Set Boundaries With Loved Ones

Set Boundaries With Loved Ones

It’s Alright to Set Boundaries With Loved Ones

 

I’m no stranger to online recovery forums. I find many people write in wondering how to set boundaries with their loved ones.  Whether their loved one is an addict, alcoholic, selfish, unavailable emotionally, etc., they’re just not sure what to do.

Most of the time, my answer is, “It depends” – because it does.

However, there are some common factors associated with setting boundaries and today, I’ll touch upon them.

Boundaries are very helpful in relationships of any kind.  Whether it’s your partner, child, parent, boss, friend, etc., being able to set and keep a boundary is important. If you’re not that great at it, don’t fret. Know that you’re not alone and boundary setting is a skill.  With practice, you’ll get better!

What you want and need matters

Say this with me:

“What I want and need matters.”

This sentence is a power-packed statement.  Why? Because what you want and need DOES matter. Because YOU matter, dear one!

Knowing what you want and need matters, so if you’re not sure, take some time to sit with this.  In your relationships, what do you want and need?

Trust? Respect? Unconditional love? Honesty? Affection? Security? Peace? Affirmation?

What DON’T you want?

Jealousy? Accusation? To be ignored, ridiculed, belittled, rejected, abused, substance abuse issues?

1. Tune in to your feelings

Asking yourself those questions will help you begin tapping into your feelings. This will help you learn what brings discomfort or uneasiness. Or just plain drama!  If his consistent emotional unavailability makes you feel ignored and rejected, those feelings do matter, because you matter, so it’s alright to have a conversation around this area, stating your wants and needs, and thus, setting your boundaries.

2. Be clear

When you’re setting your boundaries, be clear. Be direct.  Come from a kind heart, and not like, “Well, you better do this and this or else I’ll…..”  That sort of tone and intent might not go over very well.  For example, if you want and need some time with your friends regularly (without getting a cold shoulder or accused of cheating), go to your partner and simply state your needs and let him/her know how much you appreciate the support.  Be confident in your ability to express this want and need, because it is important to you, and YOU MATTER.

3. Say, “I deserve this.”

Give yourself permission to have boundaries.  I don’t mean that you have to have rigid rules all over the place, but you do deserve to have a relationship that has mutual boundaries that are set in a spirit of love.  If your partner is struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, for example, you have permission to set some boundaries around that.  I see far too many men and women sweep things under the carpet in such situations, rather than tuning into what they want and need in a relationship (sobriety being one thing), and live in misery. 

If you’re stressed to the core because your partner is doing something that brings chaos or drama, give yourself permission to stand in your truth and speak your truth.

4. Consider the past

Did you grow up in a home where boundary setting was non-existent? Where no one talked about anything?  Did you grow up in a home where alcoholism or drug addiction was present? Many times, in such cases people grow up taking on the role of “caretaker” or people pleaser.  They let their own needs and wants go and “over-care” for others. This gets exhausting. They don’t value the principle of reciprocity, giving and giving, but not allowing themselves to receive.

What has been your past experience? What was modeled to you growing up? Take this into consideration as you learn how to tune into your needs and set boundaries in your life.

5. Allow yourself to care for yourself

Many people struggling from codependency have a tough time caring for themselves.  They’ll place others’ needs before their own, and oftentimes never get around to doing the things they would like to do. Or, they don’t even know what they like to do or need to do, because they are so wrapped up in other peoples’ worlds.  Make self-care a priority.

6. Ask for help

You may need some help when it comes to setting and keeping boundaries.  No shame in that. There are counselors, books, and support groups that are valuable.  Al-Anon, Nar-Anon and Codependents Anonymous are great support groups that will help in learning how to set boundaries.

7. Practice

Being assertive with boundary setting takes practice. Start small, and go from there. Don’t expect perfection or that it will all go as planned. In fact, you may experience some flack from others when you go to them and set a boundary. After all, they’re probably used to you NOT standing in your truth or perhaps even enabling them.  Be persistent and don’t take the flack personal. In the Bible, it says, “Be strong in the Lord, and in God’s mighty power!”  It’s alright to lean on the power of God or Universe!

Relationships need boundaries, so my hope is that you’ll continue to learn about setting and keeping boundaries with your loved ones.  It’s a process, but I assure you that you’ll get better as you practice! 

Are you struggling with boundary setting?  In what way? 

How To Tell If My Husband (Or Wife) Is Using Drugs

How To Tell If My Husband (Or Wife) Is Using Drugs

How To Tell If My Husband (Or Wife) Is Using Drugs

 

Not knowing if your spouse is using drugs or not can cause so much anxiety.  Maybe they’ve got a history of drug use or maybe you’re seeing some sketchy behaviors.  Have you caught him in a lie? Is he slurring his speech? Have you found paraphernalia?

Drug use is more common than we all want to admit. From pain pills to benzos to alcohol to pot-brownies – there’s plenty of it going around.

But not in your house, right?

Or is it?

The Maddening Feeling of Not Knowing For Sure

Wondering if your spouse is using drugs or not can have you thinking and doing things you thought you’d never do. Once I was with a recovering addict and this person had been prescribed pain pills after a surgery. I thought, “Oh no. She’s gonna get addicted.” So, I did what any codependent partner would do: I counted her pills regularly without her knowing. 

I’m not proud of it, but I wanted to know if we were headed for addiction trouble.

Good news is that I worried for nothing, but that’s not the case for many spouses.

How Can I Tell If My Husband Is On Drugs?

This is the million-dollar question.

