I’m Adding Rules To My Life To Cope With Codependency

I have always said that codependency recovery is about management and not cure. Being a behavioural issue means that setbacks can easily happen. There is no linear line available from A to Z. One has to constantly manage symptoms on a daily basis and take one day at a time and always challenge yourself to do the right thing. Doing the right thing means taking responsibility and leadership.

When I look back, I realize that I have a thorough understanding of what others go through when they are codependent due to my own codependent tendencies. The sensation is not like a “badge of honor” but rather a pervasive one that permeates all aspects of one’s life including interpersonal relationships. Occasionally, the sheer dread brought on by the prospect of being abandoned or rejected becomes too much to take. Like many codependents, I am able to spend time alone inside a relationship very readily, but the concept of “being alone” is not something I enjoy thinking about or would enjoy experiencing.


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I’ve spent much of my life in denial. Denial that many around me not only welcomed, but treasured my interventions on their behalf. I was always the first to offer my assistance and volunteer my services. I was the first to stand up and take responsibility. I was the first to drop everything to “assist”. People I’ve known in the past either didn’t comprehend what I was doing or appreciated having the ultimate “doormat” in their lives. In any case, they all finally left my life (somewhat thankfully in some cases looking back), except one.

One of the people I hold dear to me has made it abundantly clear (in a healthy way) that she will no longer take my “giving.” This has been going on for a while, but it came to a head a few months ago. It was either make a change or risk losing her forever. Over the years, I had adopted a protective posture toward her, smothering her with my “desire to assist.” It wasn’t that she required it. My wife is a highly educated, independent woman who has travelled widely, and has done so on her own several times. She has been the head of a company in a male-dominated environment, and she has thrived in that role. She is not in need of my pampering and smothering, as I formerly thought. However, I only recently realised this, choosing to perceive myself as the “good person,” which, of course, can’t be incorrect, can it?

However, this is incorrect, as codependency is all about control, which is precisely what I have been doing. I guess I am reflecting as a result of the impending big birthday, and not before time. I’ve decided to implement my own rules in order to finally overcome codependency. This is my path to freedom, and I make the best use of these techniques in therapy.

  1. Only help when asked. The issue with codependents is that they are very willing to help. That might sound altruistic, but there is a sinister motive behind this readiness. Many codependents “give to get,” which means that they expect something in exchange for their generosity. In most cases, this return is in response to their desire for security by offering validation and acknowledging their “sacrifice.” This is the method through which codependents increase their self-esteem by helping and fixing others. Others, on the other hand, are concerned about the high price they will have to pay. Codependents frequently form attachments with others who are emotionally distant and are also easily manipulated. The other side of the coin. Concerning myself, I have made a conscious decision to only assist when asked or given permission to do so. This lowers my expectations of a return and prevents animosity from developing when I don’t receive what I feel I should have received.
  2. Be genuine and emotional honest. Relationships are built on the foundation of being emotionally honest with one another. If you don’t convey your actual feelings, no one will be able to tell how to respond to you. Emotional dishonesty is a characteristic of codependency, and it has the potential to destroy relationships. I’ve always believed that remaining silent was both functional and compassionate, and that it was necessary to “maintain the peace.” Thus, animosity built up and manifested itself in heated disagreements. As a result, there was hostility and resentment on the opposite side as well. Moreover, it lacks authenticity and does not encourage connection. Because I find it tough to be vulnerable and connect with others, incorporating this into my life has been challenging for me. In my work as a couples therapist, I view this as a significant impediment to a couple’s ability to go forward on their path to recovery. By being emotionally dishonest, we miss out on opportunities to connect with others and, more importantly, with ourselves. Living an authentic life is something we are missing out on because we are hiding and lying about how we are genuinely feeling. In a relationship, this can cause distrust and resentment, which can result in furious outbursts and arguments between partners. Being emotionally honest implies being able to recognise and accept when you are being defensive, for example, or when you are masking what you really want to express. You must first develop emotional intelligence and awareness in order to move forward. True emotional intimacy with your partner necessitates being open and willing to take emotional risks by expressing personal memories and sentiments with him or her. In order for these expressions not to be criticised or utilised in debates later on, there must be a certain level of confidence. There are many ways to show your partner that you care about them. This includes things like words and deeds, and the sharing of things like sorrow, happiness, and love. It also includes things like hard work and humor, truly listening to your partner, or letting them be vulnerable, even crying. This is something I consider to be a work in progress for me.
  3. Drop the entitlement. Codependents have an entitlement complex surrounding their object of codependency. This is because they believe they have done so much for others that receiving an equal amount in return is only normal. This can result in a sense of victimhood, as I have experienced in the past. Victimhood is a state of mind in which you believe that someone else should look after you and supply your needs. Many clients who have identified this trait in themselves interpret any apparent shift as a probable indicator of impending abandonment. In actuality, there is usually nothing to fear or there is a small issue that has little bearing on the relationship. What it does is instil in a codependent a mentality of “walking on eggshells.” They believe that the only way to obtain the necessary reassurance is to continually interrogate their partner… “What are they thinking?” “Why are you so moody?” All of these questions are intended to reintroduce the relationship toa “safe place” for the codependent and hence back under their control. If reassurance is not available, classic scenarios such as anger, silent treatment, and victimhood frequently ensue. It places the partner under close observation and makes him or her apprehensive of anything that could initiate the cycle. I frequently engaged in passive-aggressive behaviour in order to reinforce my victimhood. It’s a difficult cycle to break.
  4. Be an individual. I’m not referring about solitude or isolation. Healthy connections are developed by healthy individuals. Two individuals who feel that self-care is just as vital as couple time. Two individuals who have common goals but pursue their own interests and ambitions. Codependents develop unhealthy relationships with inappropriate partners using a fear-based “push-pull” framework. I’ve struggled greatly with this throughout my life.
  5. Take responsibility and show leadership. Codependents enjoy having control, but they also resist taking on responsibility and taking on leadership roles in their relationships. They are more likely to enable their partners’ failure to accept responsibility than they are to accept responsibility themselves. Codependents are people pleasers who will go to great lengths to ensure that everyone is satisfied, resulting in fudged solutions and avoidance. One of the most important aspects of codependent recovery is learning to detach oneself from others, accept responsibility for one’s own life and decisions, and be willing to face the consequences when necessary. This is something I do in my professional life, but I struggle with it in my personal life.
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Dr. Nicholas Jenner

Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a counseling psychotherapist in online private practice working with individuals, couples and groups, dealing with codependency issues, severe depression, bipolar, personality disorders, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders and other mental health issues. He has been practicing online for many years and recognized early that online therapy was a convenient method for people to meet their therapist. Working outside the box, he goes that extra mile to make sure clients have access to help between sessions, something that is greatly appreciated. He also gives part of his spare time up to mentor psychology students in a university setting.

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