So you have a friend that you’ve given all of your time and energy to, and she takes you for granted, jerks you around, says she’ll meet you, then cancels. And you think next time will be different, she’s going to realize how important I am to her and treat me with due respect, except you’re stuck in this unfulfilling relational loop.
And let me guess, it’s not just your best friend. This keeps happening to you, with everyone from your family to your friends to your romantic partners. You keep feeling like people take you for granted and want things to change but nothing changes.
Do you want to know why?
Because you are the person that needs to change. Not them. You are codependent, which means that you live for and through other people. Not for yourself. Early on in your life, you learnt that making other people happy was the only way that you got to feel good about yourself. No one taught you better and you haven’t upped your game since then.
Aren’t people trying to tell you something though? Sure it’s not direct, it’s not honest, and they are taking you for granted – but getting the same feedback from multiple people should tell you that you’ve got a problem.
I was like this. As a child my worst fear was that my friends would take me for granted, which was the only thing I felt I was entitled to, i.e. being seen as the always-there friend I prided myself on being. I wanted people to be grateful to have me in their lives because I thought I was a “good” or “easy” friend to have. Not demanding, not loud, but in return, I want your gratitude.
Let me tell you what this kind of attitude does not get you. It does not get you respect. It does not get you authentic relationships. It does not get you fun times. It gets you fear, awkwardness of the bad kind, rejection, blows to your self-esteem
So now what?
If you are struggling with codependency, you are not alone and this is not your fault. But it is your responsibility to make your life better for yourself. And it will not be easy.
The first thing you need to do is get a copy of the book “Leaving Loneliness: A Workbook” by David S Narang. Then sit with it, give yourself about a month to really work through it. Do the writing exercises, do the meditations, do the painful work of recollecting your childhood.
Second thing you need to do is learn to say “no” and learn to set some boundaries. Saying no will cause you a lot of guilt, suck it up. You are retraining your entire way of relating to people, it will hurt a bit. What do I mean by setting boundaries? Decide what is “not okay” for you, communicate it respectfully and lovingly, and do not budge. If being on time is important for you, next time your friend flakes, do not hang around waiting and getting angry, exit the scene.
Third thing you need to understand is that nobody really changes. You will struggle with codependency for the rest of your life, and flaky folks will struggle with being flaky for the rest of their lives. Stop seeing yourself as a superior martyr, accept that you’re flawed and so are your friends.
Fourthly, bring the joy back to being with other people. Stop taking it so seriously. Yes it’s important to be there for people, it’s also important to chill, indulge in some bakchodi, speak up, let them see you for more than your type A personality and mother-hen nature.
Lastly, understand the difference between connection and attachment. Being attached to or chasing someone who breadcrumbs you is a dead giveaway of a preoccupied anxious attachment style. The trouble with attachment is that it feels heavy for everyone involved, like there’s no place to go. In contrast, the idea of connecting is light, it could be cerebral, it could be emotional, there’s more breathing room.
Reimagine your key relationships as connections with plain old human beings, not “boyfriend,” “mother,” etc. See what that looks like for you; now you have a healthy goal to work towards. At the same time, you will have to mourn what you never had with this person and never will have. These relationships do not evolve unless both people do. Mourning what can no longer change or be fixed is integral to the process.
A great tool for this is the Ho’oponopono, a powerful Hawaiian prayer for releasing negative emotions such as resentment, guilt, shame and anger. Try it for the person you are attempting to let go of.
Turn off the lights, keep some tissues handy and take a few deep breaths. Then say the following phrases while visualizing the person you’re detaching from and repeat them until you feel intuitively that you are done.
- I am sorry – apologize to them for what you see as your part in the struggle. A number of my clients find it difficult to do this, and understandably so. I find it vital to the process because accepting my part in an interaction also empowers me to change it
- Please forgive me
- Thank you
- I love you
If you feel like crying, embrace it! That’s the whole point of getting into a special space, you have to feel it to heal it. If you decide to do this prayer, know that I’m proud of you. Don’t push yourself too hard with any of this. Baby steps.
The real test is whether you can dare to get to know yourself better, express yourself freely, occupy space without apologizing for it. Because the day you can do that, you won’t have the time to be preoccupied with whether you are more invested in a relationship or whether the other person is. You’ll just be living life.
Book an appointment with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. More on psychotherapy with me here.