I was recently honored with a message from a woman who is involved with an HSP. [ Characteristics of the Highly Sensitive Person or The HSP & Relationships may prove helpful if you’re confused with this term. ] Essentially she wanted to know “What about us?” And that provoked me into thought. She’s right. What about those people involved with the Highly Sensitive Person? Or the alcoholic/addict for that matter?
It’s not such a far cry substituting any of these terms or compulsions since HSP’s may often medicate in some form or another - whether it’s alcohol, drugs, work, over-eating, under-eating, self injuring, thrill-seeking, gambling, sexual addiction. The solution for YOU, the partner, is the same for the spouse of an addict as it is for the boyfriend of an HSP.
It must be trying in dealing with the HSP/alcoholic [or any other person you feel you must walk on eggshells around in order to feel safe], not understanding how easily their feelings are prone to getting hurt. Not understanding what was it that just happened here when you were there too. After all, you saw nothing unusual. Why can’t they let you in? Why can’t they just stop? Can’t they see you’re just trying to help? Why is s/he mad all the time/so easily or always having issues? Am I that bad of a person? Am I really so unloveable?
Or, you may waffle into anger. “I have given up x amount of months [years/decades] of my life to this person.” “Can’t s/he see what s/he is doing?” “I have given this up and that up. Can’t they see that? They must not love me”.
Let me go ahead and express that it’s no longer about the other person. It is absolutely not about modifying who you are for their sake. It is not about “helping them” or “getting them better.” What this is about - is you, the partner.
Maybe it does take the form of your walking on eggshells, modifying what you say, how you act or behave. Have you changed your circle of friends or dropped them completely? Are your friends or relatives commenting on how they hardly hear from you? Do you feel that you need to ask for permission to go somewhere, do something, meet someone? Do you find yourself taking up hobbies you don’t really enjoy just to be near or close to your partner or do you feel pressured by your partner to participate? Are you frequently saying you’re sorry for who you are, what you say, or mistakes you make? Are you restricting calories or overexercising? Or have you gone the other way and seem to be overeating particularly sugar? Are you drinking more than usual? Buying self-help books trying to “fix” what’s “wrong” with you? Have you tried this or that to get the other person to change or respond?
Do you often find yourself angry that you seemingly sacrifice so much while they go on doing what they do? Getting honest, are you resentful over the amount of freedom they seem to enjoy without you? Can you have a perfectly fine day and then in a moment, switch to rage or anger because they forgot to do something you asked them to do? Is shaming your preferred tool of trade? Do you really just want to teach them something and are sure that if they understood appropriately then all would be well? If they could just learn, would you then be happy?
Any of the above qualities could define a codependent relationship. I define a codependent relationship to simply be any relationship in which one or both partner/s turn over their own autonomy for well-being into the hands of the other.
A healthy relationship starts with knowing healthy characteristics.
A healthy characteristic is knowing that your well-being is your responsibility. When a person gives me control over their life they are going to end up resenting me. They will resent me because I will never be able to manage them sufficiently enough to keep care of their feelings. I have a hard enough time with my own!
A healthy characteristic is taking responsibility for *your own* feelings. I said to my beloved one day: “I have to go see Pam because I’m feeling lonely.” To this day he will argue that what I said was “You make me feel lonely.” My beloved has a hearing impediment and also a short term memory problem but that aside. I know I couldn’t have said that because it’s against my nature. It was *my* loneliness and I had to take care of it.
A healthy characteristic is taking care of yourself irrespective of what’s “expected” by others. Codependency is putting more stock in what others think about you than taking care of yourself even in the face of letting people down. I had to lie down one day - I was exhausted. My beloved had feelings about the fact I took a nap while his folks were visiting for the day. I empathized with his feelings but I will not be a slave to another person’s need to please. My codependent issue was showing when I got angry at him for his feelings of embarrassment that I had to lie down. [I still have work to do…see the next one.]
A healthy characteristic is allowing any person to have any thought or feeling they have without taking it personally. It’s their thought or feeling and they can no more help it than I can help mine. It’s theirs to deal with so why would I contribute to their suffering by getting angry at them for an unpleasant feeling they’re already experiencing?
A healthy characteristic is learning to say “No.” I used to only say no when I had several good reasons or lies to back up the no. So, often I would say Yes and get resentful. This contributed to my low self-worth and loss of autonomy. Everyone who asked could have a piece of me to the extent I had nothing left for myself. I bought the book, When I Say No I Feel Guilty and recovered from this before I even knew it to be a Codependent characteristic.
A healthy characteristic is having boundaries and a respect for others’ boundaries *even* if they don’t. Today my boundaries are not a one size fits all. Well, first I had to get some boundaries. In the process of getting some boundaries I thought it meant I had to have everybody at the same level. If I say “No” to lunch with Tom, then I have to say “No” to lunch with Dick also. If I allow my Mom to nit-pick me, then I must allow Cindy, who I barely know, to nit-pick me. Again, the process. I discovered I can hug some people and shake hands with others. I can say No on Monday but Yes on Wednesday. A respect for other’s boundaries would be, for example, seeing a friend of mine getting taken advantage of by people. This friend has no boundaries that she recognizes. I dishonor her by pretending she has no boundaries also. I honor her by giving her the boundaries she deserves. “No. You look tired to me. Let me ask someone else to help me today.” [Please, you codependent people - do NOT confuse this with mind-reading or anticipating needs. This is about feeling some nagging feeling and then listening and honoring your intuitive voice that says, “My friend looks haggard, I know she is dealing with an alcoholic husband and is working two jobs. She expressed to me last week she is tired. I cannot, in good conscience, take her up on her offer to babysit my kids.”
There’s more. There’s always more but this should be a start. I gained insight after I got sober that I had deeper roots and that root was bound in my need to change for other people at my own expense. What started and propelled me into my new way of life was first Al-Anon and then Codependency recovery as a whole. I bought a few of the Melody Beattie Codependent books [or meditations for Codependents]. Specifically, the ones on the right-hand side bar. It was as if I came home, saw hope and finally understood.
It was about me. This whole time. I learned how to finally give myself the things I had been expecting and hoping others to give me. I’ll write more on this later as I do not want to leave the taste in anyone’s mouth that it’s about living alone. It’s absolutely not. It’s about being whole to start with and then bringing our wholeness into a relationship.
It’s the opposite of expecting a relationship to complete us.
It never will.
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