Boundaries, Enabling, and Codependency
Individual Counseling and Therapy
What are boundaries, really?
We generally misunderstand the term boundaries and the purpose them. Loads (most, I would say) of people seem to think of boundaries as a way of keeping other people out. For example, "I told him that I didn't want him talking to me that way -that it was my boundary." And while I love the enthusiasm with that comment, I have to say that it's not entirely accurate or appropriate...
Boundaries are not about changing what somebody else is doing. Boundaries are about taking responsibility of your own role in any given interaction.
Using that same example above ("I told him that I didn't want him talking to me that way - that's my boundary."), let's take it one step further. If 'him' (the him in the example, whoever he may be) decided to do what he wants and still talk to this person in the same way, then that feels like a boundary has been crossed. The reality is that it hasn't. It's not up to other people to respect our boundaries, it's up to us to respect our own boundaries. A more appropriate boundary would be something like this, "I don't like when you talk that way. I'm not going to have a conversation with you when it happens. I'll leave the room and we can talk later." That's a boundary. It's a way of drawing your own line in the sand and not crossing it, rather than telling other people that they have to stay out.
Why do you mention codependency and enabling?
Here's why. While poor boundaries don't necessary equal codependency, one of the major signs of codependency is having poor boundaries (and a host of other things - read here). If you just struggle in one area of your life with boundaries (i.e. "My son is so dang cute, it's just so hard to say no!"), then codependency might not be the issue, per se. However, if you consistently put others first, react to other people's feelings, feel compelled to help others and take care of them, and don't really see any of these things as a problem (except that you're growing increasingly exhausted and starting to feel resentful), then we're probably leaning more towards the codependent side of things.
To top it off, enabling comes into play if you find yourself doing the behaviors listed above with a partner who uses drugs (including alcohol) to excess, in some ways. In other words, enabling is very comparable to codependency, but within the context of addiction and drugs.
This all gets slightly confusing, as there's so much overlap between things. If any of this resonates with you, then trust that you're in the right place and that you won't be labelled an enabler and then discredited whenever you share your stories.
How do I know if I struggle with boundaries, codependency, or enabling?
Here's a few signs that you might struggle with one of the above three:
- low self-worth
- poor boundaries (i.e. can't say no, constantly doing for others)
- exhaustion and resentment
- caretaking tendencies
- not knowing what you think
- not knowing how you feel
- knowing what you think and how you feel, but not thinking it's important or that it matters
- relying on other people to feel good about yourself
- struggling getting close to others
- make excuses for other people's behavior
hese are just some of the signs that this may be ea personal struggle of yours. No shame in that - we all have our own demons. If this happens to be yours, keep reading or reach out directly by clicking here.
What can I expect from counseling?
Here's what you can expect from counseling. You can expect to be lovingly challenged to think about yourself, to imagine what it might be like to set boundaries (and maintain them), to put yourself first in some ways, to embrace the fact that part of you is a caretaker, and to make changes in your life in such a way that you feel fulfilled and satisfied based on being you, rather than on giving to the point of exhaustion to others.
That's not to say that you're going to be done with enabling, codependency, or your struggle with boundaries forever. That is to say that you'll be able to recognize a host of factors that go into how you think and feel about these things, as well as be able to act differently from that point of recognition.
Boundaries are a personal favorite...
Boundaries are one of my favorite things to work with (and on) because they are so tangible. This isn't work for the faint of heart, though. When we start to implement boundaries (i.e. saying no if we're exhausted), we will likely get some sort of pushback - both internally (i.e. guilt) and externally (i.e. "you always help!"). Part of counseling is learning how to navigate the pushback and to thrive once it's subsided. Plus, the reward is that you begin to live your life from an internal perspective (while keeping others in mind - we're not trying to get rid of that totally), where you're acting in accordance with your own values and beliefs, rather than just doing things because you feel like you should help others. We spend time finding that balance, and that balance looks different for different people. It's wonderful to find your own.
Okay, I've got it. This is something I definitely need to work on. Now what?
Now you set up a session by clicking 'contact' below or calling and start the process of learning about yourself and learning about boundaries. Both are beautiful things.
Contact The Counseling Hub
Call The Counseling Hub: 636-336-2991