Lessons in Co-Dependence #Codependence #Boundaries
So many people ask me about co-dependence. All human beings have the potential to be co-dependent because it comes from a desire to help others. However, I propose to you that it has a lot to do with a drive to control others or situations. The drive to control often comes from a desire to help, but it is a control issue nonetheless. Co-dependence is a tendency to step in and do too much (take too much responsibility) for other people and other people’s problems. When you do this, you take away the opportunity for the other person to solve his/her own problems, to fail, to develop new skills, to hit a wall and fall down, to grow. Here are some common co-dependent circumstances:
1. Your kids don’t do what you told them to do (e.g., clean their room, do their homework), and you regularly step in to fix their problems. Issue: Why would your kids ever do anything differently? They have you to do the dirty work for them. Solution: Let your kids fail and experience the consequences. It will be a great lesson. That being said, you cannot let your kids fail in school, but you can let them see real consequences — not being able to play a sport due to a low grade or losing electronics or not having any clean clothes to wear because they are on the bedroom floor.
2. Your co-worker keeps dumping work on you. WTF?! When you are on group projects, you do the work for him/her. Issue: What incentive does that person have to improve? S/he has you well-trained to do all of the work. It is a cush deal! Solution: Stop doing all of the fucking work. You’re giving it away! Do your part, and be done. If there is an issue, be honest with that person and perhaps, your boss. Go on record in a respectful way, but don’t do all the work unless you are going to get paid double.
3. You have a significant other who mismanages money for whatever reason. It drives you crazy, and you argue. You nag. You set up a budget for him. You buy him a book on finance, but you are the only reader. And, you keep stepping in to throw more money out to fix the current issue. Nothing changes except that you have learned a lot about money. (You can also insert any other problem here.) Issue: Your partner isn’t seriously concerned about fixing the issue that you agree is a problem because you keep stepping in to fix it. It is YOUR problem and not your partner’s problem because you are owning it. Solution: Separate your money, and let the other person go to town fucking up their own account. (You can also insert any other problem here.) Minimize the impact upon you, and let things unravel. What you are doing isn’t working if nothing changes. Can it hurt to try something new?
4. People at work, church, school, etc call and ask you to do extra work all of the time. You hate to say “no” because they seem so desperate. They indicate that no one else is available. They really need you. Issue: They never need to look too far because you are always there to step in. There is no need to expand the pool of available help because you are Johnny Dependable. Solution: Open your mouth, put your tongue on the front part of the roof of your mouth, and produce the “N” sound. Begin moving your lips into the shape of an “O”. Put the sounds together to say “No.” No excuses necessary. Just “no.” It will be a gift of necessity that others can explore options other than you. You will be doing them a favor actually. I often hear in response, “I can’t do that.” I reply, “You choose not to, but you are able to say no when you are ready.”
5. Your adult child keeps asking for money. (It doesn’t matter if s/he has a job or not.) Issue: You are like a free ATM machine that never runs out of money. It is like a dream come true. Solution: Stop now! While there may be a one-time situation where an emergency loan is needed, subsidizing your child’s lifestyle robs him of the opportunity to learn to budget and self-support. Nothing builds self-esteem like learning how to support oneself. Your child is likely living beyond his means, and there is no incentive to downsize while Santa Mom and Dad are giving away free money.
6. You find yourself trying to please everyone around you. Issue: Who is pleasing you, and what kind of life do you have running around trying to “make” everyone else happy? First of all, you can’t “make” anyone happy. Each one of us is responsible for her own feelings. Second of all, the most important person to make happy is you, and if you aren’t doing that, what the fuck does it matter? Your ass is flapping in the wind. Third, you’re jacked all over the place because not everyone wants the same thing. Solution: Let others be disappointed with you. Welcome them to the real world where disappointment exists. Don’t respond to the disappointment. Let it be. Let the person experience the sadness, anger, disgust, whatever. The other person deserves to experience the full range of human emotion. Once they see they can’t control you with guilt, they will MOMF too.
I am pulling “Just Say No, Mother Fucker!” from the archives to celebrate lessons in co-dependence. The cure for co-dependence is saying “no” — boundaries.
Just Say “No”, Mother Fucker
Isee a lot of folks who have a hard time saying no, and they’re really nice people. Others love them. They’re well-mannered, dependable, and well, they always want to help. At the same time, they are often feel overwhelmed, harried, and guilty because they can’t give more. I’m here to tell you that if you are one of these people, Just say, “No!” Mother Fucker
When you say yes to everyone else, it is like you are saying, “Your shit is more important than my shit”, and then your shit never gets done. You better believe that no one else is going to do your shit — not that you really want them to anyway — but an offer now and then wouldn’t hurt. This happens at work and at home. If this is you, people are drawn to you like the Trump to Putin. I mean, why not? People can get you to do their work, solve their problems, and fix their emotional baggage without a whole lot of effort.
I get it. You want to help people. It feels good to be liked and to feel important. However, it comes at a high price, my friend. Individuals who have a hard time saying “no” often feel unhappy because at some point, it becomes obvious that while you have everyone else’s back, your ass is hanging in the wind. You are aware of that even if you try not to think about it.
There are a lot of excuses why you don’t say no. “She needs me.” “What will he do if I am not there?” “There is no one else to help.” Sometimes this assessment is accurate; sometimes it is not. I will argue that as long as you are there to do for others, there is no incentive for them to learn to do for themselves. Ever heard “necessity is the mother of invention”? No need to come up with a solution if it isn’t your problem. The world will not come to an end if you aren’t there to “fix it.” There are times when you are truly needed, but I am saying that you need to first take a breath and ask yourself if this is that situation. Why are you feeling the need to do something? Most likely, it has more to do with you and your need to fix.
Let me spit in your soup. When we overprotect others from dealing with their own shit, we prevent them from growing as human beings. Humans grow from pain. Humans grow from mistakes. Humans grow because there is a gap between where we are and where we want to be. If you are always jumping in to save the day, you are actually getting in the way of that person’s development. As well, you are communicating to that person that you don’t think she is competent or able to solve her own problems. Is that the message you really want to send?
Back to you. When you start saying no to things that you don’t really want to do, it will likely feel terrible. You will feel guilty and second guess yourself. Catch that. Tell yourself that you are actually helping the person learn problem solving skills. You are feeding growth. You are giving someone else a chance to pitch in. Notice your discomfort and just sit with it. It is neither good nor bad. It just is. Then, MOMF. Don’t think about it anymore. You will be surprised that the more you do this, the easier it will become, and the better you will feel. First time: “No, I’m sorry. I can’t do that. I have some other commitments.” Second time: “No. I’m sorry. I can’t.” Third time: “No.” Fourth time: “Get the fuck away from me. Move on mother fucker.”