Do your relationships leave you feeling drained? Have you noticed that you are doing more than your share or more than you are asked to keep others happy? Is your role always to be the “fixer,” expected to solve any problems that arise?
You may describe yourself as the most supportive, kind, and helpful person you know. As someone who prides themselves on being loyal and dependable, you are always available to your loved ones as a shoulder to cry on. Because you are organized, practical, and strategic, everyone comes to you with their problems.
And while you have been praised and celebrated for these wonderful qualities, perhaps you don’t realize the codependent nature of your relationships. These positive qualities may be working against you, keeping you stuck in one-sided relationships where you perform most of the emotional labor.
With codependency, you may struggle to set healthy boundaries and find that you say yes to things when you actually mean no. Perhaps you want to rescue others from their poor life choices, but neglect your own self-care and feelings in the process. In your quest to please others, you may stay in unhealthy relationships for too long or play small in life because you don’t want to make anyone feel bad.
The result of putting others’ needs first may have shattered your self-esteem. Maybe you’ve become your own worst critic, constantly judging and blaming yourself. When others take you for granted, you might feel like you deserve it rather than valuing yourself as an equal partner in the relationship.
However, relationships shouldn’t leave you feeling lost, hopeless, and drained. Therapy for codependency can help you recognize the unhealthy patterns that keep you stuck in unbalanced relationships. By fostering self-love, you can learn how to put your needs first.
Oftentimes in relationships, we are told we should be selfless and put others’ needs ahead of our own. While this sounds noble, it can lead to codependency, where our over-investment in the needs of others leads to an unhealthy, one-sided relationship.
When we are always worrying about the other person and putting their needs before our own, we often end up seeking external validation instead of relying on self-love. With the focus always outside of ourselves, the currency of our worthiness becomes what we can do for others.
Codependent relationships don’t discriminate against age, social status, or ethnicity. These dynamics can show up not just in couples but also in our relationships with parents and siblings, social relationships ranging from best friends to neighbors, or in the workplace or academia.
As children, codependent behaviors can be necessary for our survival. Perhaps our caregivers made their emotions the top priority and it became our responsibility to care for them. If we didn’t feel safe and protected by them, we may have learned to hide our needs and feelings. And if our emotions were ignored or punished, we may have developed people-pleasing skills to cope. These types of unhealthy family dynamics wrongly taught us that our emotions didn’t matter or weren’t worth attending to.
Now, as adults, these behaviors are not as adaptive. We fear that being honest or vulnerable will push people away and so we struggle to leave unhealthy relationships until they are completely unbearable. Codependency prevents us from developing stable, safe, and loving relationships.
But working with a therapist for codependency will teach you healthier relationship skills. By understanding the difference between secure attachment and codependency, as well as how to support others rather than rescue them, you can ensure that your relationships will become more equitable and fulfilling.
When you think of codependency, you might think, “If I learn how to say ‘no,’ I can change my relationships with other people.” While it’s true that overcoming codependency requires you to set healthier boundaries with others, this is not where we will start.
The initial goal of codependent relationship counseling will be to help you work through your feelings and identify your needs. You have spent years focusing and attending to others’ needs and wants. Perhaps you’ve tried so hard to make sure everyone else is happy that you don’t even remember the last time checked in with yourself. As you begin to feel your feelings, you will learn to hold them compassionately and non-judgmentally.
Therapy for Codependency is changing the way you view your needs so that you value them, which will help you advocate for them. It is about regaining your sense of self and reconnecting with yourself so that you can show up more authentically in your relationships.
Therapy will help you better understand what drives your codependency. You will ask yourself hard questions like “What is the payoff for being the rescuer or needed all the time?”, exploring the difference between a loving and a toxic relationship.
Codependency doesn’t happen overnight—many life experiences played a role in how you developed these tendencies. The way you will repair and strengthen the relationship you have with yourself is by understanding early life experiences that may be to blame for current behaviors. By uncovering what triggers your codependent tendencies, you will gain insight, clarity, and awareness.
People pleasing and codependency go hand in hand. In therapy, you will address the unhealthy boundaries that have left you mentally and emotionally drained. Overcoming codependency does not mean you let go of positive qualities about yourself, like being supportive or a good listener. Recovery from codependency does mean you will learn to assert your needs and set those boundaries unapologetically.
We will also help you nurture self-love and forgiveness. When you’re healing from your past and making positive changes, you may become disappointed in yourself for the decisions you have made up until now. If you don’t address self-loathing and self-blame, then therapy won’t bring about sustainable change. As a therapist specializing in codependency, I can help you develop self-compassion, self-advocacy, and self-protection, too.
We utilize Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for codependency to help you uncover unhealthy, negative, or rigid thoughts, attitudes, and belief systems.
In CBT, you will identify these underlying unhealthy belief systems that reinforce your codependent behaviors and patterns. Once identified, you will find ways to challenge and reframe them. We will also explore behavioral changes to support your new way of thinking, such as assertive communication, setting firm boundaries, ending relationships, saying no, and making time for self-care.
With treatment, you can break free from people-pleasing and other codependent behaviors and put yourself first. Prioritizing your relationship with yourself will improve your relationships with others and make life more fulfilling.
I want to save my relationship—isn’t therapy for codependency about leaving an unhealthy relationship?
As therapists specializing in codependency, we will never tell you what to do. We may explore options and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of staying in the relationship, but ultimately you will be the one who makes the decisions about your life. A big part of codependent behavior revolves around people-pleasing and neglecting your needs. The goal of codependency therapy is to help you relearn and redefine healthy boundaries and communication so your relationship can improve.
Shouldn’t I go to couples counseling with my partner if I have codependency? How will individual counseling for codependency help?
While you may want to also utilize couples therapy, individual therapy will be important to help you understand the origin of your codependent behaviors. We will identify past experiences that shaped your view of relationships, including codependency that may stem from childhood experiences. In individual therapy, you will work on your relationship with yourself so that you can show up for others in a healthier way. What’s more, codependency therapy can help you process and organize your wants and needs so that you can express them in couples therapy more effectively.
Right now, codependency may be holding you back from living for yourself. With support, you’ll build more peaceful and joyous relationships. To schedule an appointment to begin therapy for codependency at our Woodland Hills therapy practice or online, please fill out the contact form to schedule a free phone consultation.
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