Codependency in relationships can drive us apart, but there are ways to heal. In this episode of The Resilient Self, Chris Neal LPC discusses ways codependency can affect relationships. He explains five primary ways codependency can affect our relationships, and gives suggestions on what to do about it.
Some key signs of codependency include:
- Not forming other meaningful relationships, or allowing your partner to have friends. This can be especially true for the forming of same-sex platonic friendships.
- Putting decision-making on others. Do you struggle to make decisions, even about everyday things? This can actually cause friction in your relationships.
- Demanding affirmation of our own perspectives and opinions. Do you know the difference between a request and a demand? Chris uses Non-Violent Communication concepts to explain the difference.
- Being controlling or manipulative.
- Putting people on pedestals. This can create so many problems in relationships! Chris explains how.
Chris Neal, LPC
Chris provides counseling in Oklahoma City, OK. With a practice focus on adults, he works with individuals and couples on a range of concerns.
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Hi everybody, and welcome to this week’s show. We’re going to stay on codependency this week. There’s so much to flush out on this important topic. And today I want to talk about how codependency can affect your relationships. I’m Chris Neal]. I’m a licensed therapist and I have a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. And I help people reclaim their lives through self-compassion, through learning to set terrific boundaries in their lives and through taking charge of their own happiness.
So when we talk about codependency, realize that we’re talking about in addition to the need to be needed really drawing our own sense of self from others. And this leads us down some really difficult roads, particularly when we are in a relationship. And it doesn’t really matter if the person is also codependent or not, struggling with any kind of boundary issues or even if they’re narcissistic, which realize narcissists and codependent people often go together very easily. They’re drawn to each other for a lot of reasons. We talked about that in previous episodes. And so I’ll refer you back to those if you want to check that out.
But today I want to talk about just five ways that codependency can show up in your relationships. And so if you know there’s codependency in your relationship, you may be able to identify these behaviors and also flipping that around if you see these behaviors and you’re not sure if there’s codependency in your relationship. Well maybe that gives you something to think about. So let’s get started on this. To begin with, oftentimes when there’s codependency we can fail to form other meaningful relationships besides this primary relationship and sometimes we can often make it impossible or try to prevent our partner from forming other meaningful relationships. Don’t forget that we tend to draw a lot of our own self worth from this other person. We invest a lot in that relationship and we demand that they invest a lot back in us. And so if you find yourself really not having any interest at all in developing other relationships, other quality relationships, that may be something to look to.
Nobody can be everything to their partner and it’s important that we actually can, can form other relationships that can support us in times of need or just in social situations. Our partner can’t do it all for us. And so if you’re trying to put all of that on your partner or you, you, you don’t even want your partner to have other friends then that’s something to really consider in your relationship. That can be a codependent tendency because again, we try to draw all of that affirmation, all of that sense of self from the other person. And if that person’s off having a guys night or a ladies night or just running around my friends, or even just spending time when we think we want to get our attention bucket filled up, then that can really throw us into kind of a state of dysregulation if we have codependent tendencies.
Another way that codependently shows up in relationships is we tend to put decision making on others quite a bit. Now, there are a lot of reasons for this. One is that we just put a lot of stock in what that person brings to our lives. We can often feel like our partner is sort of the expert on our lives and so we can be insecure about our own decision making ability, which is very common in codependency. But then we also have this other person that we trust and we love and we put the, the decision making on them. Now this is pretty convenient in a lot of ways because if things go well, we haven’t had to go through the stress of making those decisions. It, it removes us from that responsibility.
But also if things don’t go well, we are not to blame. We haven’t disappointed our partner. We haven’t failed our relationship. If the partner makes the decision and it doesn’t go well, even if it’s something just as simple as going out to eat. Let’s say you’re trying to decide to go out to eat and and the partner says, “where do you want to go?” You say, “I don’t really care. You pick,” which in and of itself, not necessarily a bad thing unless every single time you’re incapable of making that decision and you put that off on your partner.
Well if you go to a new Mexican food restaurant and it’s terrific, then you haven’t had to make that decision and then you can just continue to put all that responsibility on your partner. “Hey, you picked a great restaurant last time. Why don’t you do it again this time?” Now, if the food is terrible, then you’re not the one who has failed the relationship. You’re not the one who has failed your partner and maybe made them unhappy with you because you picked a bad restaurant. And so it’s also a way of insulating ourselves from rejection a little bit. And so be willing to make some decisions in your relationship. I think it’s important that we share those kinds of things, that that’s one of those things that is co-created in a relationship.
We can also with our, with our partners in codependent relationships, kind of demand affirmation for our own opinions or decisions when we do make them. Now when I say demand I want to call on nonviolent communication theory a little bit here. In nonviolent communication theory, which if you haven’t read Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg, that’s a terrific read. I will give you the link below so that you can check that out. That was a game changer for me, both just as an individual and also as a therapist. But they talk about in Nonviolent Communication, the difference between a request and a demand is that a demand is a request where you’re unwilling to hear no. If you’re making a request and you’re unwilling to hear no, you’re not making a request, you’re making a demand.
