When one becomes aware of codependent symptoms in their life, they often recognize how frequently they are willing to help others more than they are willing to help themselves. They are ready and willing to deplete their own reservoir of energy for another person. Codependency often has a layer of guilt around the not doing for someone else. It is as though the relationship becomes defined by how much we can do for the other – often at great peril to oneself.
Take this scenario - A wife plans to meet friends for coffee. Her husband calls and asks for her help with something (a familiar pattern in the relationship). She gives up her time with friends to help her husband (happy to be needed). If she does go out with friends instead of helping him, she carries guilt that plagues her the entire evening and she does not enjoy her time with friends at all. With codependency, another’s well being takes precedence over one’s own life.
Parents are not immune. Sometimes they coddle and overprotect a child who may need the consequences of forgetting their homework or lunch. Parents take on the responsibility of helping their child study well beyond the years when a child can read and study on their own. It goes beyond helping with homework. A parent’s identity gets wrapped up in their child’s life when they are codependent.
Breaking the cycle requires moving one’s own name to a list that includes taking time for self-care. It also means setting a boundary without feeling guilty (which will more than likely take practice). Finding support from others who have struggled with codependence can also be helpful. It is well worth the work.