Beliefnet
Doing Life Together

couple-2101606_1920Jenny loves Rick, but is showing signs of  codependency. She needs Rick’s approval and basis her sense of identity on his reactions. She feels she must care for him at all costs in order to be worthy of his love. When a problem arises, she doesn’t confront because she worries he won’t love her or respond well. Basically, Jenny has learned to define herself through Rick. She sees his unhealthy behavior but justifies his actions. The support she gives Rick comes at a cost to her own mental health.

Jenny decided to talk to a counselor who helped her see that she was helping Rick stay in an unhealthy place. All her efforts to “help” were only enabling unhealthy behavior. She recognized that she was feeling responsible for his behavior and allowing him to rationalize his need to change. Here is what the counselor helped Jenny think about in order to recognize her codependency:

  1. Was she feeling responsible for solving Rick’s problems? She was and began to see that without her input, Rick would fail but needed to do so because she could not continue to carry the burden of his irresponsibility.
  2. Was she feeling used and unappreciated for the enormous amount of energy she gives to this relationship? And then when her put is ignored, she feels angry.
  3. Does she take things too personally? Due to the lack of boundaries, Jenny believes all problems reflect on her. She often talks about feeling powerless and victimized.
  4. Does she regularly make excuses for Rick’s behavior? She was making excuses to her friends who saw Rick’s problems, to her family who kept raising red flags. In her heart, she believed she had the power to change Rick.
  5. Does she feel if she leaves this relationship, she is unlovable? This was the core belief that kept her codependent. Without Rick, she believed she would be rejected by any man. Her self-esteem depended on this relationship alone.

Jenny wanted to stay in the relationship with Rick but knew she had to change the way she responded to him. She had to break this pattern of doing for, making excuses and being too dependent on him. Bottom line, she can’t control Rick or fix him. Accepting the fact that she is powerless over him was the first step. Her significance comes from being a child of God, not from Rick’s approval. Setting healthy boundaries will shake the relationship, a reason she needs the counselor’s help. As she better defines who she is apart from Rick, the better she will be at setting those boundaries and moving out of a codependent pattern.

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