Do you constantly have relationships where you feel exhausted because you’re trying to rescue your friends or your lover from one catastrophe after another? You may be codependent, and if you are, it may be time to let go, and start looking after yourself for a change.
One of the greatest benefits of having close friendships is that our friends can support and help us when things get rough in our lives.
In exchange for the support our friends give us during a crisis, most of us also help our friends when they need it.
In a relationship between two emotionally healthy adults, the roles of giving and receiving help are balanced. Both people offer help and receive help from each other in approximately equal amounts.
However, there are some people who always take on the role of being the helper, no matter what relationship they are in.
These people have friendships that focus exclusively on trying to solve the problems of their friends. We sometimes call this quality ‘co-dependency’, and we may label people who are obsessed with helping others ‘co-dependent’.
A person who is co-dependent will tend to have relationships with people who have a lot of problems emotional, social, familial and financial. The co-dependent person may spend much of their own time, money, and energy helping other people who have problems, while ignoring the problems in their own life.
Why would somebody be co-dependent?
A person who is co-dependent often suffers from a deep sense of worthlessness and anxiety, and tries to derive a sense of self-worth by helping or rescuing others. A person who is co-dependent may not know how to relax and feel comfortable in a friendship where both people are equals and the relationship is based on enjoying each others company.
Co-dependent people may even feel anxious if someone they have been helping gets their life in order and no longer wants their help. The co-dependent person may immediately look around for someone else they can ‘save’.
If you frequently take on the role of helping the people who are your friends, how can you tell if you are acting out of genuine kindness and concern, or whether your behavior is in fact co-dependency? There arent really any hard and fast lines between the two.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to see whether your ‘helping’ behavior may actually be co-dependency:
– Do you have a hard time saying no to others, even when you are very busy, financially broke, or completely exhausted?
– Are you always sacrificing your own needs for everyone else?
– Do you feel more worthy as a human being because you have taken on a helping role?
– If you stopped helping your friends, would you feel guilty or worthless?
– Would you know how to be in a friendship that doesnt revolve around you being the ‘helper’?
– If your friends eventually didnt need your help, would you still be friends with them? Or would you look around for someone else to help?
– Do you feel resentful when others are not grateful enough to you for your efforts at rescuing them or fixing their lives?
– Do you sometimes feel like more of a social worker than a friend in your relationships?
– Do you feel uncomfortable receiving help from other people? Is the role of helping others a much more natural role for you to play in your relationships?
– Does it seem as if many of your friends have particularly chaotic lives, with one crisis after another?
– Did you grow up in a family that had a lot of emotional chaos or addiction problems?
– Are many of your friends addicts, or do they have serious emotional and social problems?
– As you were growing up, did you think it was up to you to keep the family functioning?
– As an adult, is it important for you to be thought of as the ‘dependable one’?
If you answered ‘yes’ to a lot of these questions, you may indeed have a problem with co-dependency.
This does not mean that you are a flawed person.
It means that you are spending a lot of energy on other people and very little on yourself.
If it seems that a lot of your friendships are based on co-dependent rescuing behaviors, rather than on mutual liking and respect between equals, you may wish to step back and rethink your role in relationships.
If you suspect that your helping behavior is a form of co-dependency, a good therapist or counselor can help you gain perspective on your actions and learn a more balanced way of relating to others.
There are many excellent books available on the subject of co-dependency. Support groups such as Al-Anon can also help.
Takers and caretakers they often seem to find each other! As a counselor who has worked with relationships for 37 years, I can tell you that this is the most frequent relationship dynamic that I encounter.
Takers are people who tend to be narcissistic that is, they are self-centered with an excessive need for attention and admiration. The taker attempts to control getting love, attention, approval or sex from others with anger, blame, violence, criticism, irritation, righteousness, neediness, invasive touch, invasive energy, incessant talking and/or emotional drama. The taker uses many forms of both overt and covert control to get the attention he or she wants.
Takers not only want a lot of control, but are often afraid of being controlled and become overtly or covertly resistant to doing what someone else wants them to do. The taker might resist with denial, defending, procrastination, rebellion, irresponsibility, indifference, withdrawal, deadness, numbness, rigidity, and/or incompetence.
In a relationship, takers operate from the belief that You are responsible for my feelings of pain and joy. It is your job to make sure that I am okay.
Caretakers, on the other hand, operate from the belief that I am responsible for your feelings. When I do it right, you will be happy and then I will receive the approval I need. Caretakers sacrifice their own needs and wants to take care of the needs and wants of others, even when others are capable of doing it themselves. Caretakers give to others from fear rather than love – they give to get.
Neither takers nor caretakers take responsibility for their own feelings and wellbeing. Takers generally attempt to have control over others giving them the attention and admiration they want in overt ways, while caretakers attempt to have control over getting approval in more covert ways, such as compliance, doing to much for others, and/or withholding their wants and opinions.
Because neither takers nor caretakers are taking care of themselves, they will each end up feeling angry, resentful, trapped, unappreciated, unseen, unloved, misunderstood, and/or unacknowledged.
I tell my clients that whenever they feel this way in a relationship, it is because they are expecting the other person to give them what they are not giving to themselves. When we are not seeing, valuing, acknowledging, or understanding ourselves, and when we are not attending to our own wants and needs, we will always feel upset when others treat us just like we are treating ourselves.
Codependent relationships relationships of two takers, two caretakers, or a taker and a caretaker will always run into problems. Many people leave these relationships, only to discover the same problems in their next relationships. Takers and caretakers can switch places in different relationships and over different issues, but the problems remain the same anger, resentment, distance, lack of sexuality, boredom, feeling unloved and unloving.
There really is a way to heal this.
Relationships heal when individuals heal. When each partner does their inner work, their relationship system heals. When each person learns to take full personal responsibility for his or her own feelings of pain and joy, they stop pulling on each other and blaming each other. When each person learns to fill themselves with love and share that love with each other, instead of always trying to get love, the relationship heals.
Learning how to take 100% responsibility for your own feelings is one of the essential ingredients in creating a healthy relationship. This means learning to be conscious of what you are feeling and being open to learning about what you are doing to create your own feelings, instead of being a victim and believing that others are causing your feelings. Your feelings come from how you treat yourself and others, from what you tell yourself and what you believe about yourself and others, rather than from others behavior. Blaming others for your feelings will always lead to major relationship problems.
Why not start today by taking your eyes off your partner and putting them squarely on yourself? In reality, you are the only one you actually have control over. You are the only one you can change.
0. The coming of the prophet 1. Love 2. Marriage 3. Children 4. Giving 5. Eating and Drinking 6. Work 7. Joy and Sorrow 8. Houses 9. Pets 10. Clothes 11. Buying and Selling 12. Crime and Punishment 13. Laws 14. Freedom 15. Reason and Passion 16. Pain 17. Self-Knowledge 18. Teaching 19. Friendship 20. Talking 21. Time and Space 22. Good and Evil 23. Prayer 24. Pleasure 25. Beauty 26. Religion 27. Death 28. Forms Of Existence 29. Real vs Virtual 30. The Farewell