How to Avoid a Codependent Relationship

In one of my earlier posts, How Not Being “Manly” Made Me Hate Myself, I mentioned that I sometimes have conversations with myself (in my head, mind you) about questions I have. It’s a way for me to have a personal counseling session and to talk through issues that I don’t understand.

Yesterday I was talking to myself about how I didn’t want my relationship to become codependent. I didn’t want our happiness to depend on each other. I didn’t want her bad days to bring me down, and I didn’t want my bad days to bring her down.

Which, I imagine, is a hard thing for most people. When somebody we love is having a tough time we want to make them feel better.

But allowing somebody else, even somebody we love, to have control over our happiness is an unhealthy way to live. In fact, it can be incredibly damaging to an otherwise healthy relationship.

And if you love somebody with mental illness there may be periods of time when bad days become the norm. If you allow them to control your happiness you’ll find yourself too exhausted to enjoy the good days when they come.

Well, my girlfriend was having a bad day, and I started to freak out internally trying to figure out how to make her feel better. Instead of making her day better I could see that I was just making my day worse.

I knew that I didn’t want this to be the way either of us feels when the other has a bad day, so I started this whole internal conversation to see what Counselor Denver thought about it.

After talking through it all for a while I thought, “Just stop. You can’t make her feel better right now. Just love her.”

Suddenly I understood that, while we may want to help, we can’t stop each other from having bad days. We can’t make everything better.

All we can do is love each other.

I’m not sure how the person you care about prefers to receive love, and I don’t know how you are accustomed to give love, but the effort you put out shouldn’t be trying to fix the situation. It’s not your responsibility to cure the person you care about of his or her sadness.

Instead, focus your energy on loving them while they go through whatever they have going on.

Will this still take effort on your part? Yes, it will.

You aren’t giving yourself a free pass to relax while the person you love tries to fight his or her demons alone. But this is not your fight. You aren’t there to rescue the person you love.

You are there to love.

You are there to support.

You are not there to save.

And while this won’t necessarily make everything better, it will keep you from exhausting yourself trying to fix something you have no control over.

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