The Focus On You

Self-Care Is A Lifestyle

Tag: relationships (page 1 of 3)

Codependency: A Dysfunctional Love Story

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A hypothetical story about two fictional characters to help illustrate the dangers of codependent relationships.

Characters:

Minnie – The Codependent  

Alicia – Minnie’s girlfriend

Minnie and Alicia have been in a monogamous relationship for 3 years. They met at a nightclub and instantly hit it off. Alicia gave a sob story over a few beers that night about her recent woes. Alicia and Minnie both happened to be fresh out of relationships and didn’t intend on hooking up with anyone that night.

Minnie fought with her better judgment and immediately started dating Alicia. (1st Red Flag). She admitted that she really needed time to heal from her last relationship and truly didn’t want to be alone. (2nd Red Flag). Minnie never really gave herself space between relationships to lick her wounds or adjust to being single. (#3).

Alicia was a bit of a hot mess when she started dating Minnie. Her finances were a wreck, she had been kicked out by her last 2 roommates and her parents were tired of her drama. Minnie felt compelled to “rescue” Alicia and figured she could help her get back on her feet. She had always been the more “stable” person in her relationships and thought she would be a good influence on her.

Their relationship was great for the 1st year and Alicia found a steady job as a barista near their apartment. Oh, did I forget to mention that Alicia moved in 2 months after they met? (#4).

Nevertheless, they forged a strong relationship, met each other’s parents and hung out with Alicia’s friends almost every weekend. Little did Minnie know that Alicia was horrible with budgeting. She attempted to hide calls from loan companies and still owed her old roommates for utility bills.

Minnie was starting to bury her own secrets as well. As she was helping Alicia rebuild her credit (and her life), Minnie’s credit card bills weren’t being paid on time. She was afraid to say “no” whenever Alicia asked for a loan or asked to cover their check at dinner. (#5) Minnie had a laundry list of complaints that she never talked about with her girlfriend. Alicia would throw guilt trips if Minnie said “maybe” to anything and never showed appreciation for all the times that Minnie helped her out. Minnie secretly wished that Alicia would get a better paying job to help with their debt. Plus, Minnie felt taken advantage of at work because everyone dropped their projects on her desk.

Minnie had so many needs and wishes that no one asked about. She wanted to visit her family this Christmas, go to the beach over the summer, cut back on hosting functions at their apartment and spend more time doing self-care. It felt like Alicia was running her whole life. When she thought of the alternative, being alone, she shook off her resentment (Huge Red Flag) and tucked her feelings deeper into her soul.

Alicia commented one time that Minnie didn’t seem her old “happy” self and the only time she communicated with her was through anger. Minnie admitted that the only way she could be heard was if she yelled. She didn’t have anyone to talk to because most of Minnie’s friends were dealing with their own drama and wouldn’t bother to listen.

As a matter of fact, Minnie realized she couldn’t really lean on anyone because she was considered the “rock.” (Red Flag). Heaven forbid if Minnie had a problem! She was the one who saved everyone else! (That’s a red flag too but I lost count).

Sound familiar???

So why is this considered “dangerous?”

Anytime someone loses a sense of self or loses their voice, it can easily spiral to a mental health crisis or crappy coping skills (Drinking, drugs, excessive spending, unhealthy eating behaviors, risky sexual patterns, etc). Supporting someone means that you shouldn’t suffer financially, emotionally, spiritually, legally or physically. Minnie appeared to be dragged down and wasn’t speaking up to set limits with her partner.

Open communication and respect are essential in any relationship – intimate partners, parents and children, siblings, work relationships. Taking advantage of someone isn’t a sign of respect.

Personally, in my work with addicts I have had clients like Alicia who were shocked to realize how they manipulated their partners. When they learned about codependent traits they wondered if their partner was with them for love or for “necessity.” Codependent people tend to be addicted to others. They have trouble living alone, staying single and tend to attract needy people. Codependency is a desire to be accepted, at the cost of burying your own voice or needs. Click To Tweet

I don’t want you leaving this post thinking that this hypothetical relationship is doomed. In fact, if Minnie was open to detaching from “rescuing” people, could stick to her boundaries and honor her needs, she could have a healthier relationship. Alicia would have to learn to save herself and be willing to compromise with Minnie’s needs.

