You think you’re caring when you put your friend’s needs above yours. But you’re actuating losing yourself. A codependent friendship only has one winner.
We all need friends in our lives. Partners might come and go, but friendships often outlive any relationship. But a codependent friendship?
We need friendships because they allow us to explore ourselves, they allow us to let off steam, be supported, be encouraged to grow into the people we’re supposed to be, and quite frankly, they’re a lot of fun! When you live a life devoid of friendship, you’re living a very lonely and sad life.
Friendships lift you out of hard times, they encourage you when you’re down, and in return you do the same for your friends. It’s a two-way thing which should always be equally beneficial to both parties.
When one party is getting more out of it than the other, there could be a problem.
If you’re someone who is always trying to please others, do you put yourself first at any time?
It’s quite possible that you don’t. That’s no bad thing in some ways, but in others it is. Your needs are just as important as everyone else’s, and you need someone to have your back and lift you up when you’re down too.
It could very well be that you have a codependent friendship in your life, and if that’s the case, you need to understand the signs and put action into righting the balance.
What is a codependent friendship?
This is a friendship which is one sided. You put all your effort into supporting your friend, you ignore your own needs and desires in order to ensure that they’re happy, and when they’re down you often feel guilty if you can’t fix it completely. Simply put, a codependent friendship is one where one friend needs the other to fulfil their needs, and the other friend desires nothing more than to just be needed by their friend.
Its dysfunctional and its unhealthy, but it’s often painted as something selfless and good.
There is nothing good about ignoring your own needs and putting everyone and everything before yourself. Focusing on yourself from time to time isn’t selfish, it’s necessary!
If you’re the enabler in the codependent friendship, i.e. the one always doing the work, always ignoring their own feelings, and always trying to fix every problem there is, you’re actually detrimentally affecting your friend without even realizing it. They need to fix their own problems sometimes, they need to feel down, they need to experience their emotions. You can’t save them from life – we all need to experience everything that we need to experience in order to grow.
So, is it your fault or theirs? You’re both to blame equally in some ways. Firstly, you’re ignoring your own needs in order to make them happy. You think that you’re being some kind of Earth angel, but you’re probably distracting yourself from other issues in your life that you don’t want to face, or you have low self confidence and need to be lifted up by the good you do. Don’t worry, you can overcome that!
In essence, your friend is also to blame for letting you do all these things for them. Surely they can see that you never look after your own emotions, that you’re always swooping in like a character from a superhero film, attempting to save the day? The truth is they probably can, but everyone likes it when someone looks after them so closely.
It’s messed up in so many ways, but a codependent friendship can be altered for the better. In order to fix it however, you both need to realize what’s going on.
Give yourself the distance you need
It’s highly unlikely that whilst you’re around your friend you’re going to be able to break this pattern of behavior. It’s also unlikely that they’re going to force you to do so either. In that case, you need to have a break from each other. Don’t worry this isn’t permanent, think of it like Ross and Rachel from Friends but without the constant “we were on a break” ramifications in the future!
Take a little time to focus on yourself, away from the friendship that takes up all your time and effort. It’s also a good idea to avoid speaking to each other for a while too. This doesn’t mean your friendship is over, it doesn’t mean it’s on hiatus either, it simply means you’re doing you for a while, and you’re allowing your friend to do them.
Distance is beneficial in many ways. A codependent friendship isn’t a healthy friendship, but by taking time away from each other, remembering who you are, remembering that your needs and wants matter too, and by practicing actually doing something about the things you need and want in life, you’ll be able to come back together at some point in the near future and strive towards a natural and healthy friendship.
Of course, that means doing some intensive self discovery work whilst you’re on this break. Examine why you feel the need to place all your attention on your friend. What are you trying to run away from? What are you ignoring? Do you somehow feel that your needs aren’t as important as theirs? Why is that?
You’re just as important as your friend, and whilst it’s always nice to try and do things for other people, it shouldn’t be at the expense of your happiness and health.
Do you consider yourself to have low self esteem and by doing things for others and making them feel better, perhaps fixing their problems, it makes you feel worthy? You’re worthy whether you fix all the problems in the world or none of them. Everyone of us is worthy.
What about the future?
If you need a kickstart to begin the process of sorting out your codependent friendship, ask yourself this question – how would you feel in the future if your friend found a partner? If they already have one, how would you feel if they met another friend who they began spending more time with?
Investing all your time and effort in one person is risky. I’m sure your friend is a wonderful person, but we all make mistakes. What if they stop paying you the attention you need? What if they stop coming to you with their problems and start going to their new partner instead? Will you feel lost? How will you fill the void?
The bottom line is this – we can’t rely on other people for our happiness in this life, we can only rely on ourselves. There are far too many possible roadblocks to focus on one other person. Yes, embrace your friend as a very important part of your life, but do not make them your entire life. They could easily leave you; it’s sounds harsh, but it’s possible.
By investing all your time and attention in one person, you’re stopping yourself from moving forwards. You’re not likely to be taking opportunities that come your way, simply because you can’t see them. You’re too busy focusing on your codependent friendship!
What about relationships? Do you want one? If so, how are you going to spread your love and time over two people? Your future partner may become jealous of all the time and attention you throw at your friend and that could cause major problems.
We have to learn to spread our time equally amongst the people in our lives, but we have to reserve a huge chunk of it for ourselves.
This doesn’t make you selfish, it doesn’t make you vain or self-centered, it makes you a human being who understands that looking after number one is just as important as looking after everyone else.
A codependent friendship is out of balance, dysfunctional and unhealthy. You can easily right the issue, but you first need to identify why your friendship has become so out of balance.