In a codependent friendship, a lot of the time, one person has more of an influence on the other.
Definition of codependency
: a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person manifesting low self-esteem and a strong desire for approval has an unhealthy attachment to another often controlling or manipulative person (such as a person with an addiction to alcohol or drugs)broadly
: dependence on the needs of or on control by another.Codependency Definition & Meaning – Merriam-Webster
Let’s say you are someone with anxiety who has been in treatment to learn how to cope better and is tasked with the homework to order your own food from a restaurant. (Simple I know, but there are some people who cannot order food because their anxiety spikes and they go into panic attacks unable to remember what to order. I am one of these people.)
Let’s say you had a friend accompany you on this therapeutic homework. You’ve put in the work, calmed yourself down, repeated your order in your head a thousand times, and you feel confident enough to order food. Then your friend says, “what if in the middle of your order you forget everything and start crying like that one time, man that seemed embarrassing.”
Understandably, all confidence goes out the window and you start hyperventilating remembering the horrific encounter and turn, walk out the door, and have your friend order your food feeling defeated.
Your friend may feel a sense of pride in helping you in your struggles, not realizing bringing up bad memories is what lost your confidence. Your friend may think he is helping you by doing everything for you, but honestly, it’s hindering you from becoming independent and taking responsibility for your own life.
This is a codependent friendship in a nutshell. You become dependent on your friend to deal with other people (ordering food, making phone calls, grocery shopping, etc) and he becomes dependent on the false feeling of “helping” a friend.
This is just a general example of codependency. There are some more extreme cases. Please understand there is always a healthy balance of independence and dependence. It becomes a toxic habit when mental, physical, or emotional health takes a toll. Also, when you are actively trying to do better but feel as if you cannot.
Here are a few reasons this hinders the friendship:
- Not taking responsibility for one’s own life. If someone is doing everything for someone else, the person not doing anything is not in control of his/her own life.
- Hidden manipulation tactics can be formed.
- Lack of independence
- Feeling stuck and helpless within the friendship on both ends
- Allowing a friend to suffer for the feeling of helping them can cause resentment later on.
- Unhealthy boundaries set in place
- The blame game gets played more often
- The friendship is built on an unstable foundation of dependency and may not last
Why This is an Unhealthy Pattern
Sometimes we trick ourselves into thinking we are helping people when in reality we are enabling them. Or we may be the type who feels as if we can’t do certain things and let someone else do everything for us. Either way, this type of thinking is not healthy in any relationship.
This limits people to thinking they need so-in-so to survive and get by in life. This is not the case at all. There was a point in time you did not need that person to get by. After childhood, you technically do not need anyone to do everything for you unless you have a disability that hinders you from doing things yourself.
If someone is struggling don’t enable them. Help them see a different way of doing things and help them see they can do things on their own. Guide them, but don’t do everything for them. Be a rock for them to lean on, but don’t be the cage that holds them back from living independently.
Life gets rocky and sometimes we do need guidance. However, never let anyone make you feel as if you need them to survive. No, you don’t. That is unhealthy and if you have the ability to think for yourself with ways to pay bills and eat, then you, my friend, are more capable than you believe. Don’t give your power away to someone who wants to feel a false sense of helping another.
If you feel like you are in a codependent relationship, whichever side of the fence you feel you are on, please know you are not alone. More times than not we fall into this trap unintentionally. There are ways you can start working towards a healthier relationship, here are a few that have helped me. Please note, that this may or may not help your situation.
Reasons and benefits for both parties of letting this pattering go
There are many reasons for letting go of this unhealthy habit. One of the most important reasons is that we are giving our power away or taking away someone else’s power when we find ourselves in a codependent relationship.
I know it’s hard to hear, but we really are responsible for where we end up in life. There are situations we cannot change, that is true, however, we can change our actions and reactions to get to a better place in life.
Here are some great benefits why this pattering should stop:
- Gaining independence
- Truly helping a friend become independent
- Gaining courage, wisdom, and strength
- Stronger bonds in friendships
- Mental clarity
- A deeper understanding of self
- Learning how to handle your own
- Learning how to stop enabling
- Taking accountability and responsibility for one’s own life choices
- Building better boundaries
There are many more benefits when relationships are on equal grounds. Sometimes emotions and fear can cloud our better judgment of ourselves and others. That’s okay, we are human and these things happen. We just have to self-reflect and figure out better ways of doing things from time to time, especially if it starts to take hold of our mental well-being.
Suggested ways to let go
I’m not going to sit here and lie. Learning how to unwind the habits formed during a codependent relationship is not easy. It will take time. There will be mistakes. It will be emotional and challenging. However, it is doable. Here are a few ways to help me stop being dependent on my husband for everything after I went through psychosis and became terrified of the world.
- Start with small things and build yourself up from there. The things you can do without help, do.
- Journal how you felt when doing something you are afraid of. For each fear write down 3 good things you noticed after. This will help train your brain to see the positives, making it get easier each time you do something that scares you.
- When removing a bad habit make sure to replace it with a good habit or any habit could form in place of the bad one.
- Voice how you feel. Don’t shut down or keep quiet just to keep the peace. Sometimes we need to speak up. It will be uncomfortable at first, but with time it will get easier. Just remember to be respectful, and watch your tone of voice, and body language so messages don’t get mixed up.
- Read about codependency and ways you can eliminate codependent behaviors from your life.
- Talk to a therapist and seek guidance from professionals. It’s okay to seek help. If you cannot afford a therapist do some research online, watch related YouTube videos, read blogs, etc…
You got this. The ups, the downs, the crazy loops of this rollercoaster we call life. Even if you hurl, scream, and cry along the way. It’s okay. This life is so hectic at times and it can feel as if everything is out of control. However, once we learn how to control our inner world we can begin to navigate uncontrollable situations a lot easier.
Have you ever been in a codependent relationship? What were some of the ways that helped you once you realized the relationship had become codependent? Comment below.