I just read a list of codependent behaviors on the internet and realized a ton of them describe the ways I have navigated/still navigate my relationships. Particularly: getting upset/stressed about other people’s problems and trauma, abandoning my needs to cater to others, and getting strong dips in my self-worth/self-confidence when the people in my life aren’t totally happy/excited about me.
I realize these issues can’t be fixed without tons of work but do you have any “in the moment” solutions that can at least stave off these responses/emotions when I feel overwhelmed by them?
I ask because I’m seeing someone new and I really like them, like they are so dang cute and the time I spend with them feels great so I’d really like to keep that going and I’m starting to worry that these behaviors could really get in the way!
I Just Can’t Hide It
Dear I Just Can’t,
Oftentimes the ways we relate to people we are romantically and/or sexually attracted to run along tracks that are deeply grooved in our minds, emotions, and bodies so it can be tough to change those patterns by just saying “Hey! Cut it out, self!”
The ways we learned to get our emotional and physical needs met as small infants (professionally dubbed our “attachment style” by the likes of psychologists Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby) carry over into our adult relationships in ways that can be both beneficial and/or problematic. Your tendency to abandon your own needs in order to cater to others, for example, may have been a great efficient strategy to get what you needed as a child in relation to your caregivers but in your present adulthood, it’s no longer serving you as well.
This doesn’t mean that this tendency is bad or wrong, but it does mean it’s maladaptive and is now causing you more harm than good, more unhealthy relationships than healthy, and so might be due for a tune-up. Working with a therapist might help this exploration and shift.
Meanwhile, if you want to learn more about attachment styles and how they factor into adult relationships, check out Stan Tatkin’s easy-to-digest book Wired for Love (though I don’t agree with ALL he says in that book, overall it’s an interesting read and breaks down attachment theory well).
As for quicker-to-apply strategies, I’m noticing that many of the things you’ve listed above as “codependent behaviors” are actually primarily feelings or thoughts that might be leading you to codependency…continue reading…