And sometimes in relationships we do that. It’s not that we can nevermake demands. S ome things are deal breakers, but we need to be aware of what we’re doing. And so often in codependency, in relationships, if we have opinions about something, it could be something big or something small. Even something like, “Hey, I’m having a good time here at the fair,” we just had the fair here in my city, I’m having a great time. At the fair. “Aren’t you having a great time?” And if the person goes, “Eh, not so much.” And we feel like it’s our job to make sure that person has a good time. And so when they’re not, we take that personally. We get offended, we get hurt. And so a lot of times when we expect our partner to support our decisions to the extent that they always agree with them, they always affirm our decisions or our opinion. Even something as simple as, am I having fun?
When we can’t do that, then that can be a sign of codependency in the relationship. And it can create a lot of conflict and it can create a lot of those kinds of conflict where one person just kinda is mad at the other one, but they’re not really talking about it. They just kinda get grouchy all of a sudden. And then all of a sudden we get this because “Are you mad? Well, why are you mad? Well, I’m mad cause I think you’re mad.” Well, that’s not a reason to get mad or upset. And we see this over and over and relationships. I’m mad because I think you’re mad. And when we run into those, then we get all kinds of communication troubles and it can be really destructive or toxic in a relationship.
Being Controlling in Codependency
Now to that end what codependent people can do is try to construct a reality around themselves where not only are other people holding them up giving them their sense of self, but the codependent people are also kind of the center of things that are good and right or accurate. And again, not really in a narcissistic way. We talked about some things last week that can show up in codependency and easily confused with narcissism, but they’re not, it comes from a very different place. And so when the codependent who is often very insecure has some firmly held opinions about things, and maybe it’s not even an opinion, it’s maybe just a sense of something or just a way that they want things to be organized in a relationship or in a situation. Oftentimes codependent people can be very controlling and manipulative and trying to construct that reality around them.
So if you catch yourself kind of in manipulative or controlling behaviors, it’s possible that grows out of codependency. And so maybe diving down into that like I’ve talked about, there’s a terrific book called Codependent No More. Hang on. I’ve got it right here. Yeah, here it is. This is what it looks like. The most recent version. I will put a link to this down below to… Melody Beatty has really nailed it in this. She gives a nice little history of codependency and she gives a lot of terrific information and also ways to heal. And I love how she’s just very open and authentic about her own past in that book as well. So if you haven’t checked out codependent no more great book. If you catch yourself trying to be manipulative or controlling of others a lot, especially if you don’t really know why then you just kinda recognize you’re doing it or maybe you’re getting accused of it and you even struggle to see that then, maybe looking into some traits of codependency in your relationship could help.
And finally putting people on pedestals, don’t forget codependence… People who are codependent love to have an idol, they love to have a person that is sort of their model, that is their bastion of all that is good and right. And of course what we want them to think that all that is good and right is us. We want to pull that affirmation and that sense of just wellbeing and self from that other person so we can put that person up on a pedestal. We can think they can do no wrong, especially when they’re giving us what we want. Again, go back to the love bombing episode. This is why this cycle works for narcissists. Because when they love bomb you, you are getting all that affirmation and support from the narcissists and you’re putting them up on that pedestal right where they want to be.
Now people who are not narcissists may not want to be on a pedestal. The, and here’s the problem with putting people on a pedestal. I don’t think we see people clearly when they’re up there. We overlook their faults. We can sometimes accept behaviors that we think are not OK. And sometimes we can put them into really uncomfortable positions, especially if the person is not negotiating, being up there. It can really create a lot of discomfort.
The descent from a pedestal is never smooth. And so people fall from pedestals. And so this makes it really hard for the people in your life to be people to be fallible. It makes it really hard for the codependent person to accept imperfection, to accept failures on the part of their partner. So when we put people on pedestals that puts a lot of responsibility on them to be perfect, and when they’re not, the person putting them up there doesn’t understand that they can’t wrap their brain around it.
And it is just tragic for that relationship because when they come down, they come tumbling down and it can just throw a relationship into complete disarray. And so I think that is really one of the most destructive qualities in codependency in a relationship is putting people on pedestals. So there we have it five different ways that codependency can show up in your relationships, failing to form other meaningful relationships or allowing your partner to do the same. Putting all of the decision making on other people demanding affirmation of our own opinions. Just being manipulative, trying to control other people to construct this reality around ourselves that we feel should be in place. And then putting people on pedestals and all of the fallout that can occur from that.
So what do you think of these? Are these things that are meaningful to you in any way? Is this helpful information? I would love to hear from you in the comments or through email. You can check out my website, chrisneal.com. And please do subscribe if you’re on iTunes or Slack or I mean not Slack, Stitcher. Then you can click on the subscribe button. If you’re here on YouTube, then click the subscribe button. Be sure to click the little bell so that you get updates every time we update the channel… Every time I update the channel… I say we like I have this giant team or something… To me looking at my camera. So maybe the Royal we, I don’t know. But anyway, it’s me and, whenever I update, which is usually every Wednesday, then you’ll get a reminder about that and you can check it out. So thanks again for being here. I am really just so grateful that you spend time with me on the show and until next time, take care.