Minnie’s codependence doesn’t end by leaving a relationship. She will carry those traits and patterns into all of her relationships if she doesn’t realize how to detach, learn self-acceptance and be consistent with her boundaries.

What other help is there for people who have codependent traits?

Professional therapy, Codependent Anonymous (CoDa) groups, Al-Anon (if your partner or family member has substance dependence), Boundary training and books.

One of the best authors and best books on this subject is Melody Beattie’s Codependency No More. I swear by it, recommend it to almost all of my clients and have only heard praise for her teachings.

 

Codependency may seem like a harmless addiction because most codependent people can’t imagine saying NO to others. The argument I hear is, “What’s wrong with helping people?”

My answer to them is always met with silence.

“So who’s helping you?”

Focus on you, learn to say no and save yourself for once.

 

 

What Do We Miss When We Stop Listening?

Lately, I’ve been hooked on a new series on Netflix called “13 Reasons Why.” The story is told from the point of view of a teenage girl who dies by suicide.  13 Reasons Why features flashbacks from her past year in high school and all the hardships she faced prior to her death.

This show made me think about what happens when we don’t listen. Listening skills are not just based on verbal cues. What verbal and non-verbal cues do we miss when we don’t listen?

  • When pains in our body may be signaling us to a serious problem.
  • People’s facial expressions when we ignore them to look at our phone.
  • When we dismiss our dangerous behaviors even though someone we love becomes injured doing the same thing (distracted driving, alcohol intoxication, physical violence, ignoring medical treatment, unsafe sex)
  • When we lose a loved one and in hindsight, remember all the lessons they gave us.
  • When a loved one, friend or child averts eye contact and says “nevermind.”
  • Forgetting important dates because we quickly said “yes” before understanding what we agreed to.
  • Being unaware of our surroundings due to earbuds, scrolling social media and other technological distractions.
  • Being unaware of signs of illness in our loved ones or animals.

As a therapist, I have to be in tune with my clients when they enter my space. Did you know that crossing your arms is a non-verbal sign that says “I’m defensive and probably judging you?” I never cross my arms in session. I cannot appear “blocked” to whatever they’re expressing. I noticed that when I’m off work I cross my arms a lot (because I’m truly OFF DUTY).

What are other non-verbal cues to show you’re “actively listening?”

  • Leaning in towards the person speaking
  • Facing the person speaking
  • Making eye contact

In 13 Reasons Why, the main character, Hannah, tells a male classmate, “Here’s the thing. You’ve never been a girl.” As the world demands that our leaders LISTEN to our voices, their failure to pay attention is costing us our lives. Black Lives Matter wants people to LISTEN and take action. People young and old are YELLING for leaders to understand the impact of stripping away our health care. In hindsight, the characters in this show, realize where they weren’t listening to Hannah and appear remorseful for not being a better friend.

There is power in numbers.

The number of people who will listen to us when we need help.

The number of people calling their elected officials demanding that their rights be protected.

The number of parents who petition for change in their childrens’ schools.

There is power in numbers and power in our voice. If we’re being ignored, politely ask for someone’s attention. Find a way to get their attention. Your doctor, a 2nd opinion doctor, your boss, HR, your teenager, the principal, etc.

What happens when we stop listening?

I’m afraid to find out.

Let’s remember to reconnect, to stay in tune with our bodies and keep an eye on the ones we love. It’s hard to ask for help. Open up that conversation with someone and just listen.

Here are a few statements you can use to show someone you are truly listening

(tip: this is good for supervisors and parents)

“I’m on your side.”

“You’re making total sense.”

“I’m sorry you have to go through all of that.”

“I understand why you feel that way.”

“Wow that must have been frustrating.”

Please share this post with any loved ones or colleagues. Active listening is important in our families and workplaces. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of harming themselves, please use the following resources for assistance.

listening

 

 

listening

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