” or stopping abuse
- Lack of assertiveness about your needs
- Afraid of being alone or out of a relationship
- Feeling trapped in a bad/dysfunctional relationship and unable to leave
- Intimacy problems (Avoidance of closeness)
- Denial (i.e. of your feelings, needs, aspects of your relationship)
- Controlling your own feelings
- Managing and controlling people in your life; telling them what to do
- Manipulating others to feel or behave like you want (people pleasing is a manipulation)
Does this sound like you in your relationship? You don’t have to have all of these behaviors in your relationship to still show signs of codependency. Basically you have put your needs and wants on the back-burner for your partner. But don’t worry, you can begin to change this now – you just need to start building a better, loving relationship with YOURSELF! Yes, this can take a lot of time, and shouldn’t be expected to change overnight. You need to just start the process of letting go the desire to focus on your partner.
But how do you being to turn the focus on yourself? First, you need to take responsibility of your own feelings and let others have their own feelings (not take on theirs). This is especially hard when one has codependent tendencies, but it is extremely important. How this is done is by shifting how much we allow other’s feelings and experiences dictate ours. This is a beginning step in developing that relationship with yourself. Developing a sense of self is also very important and can be done by becoming aware of the patterns occurring in your relationship and their effect on you. Lastly, understand that this focus on yourself and your wants/needs does NOT make your selfish. It is instead showing yourself and other’s respect for boundaries and well-being.
Here are a few other tips to help start developing that loving and strong relationship with yourself. These tips are taken from Terry Gapard’s article on HuffingtonPost, “Overcoming Codependency: Reclaiming Yourself in Relationships”. And remember, as I said before this is not a short-term thing, and does take time and effort.
- Visualize yourself in a loving relationship that meets your needs.If your current relationship is destructive, look at ways you self-sabotage and examine your own behaviors.
• Challenge your beliefs and self-defeating thoughts about your self-worth.You don’t need to prove anything to another person about your worth.
• Notice your negative self-judgments.Be kind and compassionate toward yourself.
• Remind yourself daily that it’s healthy to accept help from others and a sign of strength rather than weakness. Counseling, friendships, and online resources can be tremendously helpful to supporting you in your journey of finding a happy relationship.
• Don’t let your fear of rejection stop you from achieving loving, intimate relationships. Surrender your shield and let others in.
I will leave you with a quote from Melody Beattie’s book, Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself
“Ever since people first existed, they have been doing all the things we label “codependent.” They have worried themselves sick about other people. They have tried to help in ways that didn’t help. They have said yes when they meant no. They have tried to make other people see things their way. They have bent over backwards avoiding hurting people’s feelings and, in so doing, have hurt themselves. They have been afraid to trust their feelings. They have believed lies and then felt betrayed. They have wanted to get even and punish others. They have felt so angry they wanted to kill. They have struggled for their rights while other people said they didn’t have any. They have worn sackcloth because they didn’t believe they deserved silk.”
It can be hard to stop focusing on your partner, and start focusing on yourself in your relationship, but having someone along for the ride can help. Give us a call to set up a free phone consultation at Life Skills Resource Group Orlando at 407-355-7378, and one of our Orlando Individual Counselors would be more than happy to be that someone to help you focus on your needs and wants. With time and guidance, you can begin to prioritize yourself in your relationship, and not your partner.