Codependency is a common occurrence in many relationships…many of which we can recognize the dysfunction of but don’t always know how to fix or even that it’s actually codependency. Basically codependency is when one person relies on another person too much.
The other side is when someone enables or allows someone to lean on them too much. This is important to understand because most often, it’s where the solution lies. Very rarely does someone that is getting what they want and feel they need going to stand up and say: “hold on a minute…I’m really getting what I want and it’s not fair to you or me, so I think I’ll make my own life more difficult and suffer more so that you can begin taking care of you”.
The solution lies in the “giver” setting the limits, not the “taker”. So if you are preventing someone from experiencing the natural consequences of their actions in an attempt to protect them from suffering, please understand you aren’t helping them. The pain you are attempting to protect them from, is the very thing that can help them decide to make the change that is necessary.
I’m not saying to never help anyone. We ALL need help at times. However if you’re honest with yourself it’s not difficult to see the difference between helping someone and enabling them. It’s based on two main things:
1 - Is this a recurring pattern? If someone continually needs help over and over, that’s not life being difficult. That’s the person not learning how to work with life. And if you keep helping, they will never learn what they need to learn to take care of themselves and feel the self-love and self-respect that comes with it.
2 - Are they taking action necessary to either help themselves out of the situation or prevent it from happening again? This is closely related to number 1 but a little different. Are their behaviors changing? Are they talking like a victim? Like this happened to them, it’s not their fault and there’s no way to prevent it from happening again? Do they have a plan to prevent this in the future and are they ACTING on that plan? Many codependent people can talk a good game and say what they know you want to hear, but are they ACTING on it? Can they prove it? Or are they saying things like: I shouldn’t have to prove it, don’t you trust me?, etc. Someone saying things like this need to understand that your help is now going to start coming with conditions…which leads us back to natural consequences.
Everything has natural consequences and if you’re helping someone in a codependent way, you need to start allowing those to be experienced. The first way could be something like: if you want my help, I need to know there’s an end to it and you need to find a way to handle things yourself so I need to know your plan and see proof that you’re implementing your plan. If not, no help. And if you lie to me this time, I’m not going to help next time. The government even understands this…and they’re not famous for coming up with the most well executed plans in my humble opinion, lol! If you’re collecting unemployment insurance, you’re supposed to show proof that you are looking for a job. There’s also only so much money that you can get until it runs out. This is an example of natural consequences.
As the “giver” it is your responsibility to set the limits and the guidelines on your help. Why would you give that responsibility to someone that is having difficulty handling their own life? They’re struggling with their own responsibility so you’ll give them the responsibility of something that affects your life? Not a good idea!
So take responsibility for your own life and allow others to learn how to take responsibility for theirs. Stop playing the martyr. Protecting others from experiencing the very thing that can help them and, in some cases, may very well save their lives is not righteous - it’s irresponsible.