Is the way that you are ‘being good’ to your loved ones actually caring and good?
Or are you involved in codependent relationships that deplete your energy and resources and don’t even help your loved ones to become healthier?
One way to figure out if the time and energy that you are investing in a relationship is truly helpful to your loved one is to look honestly at what controls your relationship choices. Is it fear?
- Do you make choices in your relationships based on your fear of being seen as selfish and uncaring? If you try to assert your needs with a loved one, and they call you selfish or say ‘it’s always about you,’ do you always give in and let go of your own needs and preferences?
- Do you make choices in your relationships based on your fear of being abandoned or cut out of your loved one’s life? Are you so scared of being left that you will do anything to prevent it? Are you tormented by the idea of seeing yourself or being seen by others as ‘the kind of person’ who has a broken relationship or shattered family?
- Do you make choices in your based on your fear of your loved one becoming angry? If your safety or the safety of your children is truly at risk, please try to get help to get out of your current situation. If it is not a safety issue, however, is it that you cannot tolerate the experience of intense conflict with someone you care about? Are you highly tuned in to your loved one’s moods and always trying to do whatever it takes to prevent him or her from becoming upset?
- Do you make choices in your relationships based on your fear of shattering your loved one’s fantasies? Are you afraid of being seen as pessimistic? When your loved one is on a high of hope or is painting a picture of ‘happily ever after and things are going to change,’ are you scared to burst the bubble? Are you afraid of pointing out that you’ve both been on the rollercoaster many times before, where ‘it’s going to be different this time’ is always followed by the crash and burn of disappointment? Are you afraid of what might happen if your loved one actually faced his or her limitations and unhealthy patterns?
- Do you make choices in your relationships based on your fear of losing your own romantic fantasy? Are you sacred to give up on the fantasy that love conquers all, and that true love transcends dysfunction and unhealthiness? If your loved ones call on you to honor the power of love, are you unable to stand your ground with a limit you’ve tried to set with them?
- Do you make choices in your relationship based on your fear of your loved one seeing the situation differently from how you see it? Are you unable to tolerate it when your loved one’s version of ‘reality’ is radically different from your own version? Are you so afraid of your loved one seeing things in a way that seems crazy to you that you are unable to let go of trying to force them to see it your way?
- Do you make choices in your relationships based on your fear of facing the reality of what you can and cannot control? Are you unable to accept that ‘carrying’ another person’s pain inside of you, or sacrificing yourself to be everything they ask you to be, does not give you the power to change them or alleviate their suffering? Are you so afraid of your own powerlessness that you cannot let go of trying to fix or change things that are not in your power to change?
If you answered yes to all or most of these questions, then you have some work to do before you can be of true help to your loved ones. When your choices in your relationships are based on fear, you are acting from a place of weakness. Fear blinds you from seeing things clearly, and takes away your ability to make choices based on seeing the whole situation clearly. Fear prevents you from accepting the limits to your power, and keeps you stuck in relationship patterns that suck your time and energy into black holes. Fear leads to your emotional, physical, mental, spiritual, and financial depletion, while your loved one continues to cycle through their same old patterns.
Your first priority in transforming your codependent relationships into healthy ones is to get support to face your fears and to move beyond them to a place of strength and stability. If you are not on your own healthy ground, you are of no help to anyone.
With proper support, you can develop the ability to prioritize your own wellness as a matter of self-respect and in order to ensure that you have enough reserves to give to others. You can start to see yourself as a human being, which means having needs of your own that sometimes conflict with others’ wants. You can become skilled at setting limits, saying no, and refusing to be pulled into emotional guilt manipulation. You can begin to make careful and creative choices about how to be there for loved ones while also remaining strong in yourself. You can slowly learn to let go of things that are beyond your power.
This is not easy. Changing the way you relate to the people you care about is challenging and confusing. When you set limits and say no, or even when you refuse to be pulled into another person’s drama, it will scare and upset them. You are likely to face their anger, rage, and withdrawal. They might make dramatic predictions of death and loss and destruction, and scary threats of hurting you or hurting themselves.
Learning how to stay the course amidst this storm is a lifelong process. But it is possible, and the reward is your growing confidence that your precious time, energy and love are being given in the service of real health and wellbeing.