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Boundaries or Codependency?

Boundaries or Codependency- which do you have?


This month I want to write about a topic that plagues most of us, especially us as women, the lack of boundaries.  Because boundaries are so difficult to understand and implement in our lives, we tend to lean into codependent relationships. 


Caring for others is what we women do.  But how do we not get stuck in the rut of mothering every person who comes through the door?  It is difficult to know the difference between helping someone and knowing when they need to help themselves.  This is where understanding boundaries is so important.


I had a client a couple of years ago who had a grown daughter leave town and the daughter stopped all communication with my client.  My client had been seeing me regularly before this occurred and when her daughter left, my client was devastated (which would be any mom). As I chatted with my client week after week, it became apparent, that if my client was going to be able to "sleep at night" she needed to set up healthy boundaries with herself. 


My client's first instinct was to go after her daughter, but thankfully, she listened to me and stayed put.  We began to build good boundaries.  She began to know what was her responsibility in the relationship and what was her daughter's responsibility. Each week we would meet for coaching, and she would share with me her new boundary lines.


When we are identifying boundaries within our lives, we must identify our true motives within the relationships.  What drives us?  Why do we care about other people? Are we operating from a place of love, or are we using the care of others to get our own needs met?  If we are going to be effective and healthy in developing our boundaries, then we need to know what is codependency and what are healthy boundaries.


It is worth our time to explore what is codependency and what is a healthy boundary. Maybe you have never thought of codependency as something that could apply to you.  Let's look at a list from the Mental Health America website. 


The following are just a few of the characteristics of a person who is challenged with codependent tendencies.

  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others. You feel responsibility for the actions that other people take (your spouse, your kids, your siblings)

  • A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to "love" people you can pity and rescue.  You feel the need to rescue them when they are in trouble.

  • A tendency to do more than your share, all the time. Not being able to understand what is your share and what is the other person's share.

  • A tendency to become hurt when people do not recognize your efforts. It is painful when you have put in time, money, and your abilities and no one recognizes it.

  • An unhealthy dependence on relationships. When you hold onto relationships to avoid abandonment.

  • An extreme need for approval and recognition. You get angry when no one recognizes what you did.

  • A compelling need to control others.  You control your spouse, children or family members through different ways.


Codependency is a killer.  It is often about power and can even be about the need to control others.  You may use your need to please others as a way of controlling their response to your presence or controlling their place in your world. Under the guise of wanting to love people well, you may be taking too much care of your own needs to be needed.


Boundaries begin when you make a line between what you can give and feel good about and when you give too much. You have to answer the question, where does the line between showing love and becoming the "Mother" start and stop? When does it become about power or the need to compensate for the power you do not think you have?


Another boundary question is, how many times do you find yourself defining your success by how well you meet the demands of others? Do you want to keep everyone's approval so that you know you are succeeding? Are you trying to do it all at the cost of your emotional and physical well-being?


Helping when we see someone hurting is often what we do first because it feels right. When you are caring for the needs of others, and you are abused, you get burned. When you establish healthy boundaries you can know where the line is.  Where your responsibility stops and the other person's responsibility begins. 


If you struggle in this area, please connect with me and we can discuss what first steps you need to do to establish good boundaries in your life.  (first appointments are always free)


Your desire to help people feel better needs to start with how you define yourself.  The more you understand yourself the more you can give healthy responses to others.


Write in the comments below how boundaries are difficult for you or where you have found boundaries to work in your life.

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