Do you need to tame your anger? Have resentments left you stewing on past hurts? Michelle Farris, LMFT has written a great guest post illuminating how anger infiltrates codependent relationships and how to heal resentments.
3 Ways to Reverse the Rage in Your Codependent Relationship
by Michelle Farris, LMFT
Navigating the emotional ups and downs of a codependent relationship is exhausting. Codependents try to change others while hiding their own hurt. This constant masking of feelings is draining to say the least. Relationships are hard enough to navigate without this added stress.
This stress takes a toll on your relationship because over time these patterns lead to unexpressed anger. It makes you feel alone and dismissed. But in truth, you may be afraid to confront your own needs, which reinforces these resentments.
A codependent relationship is characterized by:
- the need to excessively help
- a one-sided connection that reinforces denying their own needs
- difficulty being emotionally honest
- continuous attempts at changing others
- thinking that everything is your problem or responsibility
Notice your self-talk.
We all have a running dialogue of thoughts in our head; we just don’t pay much attention to them. These thoughts are both positive and negative and play a large role in determining your mood and enjoyment. What you think, you create.
Every problem starts with your thinking. The codependent focuses on what isn’t working. You see everything as a problem you need to solve. This creates a dysfunctional dynamic where the other person feels like “the problem” rather than an equal.
Codependents take responsibility for everything around them – including what their loved ones are doing. They typically have a long “to do” list in their heads. Nothing is ever done because there is always something else to do! This creates a mountain of stress that, when unexpressed, turns into anger.
Pay attention to what you tell yourself and you’ll find where your thoughts are off track!
Example: “If only my partner would stop drinking, everything would be okay.”
This is typical self-talk of a codependent. You think that if others will change, your life will get better. Unfortunately, no one has the power to change others so this leads to a lot of frustration.
Tip: Improving your self-talk helps codependents focus on what they can control – themselves. This means looking at your expectations of others and where you need to let go.
Adjust your expectations.
Codependents often have unrealistic expectations in relationships.
Having expectations in relationships is normal. It is perfectly fine to expect your spouse to be faithful or a friend to support you. However, when you expect people to be what they are not – those expectations become unrealistic. You basically set yourself up for disappointment.
Do you say to yourself things like…
- I shouldn’t have to ask.
- I’m just going to try harder.
- If only he’d do X everything would be great.
- Why can’t they change?
- Why can’t they give to me like I do?
Another expectation is expecting others to know what you need without having to ask. Over time, you hope that they will “get it” because you keep giving what you hope to get. But it doesn’t work that way. Each person has their own love language that when unexpressed leads to anger.
According to Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages, the different ways people want to be loved are:
- Acts of service
- Physical touch
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
Being honest about what you need gives others an opportunity to love you. The only way your codependent relationship will improve is if you can ask for what you want directly. Otherwise, you do the same thing expecting different results – the definition of insanity!
Let go of resentments.
Holding onto resentments poisons you not them.
In 12 step recovery programs, resentments are known as “taking poison expecting the other person to die”. For codependents, that is painfully true. It is a struggle to be honest. You may avoid conflict because being liked is valued over self-care. Not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings becomes your primary aim.
As a result, these resentments build. A laundry list of old hurts is shoved aside until you can’t contain them anymore. They leak out in sarcastic comments or you finally explode.
Handling emotions is an important part of self-care. It also affects relationship satisfaction. When you learn how to handle resentments, it gives the relationship a chance to heal. Giving your concerns a voice soothes the rage.
If you have ever launched into a conversation impulsively, you know that it doesn’t turn out well. You end up getting lost in the emotion and not resolving anything. This four-step process for healing resentments is a tool to minimize resentments and avoid the blame that keeps you stuck.
The 4 step process for healing resentments:
- Express your frustrations through journal writing.
- Plan what you need to say to the person resented.
- Stick to the facts and avoid judgments and blame.
- Own your part in the situation.
The last one, looking at your part takes courage. Complaining about others is an easy pass-time. If you can see your contribution, empathy is easier and the resentment lessens. It’s difficult to admit, but if you think about it, you took actions (or non-actions) that played a role in the outcome. That is the solution!
Positive self-talk, adjusting expectations and letting go of resentments helps to reverse the rage in codependent relationships. It takes practice to put yourself first and tell your truth. Learning how to be authentic in relationships is an important goal of codependency recovery.
About the author:
Michelle Farris is a licensed psychotherapist in San Jose, CA who helps people with anger, codependency, relationship issues and substance abuse. Don’t miss Michelle’s Taming Your Anger Master Class, available now.
©2016 Michelle Farris. All rights reserved.