When a person struggles with codependency, they have a notoriously hard time maintaining healthy boundaries.
Codependency is a type of relationship that is often marked by addiction, unhealthy behaviors, and some type of abuse. In a codependent relationship, one or both parties feel as though they can’t function without the other; and so, they engage in behaviors that are designed to keep the relationship—despite the personal cost.
Codependent people have a hard time with boundaries, because they feel that the other person needs them. They will tolerate and accept extremely unhealthy behaviors and won’t set limits, because they fear they will harm the other person.
In extreme cases, it can show up as a sober person who enables an addict by giving them money or allowing them to stay at their home (even when they are stealing or engaging in high-risk behaviors). In less severe cases, it can show up with behaviors like feeling abandoned when a partner spends time with others, accepting things that they don’t like just so they won’t be abandoned, not sharing their true feelings out of fear of being rejected, and often compromising themselves so they feel loved.
Codependents may assume too much responsibility for other people and live their lives completely in service to others.
To break the cycle of codependency, it’s important to get professional help, but another component is learning to set boundaries. We teach others how to treat us, and when we allow abusive, unhealthy, or toxic behaviors from our loved ones, we are teaching them that it is okay to treat us in this way. In order for this to stop, we have to learn how to set healthy limits with others. For a recovering codependent, learning to set boundaries is paramount.
No matter who the other person is, you have no obligation to endure harmful, toxic, or abusive situations. Whether it’s a spouse, parent, friend, sibling, or child, you have the right to exercise healthy control over what you allow in your orbit. You can say “no” to anything that doesn’t feel right, and you can walk away from a situation that makes you uncomfortable. You can say “no” to lending money, opening your home, and tolerating abusive language.
You have every right to limit contact with people who treat you poorly or take advantage of you. Not only do you have the right, but you have a sacred duty to your highest good to treat yourself the way you desire to be treated and to require others to do the same.
The Buddha (maybe) once said, “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.“
Part of breaking the codependent cycle is to believe that and to begin to act accordingly.
Author: Lisa Vallejos, Ph.D.
Image: Anete Lūsina/Unsplash
Editor: Leah Sugerman
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Social Editor: Callie Rushton