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.