It’s a wonderful thing to show empathy, care for others, and want to help in the context of a mutually supportive, healthy relationship. But I see a lot of people in lopsided relationships where they do all of the caregiving and receiving little in return.
Sometimes we don’t realize that our caregiving has crossed the line into codependency or unhealthy caretaking. It’s not always easy to see when our behavior is no longer supporting a healthy self and a healthy relationship.
A healthy relationship is made up of two whole and independent people who mutually support each other. It doesn’t work for one person to do all of the giving and one to do all the taking.
Signs of a codependent or unhealthy relationship
When you focus unhealthy amounts of time and energy on your partner’s problems, you may experience problems such as these:
1. Your needs aren’t being met. You’re so busy meeting all of your partner’s needs that you don’t prioritize yourself. Eventually, you become resentful and burnt out because you are taking care of your partner, but not receiving care in return.
You’re also not making time to take care of your own needs. You don’t go out with your friends or see your family. You don’t prioritize exercise because it takes you away from your partner. You may also not feel worthy of spending time or money on yourself. Sometimes we bring these ideas with us into our relationships, but often we choose partners who directly or indirectly reinforce the idea that we’re not “good enough”.
2. You become frustrated and discouraged because you are trying to change your partner. You are working harder than she or he is to improve things. You suggest counseling, self-help books, or 12-step meetings, and all you get in return is broken promises. All of your efforts to fix or change someone could be energy spent elsewhere – on your own hobbies, career, or personal growth.
3. You lose sight of who you really are and what’s important to you. Because your focus is so much on your partner, over time, you lose touch with your own goals and values. You compromise so much of who you are to please or take care of your partner that your sense of self is very weak.
4 tips for letting go of codependency and unhealthy caretaking
1. Prioritize meeting your own emotional needs by showing yourself the same love and care that you give to others.
2. Set clear boundaries so that you and your partner both know what to expect. Boundaries demonstrate respect for yourself and others.
3. Begin to speak up. You need to specifically ask your partner for what you need or want. Don’t assume that s/he knows.
4. If you’ve asked and your partner still can’t or won’t consistently offer support and help, carefully consider your options to accept him/her or leave the relationship.
Most importantly, remember that we all deserve mutually caring relationships where we both give and receive support.
If you’d like to learn more about breaking codependent patterns and attracting a healthy relationship, purchase a copy of my e-book Navigating the Codependency Maze today!
Other posts about codependency and healthy relationships:
What are Healthy Boundaries and Why Do I Need Them?
How to Stop being So Needy and Dependent
What Makes a Relationship Healthy?