If you are reading this article, then you probably have completed Codependency Workbook Exercise Two by creating a list of your troubled relationships. Congratulations for completing this. Generally, in codependent relationships there is some pain and emotional abuse. They tend to be rather lopsided, with you doing most if not all of the giving. When you realize this, you may get angry and feel as though others are using you. You may wonder why this is. It is because when they meet you, they sense that you are a caretaker who will want to help them. When you do this, it is because you care about them and believe that you can love and care some of their problems away. Most of the time this cannot be done. Often, by giving to them, you are actually making it easier for them to continue their maladaptive behavior.
If your loved one gets a DWI, you may rush out and hire a good lawyer who may get him or her off. Had this person suffered the consequences of the DWI, he or she might have been ordered to complete substance abuse treatment, which might have ended or at least interfered with the drinking. So if you are in a relationship with a person with an alcohol or drug problem, can you think of a boundary that you could set that would be good for you and, in the long run, him or her? For example, you might tell this person that if he or she has another legal problem related to substances, that you will no longer help. The person will be on his own. Of course, he or she may not like this and try to push your guilt buttons. Remind yourself that you are not only doing what is best for yourself but also for the other person. You might take your boundary a step further and tell the person that effective immediately, you will no longer undo any of the consequences of his or her using. I suggest you only set the boundary when you are ready. The hard part will come when you have to stick to the boundary. You will need some support from a therapist, your sponsor, or a friend to hold to it. Once you maintain a boundary you will find that it is easier to stick to the next one.
What are some other boundaries that you might set? Maybe you have a friend who borrows money from you and has never paid it back. The next time the friend asks to borrow money, you might tell him or her that you are unwilling to loan any more money until the person repays you the funds already owed. Maybe you have someone who always asks you for rides but never offers to pay for your gasoline. You might decide to tell this person that you cannot afford to continue giving him or her rides. Make a list of all the boundaries that you need to set to take care of yourself. While you are identifying them, do not worry about actually setting them. Try to take one step at a time. I know that the thought of setting them is very scary. You may also be scared about what will happen to your friend if you set them. If your friend is dysfunctional, something will happen to this person no matter what you do. Once you get the hang of doing this, you are going to feel an enormous sense of relief. You will realize you are not responsible for everybody, nor do you have to help someone just because that person needs it.
If you are like some people, you may fear that if you stand up for yourself, you will be abandoned by your friend. I believe that if this happens, then that person was not really a friend to begin with. Can you imagine treating someone that you care about like that? I am sure that you cannot. Now you will have more energy to direct toward taking care of yourself. You will no longer feel so angry at others. The next time you feel like a victim, you may need to check and see if you need to set another boundary.
© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Joyce Henley, MSW, LCSW, CEAP, SAP, therapist in O Fallon, Missouri
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