People-Pleasing Is A Passion Killer: The Perils of CoDependency and 5 Steps To Recover
By Briana MacWilliam MPS, ATR-BC, LCAT ; Licensed and Board-Certified Creative Arts Therapist.
It was the kind of relationship that looked great on the surface, but underneath, the passion was eroding. Paula had been dating her boyfriend, Alan, for two years. On the surface, it seemed like things were perfect. Alan appeared sweet, loving, and utterly devoted to Paula. And Paula loved to bask in his worship, in the
beginning. But over time, there was this growing, nagging feeling in the back of Paula’s mind, telling her that something wasn’t right.
For example, sometimes Alan would…
- Say she should never leave him, because he wouldn’t be able to live without her, thinking it was romantic.
- Constantly needed reassurance that she loved him and would pout or give her the silent treatment if she wasn’t effusive enough in her declarations.
- Obsessed over her every move, and was often jealous without provocation, which came across as emotionally punishing her for things she didn’t do.
- He would make all of his decisions based on what Paula said she wanted, sacrificing his needs without telling her, and then silently resenting her for it, until he’d explode over something small and irrelevant.
This made Paula feel…
- Uncomfortable, like she was walking on eggshells to avoid upsetting Alan for fear of a dramatic negative emotional response.
- Overwhelmed, because there was no way for her to meet his needs or make him happy, because he’d been hiding his true feelings in order to please her.
- Trapped, and unable to explore her autonomous hobbies and pursuits, without fear of triggering a jealous conflict or hurting Alan’s feelings.
- Guilty, and over burdened with the power she felt Alan had given her in the relationship; as if it was all her fault if something went wrong.
Unfortunately, Paula had no idea how to break free from the cycle of codependency that had taken over her life. The more time she spent with Alan, the more her own personal boundaries started to blur. She found herself doing things she never thought she would, like neglecting her own needs, trying to guess at what would make him happy, to avoid hurt feelings. And before long, she realized she was completely codependent on him, as well. Both Alan and Paula had slipped into the trap of codependent “people pleasing” in an attempt to maintain their relationship, but it only wound up killing the passion.
What is codependency?
Codependency is a type of dysfunctional relationship where one person relies too heavily on the other for emotional support. The codependent typically has low self-esteem and feels powerless and unworthy without the other person in their lives. They often have difficulty setting boundaries and tend to put the needs of their partner above their own. As a codependent, you may be used to giving more than you get in your relationships. You may feel like you’re always putting others’ needs before your own and that you can never quite please them. Unfortunately, when we do this, we begin to induce the same anxiety in our partners, and it becomes a vicious cycle, just like in Paula and Alan’s situation.
If you’re struggling with codependency, it’s important to seek help and healing. There is hope for recovery and healing, but it takes time, effort, and patience.
Attachment Styles and Codependency:
The first step is recognizing that attachment styles play an important role in codependency dynamics. In other words, how we form relationships as children can affect how we form adult relationships.
Research has found that there are four main attachment styles: secure, anxious, avoidant, and disorganized (or “fearful-avoidant”). Those with a secure attachment style tend to have healthy relationships; however, those with an anxious or disorganized attachment style may be more prone to codependency.
To heal from codependency, it’s important to understand your own attachment style and how it shapes the dynamic of your relationship.
For example, if you are anxious and struggle with codependency, this might look like…
- Constantly seeking approval and reassurance from your partner, often to the point of being clingy.
- Having difficulty making decisions without taking your partner’s opinion into account.
- Sacrificing your needs in order to please your partner, even if it makes you uncomfortable.
- Controlling or manipulating your partner in order to avoid feeling vulnerable.
If you struggle with disorganized attachment or “fearful-avoidance” in codependent relationships, this might look like…
- A passive aggressive tendency to emotionally withdraw in order to protect yourself.
- Difficulty trusting your partner due to fear of being hurt or abandoned.
- A desire for connection but difficulty allowing yourself to open up and experience intimacy.
- Avoidance of conflict, which can lead to desperate attempts at pleasing your partner in order to avoid it.
Once you have a better understanding of how attachment styles can lead to codependency, there are several key steps that can help you heal.
5 Steps To Recover From Codependency:
Healing codependency is a challenging but incredibly rewarding journey. You have the power to break out of the cycle and create healthier relationships for yourself. With time, effort, and patience, you can learn how to take care of your own needs without feeling overwhelmed or taken advantage of. Here are 5 steps to help you get started.
- Self-Awareness: Recognize the patterns of codependent behavior and take responsibility for healing yourself. This includes acknowledging your own feelings, needs, and boundaries without blaming yourself or others for them.
- Support System: Develop a strong and healthy support system of friends and family who can help you stay connected to your authentic self.
- Healthy Boundaries: Establish boundaries in your relationships that serve both yourself and others, such as setting clear expectations, respecting one another’s space and opinions, and avoiding codependent behaviors such as control or manipulation.
- Take time for self-care: Make sure to take a break from the relationship and focus on yourself. This will help you regain a sense of autonomy and reduce feelings of codependency.
- Seek professional help: Therapy can be a great way to learn more about your attachment style, how it affects your relationships, and how to heal from codependency. In my own practice, I use somatic healing and creative arts therapy approaches with a trauma-informed lens, to help heal attachment wounds on the level of mind, body, and spirit.
With dedication and effort, healing from codependency is possible. By understanding your own attachment style and taking steps towards healing, you can create healthier relationships based on mutual love and respect rather than dependence. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if needed – with the right support, healing is within reach!
Briana MacWilliam is an author, educator and licensed and board-certified creative arts therapist with more than 15 years in the field, helping adults struggling with insecure attachment attract and/or cultivate loving relationships. To learn more about her offerings in personal development, you can visit her website at https://brianamacwilliam.com/.