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10 Signs You Might Be In A Codependent Relationship

10 Signs You Might Be In A Codependent Relationship

Codependency. Many people are not  familiar with the term codependency and are often not aware that they might struggle with it. Often a term used in recovery circles or counselling sessions, it is not usually talked about or brought up in regular conversations. The actual definition of codependency is excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.

In some way shape or form, everyone is codependent on another to a certain extent.  Codependency becomes unhealthy when it affects your overall mental health and happiness.

I was a part of two very codependent relationships and did not realise it until I wondered why both of my relationships ended the same way even though they were with two completely different people. After I learned about codependency and examined my motives for why I did certain things in relationships, I was able to overcome many of my codependent habits.

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Here are 10 signs you might be in a codependent relationship.

1. You might not feel complete as a person without that relationship

Often times when you are in a codependent relationship and not aware of it, the relationship can be confused as a Twilight version of true love which is actually not healthy at all. Edward and Bella’s relationship is actually the perfect example of a codependent relationship: If you feel like you cannot function without the other person around or that your life would be over if the relationship ended, that is normally a sign of emotional codependence that is often confused with “true love”. A healthy relationship is when two people that are happy and healthy on their own choose to be together because both of their lives are improved when they are together.

2. You feel the other person cannot function without you around

Many times this is true if you are in a relationship where one person caters to another and truly believes they do so much for that person, they would not know what to do without you. I truly believed that in one of my past relationships. When the relationship ended, that person was just fine without me catering to every need or request they had. Human beings in general are pretty self reliant. When involved in a codependent relationship, many times one person in the relationship is using the other to get what they want and the other is truly convinced they are needed or have to stay in the relationship for the other person. If you have ever thought about leaving a relationship but talked yourself out of it because “they won’t know what to do without me, I have to stay” – that is a clear sign of codependency.

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3. You do whatever you can to maintain peace in the relationship

This might be where the term “walking on eggshells” came from. If you are changing your actions and reactions to try and maintain peace in a relationship or your household due to another person’s outbursts or anger, this is a sign of codependency. Instead of choosing to set firm boundaries of how another person is allowed to treat you, you are actually repressing yourself as a person to try and avoid another person acting out and causing emotional harm. What is important here is what are your true motives in any given situation. Many victims of physical and emotional abuse live this way and it is probably the worst type of codependency.

4. You feel responsible for the other person’s thoughts or actions

You might feel like another person’s actions are a reflection of you. You might also feel that because they made a negative choice or decision, you are a failure. This is often true of parents and their children or people in dysfunctional relationships. In these types of situations it is important to realise that we are responsible for our own thoughts, actions and reactions and no one else’s. If we ever feel emotionally responsible for the choices someone else is making and it brings us anxiety or worry, that is a clear sign of codependency. I felt this way for a long while until I realised that no matter what I do or say, the other person is going to make their own choices even if they are not healthy ones. My only responsibility with another person’s actions is how I choose to respond and what I am willing to accept in the relationship.

5. You allow their decisions and behaviours to emotionally affect you

This is similar to number 4, yet different. This is typically described as a martyr role. If you continually experience anger, worry, anxiety or guilt from another person’s choices, that is a clear sign of codependency. If you worry about another person’s feelings or emotions because of a situation they are going through, that is codependency. When you allow what another person says or does to emotionally affect you, that is not a healthy relationship. When what another person says or does causes you to act out in anger or your addition, that is codependency. I experienced this many times until I was able to take a step back and realise that I have a choice of how I allow someone else’s words or actions to affect me. Often times when codependency is modelled in childhood and growing up, it is harder to break those habits but it is possible. The first step is focusing on yourself instead of the other person and accepting that you are only responsible for you. It is not our responsibility to own other people’s feelings, emotions or decisions.

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6. Your self worth is wrapped up in the relationship

At one time I believed that I was only worth something if I was in a relationship. I was afraid to go somewhere alone for fear of being judged. I believed that I was someone because someone else loved me. I sometimes believed the person I was with was an extension of me. In many ways I had lost my own identity in the relationship and felt almost too emotionally connected to them as well. When you begin to live life for another instead of doing life alongside of someone, codependency can slowly grow and cause an unhealthy balance in the relationship. Once you are perfectly accepting of yourself and who you really are, you can be happy alone or in a relationship. Once you realise that, your self worth begins to grow and relationships begin to improve.

7. You have little or no boundaries with how the other person in the relationship treats you

Sometimes the prospect of being in a relationship where you are not treated the best is still better than being alone. Often times it is easy to stay in a relationship that has turned into a draining one instead of ending the relationship. Many times people are afraid of the unknown or being alone, so they stay.  If you currently deal with any issues like emotional or physical abuse it is time to evaluate and ask yourself if you actually deserve a relationship that is currently causing you harm. We often get in our lives what we allow. If we set hard and direct boundaries with consequences for negative behaviour, we then protect ourselves from further harm and gain the strength to walk away from harmful situations even if it means ending the relationship.

8. You feel that your negative relationship issues are the other person’s fault

This statement is often a hard one to swallow. For true victims of domestic violence, often times the majority is the other person’s fault but we still have the power to stop that behaviour by walking away.  In my relationships, I was not the drug or alcohol abuser so I believed there was nothing wrong with me. I was the victim because that person continued to destroy the relationship because of their actions or addictions. I was a blamer, and I did not want to take responsibility for the part I played in my past negative relationships. I was in a lot of denial about the truth of my past situations. Once I took ownership for the way I acted to every negative situation I was presented with, I was able to slowly change. I eventually realised I had a choice to stay on a roller coaster of addiction with my past partners, or I had the choice to get off. Once I set hard boundaries with the other person as to what I was and was not willing to accept, it became easier. The other person’s refusal to get help or improve their situation ultimately ended the relationship. When I set boundaries it was easier to handle that relationship ending because it was the other person’s choice to choose their addiction over getting help or working on the relationship.

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9. You are extremely loyal in the relationship and often remain in harmful situations too long

This is often found in abusive relationships. With abuse, control is a huge factor in the relationship and along with fear or even threats, often the victim stays because they believe their abuser will follow through with those threats. Other times, it is a negative situation or relationship that may not be that severe. It could be a relationship where many years have been invested and they feel stuck or even believe that their life will always be wrapped up in chaos and negativity. The truth is, we have the power to choose how people treat us. If every woman experiencing domestic violence knew that they had to power to say no, true change could happen. When we invest time and energy into a relationship that is not a positive and enriching one, it is time to move on. Leaving the situation does not always have to be the answer if both parties are truly willing to work on the relationship together by tracking and encouraging positive change.

10. You feel it is your responsibility to “fix” everything for them

I was a fixer. If something went wrong or my partner screwed up, I was there to swoop in and cover it all up or at least do my best to try. Some parents who have children wrapped up in addiction have the fixing problem. For a while, I truly believed I had to stay in the relationship to save that person from their addiction or issues. I often believed I had the power to force people to change their bad decisions, but in fact that was all a lie. I cannot fix anyone but myself. Once I realised that I was harming the situation by allowing that person to continue to make bad decisions without having hard consequences, I stopped fixing and stopped allowing them to continue to act out in their addiction with me around. Instead, I took a step back and focused on myself.  Eventually I realised I had no control or power over the situation and I decided that it was time to get out of the chaotic relationship I had chosen to be a part of. The decision was not easy but it was the best one I could make for my emotional health and sanity.

Featured photo credit: Nick Fuentes via flickr.com

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Wendy Redden

Digital Advertising Account Manager, Music Blogger, Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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