When Another Person’s Behavior Affects You
Codependency is caring for someone to an unhealthy degree, often to the point of neglecting self-care. This creates a feeling of being “needed” and often a codependent person considers themselves to be a martyr. Codependents control situations because they think “I’m only trying to help.”
Codependent people are excessively preoccupied with the needs of others, usually a family member, partner, or friend, but it can happen in work and social relationships as well. They are afraid of being alone and stay in bad relationships in an attempt to “fix” the other person. Addiction is a family disease and it isn’t just the addict/alcoholic who needs help.
In her book Codependent No More,
Melody Beattie defines Codependency this way:
A codependent person is one who lets another person’s behavior affect them, and is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.
Some characteristics of Codependency:
- Obsession about another person
- Anxiety about what another person is doing
- Allowing someone else to control your happiness
- Feeling responsible for another person
- Try to prove they are good enough to be loved
- People pleasers
- Family of an addicted person
- Try to please others instead of yourself
- Are obsessed with fixing and rescuing needy people
- Have difficulty setting healthy boundaries
- Confuse love and pity
- Seek approval and affirmation
- Minimize your talents and achievements
- Don’t trust your own judgment
Helping is doing something for someone that they are not capable of doing themselves.
Enabling is doing for someone things that they can—and should—be doing themselves.
Enabling often begins by being kind and helpful. For example, waking the alcoholic up so that they won’t be late for work. Unfortunately, enabling creates an atmosphere in which the addict comfortably continues their unacceptable behavior. By protecting the addicted person from the negative effects of their using, enablers diminish the addict’s will to change.
Enabling Behavior Examples:
- Calling in sick for someone.
- Lying to cover up for the addict.
- Making excuses for the addict’s using or behaviors.
- Accepting part of the blame for the addict’s using or behavior.
- Avoid talking about the problem out of fear of a negative response.
- Paying bills that the addict was supposed to pay themselves.
- Loaning money or bailing them out of jail.
- Tried drinking/using with them in hopes of strengthening the relationship.
- Repeatedly giving them “one more chance.”
Threatened to leave if they didn’t stop drinking/using and did not follow through.
- Finishing a job or project that they failed to complete.
- Avoiding confrontation of the addiction and keeping the peace.
- Coming to the rescue when they need a ride or are in trouble.
- Softening the consequences of their destructive behavior.
Dysfunctional families are full of conflicts, secrets, and even abuse. In these homes, love is usually very conditional. Inconsistency and unpredictability are a way of life. The patterns of codependency usually develop in these families because the ‘rules’ close family members off from the outside world. In dysfunctional families, healthy communication of issues and feelings are discouraged.
Dysfunctional parents often have addictions and/or emotional problems. They may fail to provide physical or emotional care for their children. Often, there are problems regarding the financial responsibilities of the home.
Typical Family Roles
- Family members develop unnatural roles because of the addiction and dysfunction of the adults in the home.
- The Good Child / Hero: a child who assumes the parental role.
- The Problem Child / Scapegoat: the child who is blamed for most problems.
- The Rebel: they are a huge cause of the family’s dysfunction.
- The Caretaker: the one who takes responsibility for the emotional well-being of the family.
- The Lost Child: the quiet one whose needs are usually ignored.
- The Mascot: uses comedy to divert attention from family problems.
- The Mastermind: the opportunist who gets whatever he or she wants.
Example Dysfunctional House Rules
- Don’t talk about problems.
- Don’t express feelings openly or honestly.
- Forced to take sides in conflicts between parents.
- Communicate indirectly through acting out, sulking, or via another family member.
- Don’t be selfish, think of the other person first.
- Don’t take your parents as an example, “do as I say, not as I do.”
- Don’t have fun.
- Don’t rock the boat, keep the status quo.
- Don’t talk about sex.
- Don’t challenge your parent’s religious beliefs or these family rules.