Can codependency be a good thing? In this guest post by Michelle Farris, she tells us the truth about the benefits of codependency. Perhaps codependency isn’t something we need to be ashamed of!
Do you find yourself putting everyone else’s needs before your own? If saying “no” or setting limits makes you feel anxious, it may be a sign of codependency. When you can’t ask for what you need, you end up feeling invisible in relationships. You may be great at taking care of others but neglecting yourself becomes the end result.
On one hand you’re remarkable at perceiving what others needs. The struggle is finding that balance between your needs and being there for the ones you love. For someone who is codependent, the need for approval makes this a constant challenge.
What is codependency?
Codependency is a pattern of helping, trying to control or giving to others at your own expense. You neglect your own needs because your identity is wrapped up in being a caretaker. How you define yourself is largely based on what you do for others.
By putting everyone else’s needs first, you look like the nice guy. You don’t want to risk complaining or saying “ouch, that hurts.” Instead, you secretly struggle with resentment. You ignore it because you’d rather be liked than honest.
These behaviors strain relationships but they also give you recognition. You are known as everyone else’s superhero: you’re dependable and everyone in your life knows it.
Although codependency causes hurt and frustration, there are positive strengths inherent in these patterns. In moderation, these traits are an asset. They draw people towards you and help you make fast connections.
This blog is meant to highlight the positive aspects of codependency, not minimize the pain associated with these behaviors.
The Benefits of Codependency
1) Codependents are incredibly generous and giving.
The heart of a codependent runs deep. You have a sincere desire to help and ease the pain of others. Your heart hurts to see others struggle. Being compassionate is second nature to you. These traits are a magnet for those with a need for constant support.
People trust you with their deepest pains because you are empathetic. You know what it feels like to suffer, but you may not share it publicly. The difference is that you can put your pain aside to help others.
Tip: Strive for moderation. Most people who struggle with codependency are afraid of what others will think if they stop taking care of everyone. Recognize that giving is only one reason people like you. Your generosity shouldn’t increase your stress. If it does, it’s time to find ways to contribute that are more aligned with your needs.
2) Codependents can sense uncomfortable emotions around you better than anyone else.
Codependency is developed in childhood as a response to coping with addiction, neglect or abuse. When children’s needs aren’t met, they look for ways to stay safe and avoid the abuse. They learn how to take the emotional temperature of others in order to stay safe. Reading other people’s feelings and behaviors becomes your unique gift. You know where there is tension in a room and how to avoid it.
In adult relationships you are extremely perceptive and able to pick up on the littlest of upsets. You may find yourself taking things personally as a result.
Tip: Trust these feelings as your guide. They serve you well in most situations but that doesn’t mean you need take action. Being able to recognize other people’s emotions gives you an opportunity to choose. If it’s the same old drama, let it go. There is a great quote; “Not your circus, not your monkeys” that keeps you focused on your feelings and your problems.
3) Codependents are a rock of support and reliability.
People know they can depend on you no matter what. You have proven again and again that you are extremely loyal. You know what to say in a crisis and use that “emotional superpower” to know how to be supportive. You have a stellar reputation as a volunteer and friend because you always contribute and people count on that.
Tip: Make conscious choices when committing to something new. Remember that it’s okay to do less. True friends want you to take better care of yourself. They don’t expect you to give endlessly and if they do then it’s time to re-evaluate the relationship. You deserve to have relationships that are mutual and satisfying.
Healing codependency starts with practicing moderation. The qualities that your friends and family love about you don’t have to be discarded completely. Every asset becomes a liability when taken too far. But if you’re conscious of this, you will be able to recognize when you’re over-extended and take a step back.
It will take effort at first, but over time, balancing what you give to others with what you need to be happy gets easier. Appreciate your generosity by giving yourself the time and attention so freely lavished on everyone else. Remember, the true test of recovery for a codependent is bringing that loving care back to you.
About the author
©2017 Michelle Farris, LMFT.