Good friends and family members help each other out. Everybody needs a hand once in a while, and no one is an island. Without a doubt, giving and receiving are a normal part of healthy relationships. But is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Yes. When people help time and time again, they may be doing more harm than good. They may be codependent.
Consider Stacy’s situation. Helping is what she does best. Stacy has, what she considers to be a special sixth-sense: she can foresee what her family members and friends need, then she takes care of it, sometimes before they even know about it. Take her husband, Bob. Stacy would do anything for Bob. She knows that everybody has problems, but theirs are manageable. Bob is a spender. He has a new truck, jet skis, a projector so he does not miss a single big game. Stacy and Bob are in debt tens of thousands of dollars, but everything is fine, Stacy tells herself. She drives an older car and has picked up extra hours at work to make their monthly payments. Stacy does not even like watching sports or water activities. She feels a little resentment here and there, but Stacy tells herself, “it’s all worth it to see Bob so happy.”
Stacy, without questions, feels deep affection for Bob, but her actions are not benefitting herself or Bob. In fact, Stacy may be hurting, and she may be codependent.
When people sacrifice their own well-being to help, or when their help shields a loved one from natural consequences, they may not actually be helping. Their actions may be enabling another person’s irresponsible behavior.
The therapists at Lehigh Valley Counselors know that it is hard to help without enabling, and many people have crossed from healthy support into unhealthy codependency. We provide counseling for codependency because we want to see our clients in relationships where their well-being is prioritized.
People who struggle with codependency usually seek out relationships with others who have a history of careless behavior or addiction or vulnerability. Codependent people then compensate for their loved one in some way that makes them feel valued or needed. Codependents usually prioritize another’s care over their own, and they respond with resentment when their sacrifice is not acknowledged.
Codependent people usually experience deep and acute insecurity, shame, and passivity that fuels their behavior. They may convince themselves that fixing other people will lead to love, acceptance, and competency. The problem is that it never works. Relationships are not proving grounds for one’s self-worth. Trying to fix another person does not result in personal healing.
Instead, codependents often find themselves in cycles where their loved one depends upon them more and more. In return, they compensate more and more. In the process, codependent people grow resentful, instead of feeling loved and fulfilled.
At first glance, many codependent behaviors appear generous and kind, but on closer look, they are unhealthy. Here are a few signs of codependent behavior:
- Communication challenges:Codependent people often have difficulty talking about their own needs, thoughts, and feelings—especially if these may upset their loved one.
- Low self-esteem:Feelings of shame, inadequacy, and incompetency are often deep-seated within codependent people and fuel their need to prove themselves through how helpful they are.
- Dependency:The famous song lyrics perfectly illustrate codependency’s top relational value, “want you to want me. I need you to need me.” Codependent people often confuse feeling needed with feeling loved.
- People-pleasing tendencies:Codependent people feel responsible for other people’s feelings. They usually want to ensure that their loved ones are happy and never experience emotions such as anger, frustration, or boredom.
- Caretaking:Individuals with codependency usually fuse their identity with being a caretaker. They may see their loved one’s needs coming and act before their loved one even knows about the problem. When someone refuses their help, codependents often take it as a personal rejection.
- No/weak boundaries:Saying, “yes,” when your heart says, “no,” is the recipe for stress, and codependent people have a hard time saying, “no.” Even when their own financial, emotional, or physical health is in jeopardy, they have a hard time declining a request.
Denial: Codependent people often have serious relational and mental health problems, but they distract themselves by focusing on others. Instead of working on their own problems, they deny and minimize areas in their own lives where they need healing or improvement.
Therapy for Codependency
Do some of these codependent behaviors sound familiar to you? If so, know that people can change. Lehigh Valley Counselors offers therapy for codependency because we love seeing our clients learn to relate in healthier ways.
When you schedule therapy at Lehigh Valley Counselors, you may see your new counselor the following day. We do not have a waitlist—so you will never be put on one, and we offer weekend and evening appointments. We also work with many different insurance companies.
If you are ready to make changes within your relationships, we are ready to help. Call Lehigh Valley Counselors today for a codependency appointment.