Marriage Counseling: Stopping Co-Dependency

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In marriage counseling the goal is to produce healthy conversation and facilitate changes to unhealthy patterns. Marriage counseling can deal with co-dependency in relationships by figuring out how to make changes to address this type of attachment. Codependency is a dysfunctional relationship pattern in which one person is excessively focused on meeting the needs of another person, often to the detriment of their own well-being. Contact Take Charge Inc. if you feel your relationship could benefit from marriage counseling. 

Codependency refers to a psychological construct involving an unhealthy relationship that people might share with those closest to them. It was originally thought to involve families of substance abuse with a person who is addicted to a substance or behavior and their partner, family member, or friend who enables or supports their addiction. The definition has since grown to include other types of dysfunctional relationships. In a codependent relationship, the person who is enabling the other may feel responsible for their loved one’s behavior or may have a sense of control over them. They may also neglect their own needs and desires to meet the needs of the other person. This can lead to feelings of resentment, anxiety, and depression.  Modern understandings of codependency now refer to it as a specific relationship or addiction characterized by preoccupation and extreme dependence (emotional, social, and sometimes even physical) on another person. 

If you feel as though you can’t separate your identity from your partner’s, setting boundaries and cultivating your inner dialogue can help you learn how to shift being codependent, as well as marriage counseling with Terri Clinton Dichiser.

Codependency in a relationship can look like this:

  • Keeping quiet to avoid arguments
  • Volunteering to sacrifice your wants and needs for your partner’s
  • Feeling rejected when your partner does things without you
  • Being unable to tell others “no”

You can also have codependent traits even when you’re not in a relationship. It can also manifest in other types of relationships, such as between a parent and child, or between two friends. In these cases, one person may feel responsible for the other’s happiness or well-being.  Codependency is unhealthy because it often leads to one person neglecting their own needs, desires, and boundaries to meet the needs of another person. Additionally, the person who is being enabled may not learn to take responsibility for their own actions and may continue engaging in harmful behaviors. It can lead to a loss of individuality and self-esteem. The person who is enabling the other may lose their sense of identity and become overly focused on the other person’s needs and desires, rather than their own, resulting in a lack of confidence and self-worth. Consider the following tips to help you discover healthy relationships that support your well-being:

  1.     Noticing codependent behaviors: As a learned behavior, it can be challenging to break these relationship patterns. Awareness of certain behaviors as well as intentional efforts to improve them can make a big difference.
  2.     Building your self-esteem: Codependence is often linked to a sense of low self-esteem, knowing what you deserve is a big step toward breaking codependency.
  3.     Creating (and holding) boundaries: “State what is OK and not OK with you; and follow through with consequences when your mate treats you in a way that’s not acceptable,” suggests Dr. Cortney Warren, a board-certified clinical psychologist.
  4.     Practicing assertive communication: You can practice assertive communication by:
    1.     using “I” statements (ex: I feel…)
    2.     being clear and direct
    3.     explaining your thoughts (I feel this way because…)
    4.     keeping eye contact
    5.     being willing to keep up the discussion until a solution is found.
  5.     Introspection: Sometimes learning how to not be codependent means learning about yourself and what it means to be codependent, and asking yourself questions like:
    1.     How do you take care of yourself?
    2.     Do you find yourself saying yes to things you often regret later?
    3.     Do you feel drained either emotionally, physically, or financially?
  6.     Building your identity: By creating your own independent hobbies, goals, and interests, you can start to regain your identity.
  7.     Mindfulness: the ability to be ‘in the moment,’ this is a beneficial way of observing what’s happening around you without allowing it to rule your emotions.
  8.     Cultivating calm: working on an overall sense of calm to help you maintain that mindset when impulses of codependency present. 

We know from Polyvagal Theory that when people are allowed and encouraged to express their emotions in a healthy way with safe and understanding social support, they are better equipped to employ healthy coping strategies. Marriage counseling provides healing social support both from your partner and your Counselor. The best way to learn adaptive coping strategies (and get rid of maladaptive ones like codependency) is through professional individual and/or marriage counseling. A trained and certified Counselor can teach you strategies like mindfulness and interrupting or distracting from negative thought patterns. If you are in Johnson County, KS including Overland Park, Olathe, and Leawood, contact Take Charge Inc. today to schedule at (913) 239-8255.

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