Well, you may not always be able to tell, but there are certain signs to be on the lookout for. Now, when I say watch for them, I don’t mean go all hyper-vigilant and watch his every move.  Don’t go snooping through all his things and trailing him through the city. 

What I’m saying is don’t go and get all addicted to his behavior.

Now, what you can do, while taking good care of yourself, is be on guard for the following signs of drug use:

Physically

  • Has he dropped quite a bit of weight fast?
  • Is he sleepy a lot or nodding off more than usual?
  • Does he look like hell?
  • Does he skip meals now?
  • Is he stumbling around?
  • Slurring his words?
  • Are his eyes bloodshot? Are his pupils tiny, tiny or really enlarged?
  • Does he have burns on his fingers? Lips?

Mood-wise

  • Is he progressively becoming irritable and aggressive?
  • Is he paranoid?
  • Overly anxious?
  • Does he head to the bathroom in a so-so or grumpy mood and come out all “Oh, what a wonderful world it is” mood? Then, a bit later he’s passed out on the couch?

Behavior-wise

These are more long-term changes to be on the lookout for:

  • Has he given up doing things he used to like doing? Hanging with the guys? Fishing? Playing with the kiddos?
  • Is he all secretive? Always has his phone within reach and gives you a horrible look if you even glance at it when it beeps or rings?
  • Gets lost headed to the store, coming in hours later?
  • Makes secretive phone calls?
  • Starts hanging out with that sketchy guy from work?
  • Have you caught him in lies?
  • Does he freak out and get all angry when you approach him about your suspicions?
  • Does he miss more and more work?
  • Does he genuinely act like he’s falling apart?
  • Is money missing?
  • Is he selling stuff?
  • Are the medications disappearing faster than they should be?
  • Is he going out all hours of the night when he used to be in bed at 10pm?

What’s The Verdict?

After looking at these signs, what do you think?  You think he’s using? 

It’s alright not to know for sure. Don’t make yourself crazy. 

If you’re concerned and some signs are there, it’s time to start learning how to approach him.

Don’t run to him in a tyrant screaming, “OMG, I can’t believe you’re on drugs!”

That’s not going to get you far. 

Confronting someone using drugs takes delicacy and strategy. You’ve got to prepare and plan.

For more information on how to do that, tune in for my next blog post.

Toxic Person? Relationship? Detach, Dear One

Toxic Person? Relationship? Detach, Dear One

 

Detach From The Narcissist/Addict/Emotional Abuser In A Loving Way

 

Codependents sure know how to attach.  In fact, some attach like a famished blood-sucking leech. It’s easier than you think to become obsessed with another person, such as your children or your partner, especially if you struggle with low self-worth. 

Not much else matters except pleasing your object of attachment because you get affirmation there. You lean on them to help you to feel like you matter.  In fact, you oftentimes forget to take care of yourself because you are so busy taking care of others to get what you want: love.

The problem is that you have a hard time receiving the love that may come because deep down you loathe yourself or at the very least, dislike who you are. 

“I love you, but me? Eh, there’s so much I can’t stand about myself.”

Here, Take My Power

The attachment is unhealthy. The longer you stay in the toxic relationship, the more you give away of yourself, you power, your self-esteem, and your self-worth.

You back yourself into a corner. You imprison your spirit. Their approval of you is pretty much the only thing that matters.  When you don’t get it, you’re extra sad, you self-sabotage, you resolve to try harder. It’s a hellish cycle.

Detach, dear one.

In order for you to continue to heal and recover, you must learn how to detach in a loving way. I say loving because you’re learning how to step into YOUR POWER. And, in doing so, you’re not taking his or her behavior personal. It is what it is, and you’re not willing to put up with it anymore or react harshly.

Now detaching can mean different things to different people and the thought of it can produce much anxiety. Like peeling a leech off of its tasty host, some pain will occur, but I assure you it is vital for your recovery and your potential to live life in freedom and joy.

Detaching can play out in different ways. For one it may mean completely cutting off all contact for a while. For another, it could mean limiting time spent and time thinking about that person.

The best approach is to sit down and discuss your issue with a good therapist and your partner.  Be honest about your unhealthy attachment and come up with a solution that works for both of you.

Keep in mind that detaching does not mean “breaking up” (though some do); it simply means to lovingly let go of your obsessive thoughts and behaviors when it comes to your partner. It means taking time to take care of your needs, time to find yourself and begin to learn how to love yourself.

You are responsible for you first.  Self-care can become a wonderful friend. You deserve to have a life of your own and not be enmeshed with another.

Reach Out For Help

You can attend individual or couples therapy if you find you need help.  The process of detaching in a healthy way and unlearning some of the negative skills you’ve been employing takes dedication, time, and a good therapist can help. 

You want to detach from the unhealthy attachment and not detach completely or in a rude way.  I’ve known some that just shut down and completely detach, which does not help in any way. It actually makes matters worse.

Once you’ve lovingly detached so you can have ample space to work on your own issues, you will then be more apt to reattach in a healthy way.  After I detached, which I did find to be challenging, my head began to clear and I saw things that I hadn’t seen when I was so caught up in the relationship.  I saw how immaturely I had acted at times and how I repelled my partner by my neediness and low self-worth.  Having some time to yourself unattached to your partner may be super good for your soul.

Ask yourself:

     –Is my world wrapped up in my partner/children?

     –Who am I without my partner?

     –How can I lovingly detach and work on me?

 

 

5 Behaviors You Should Never Tolerate

5 Behaviors You Should Never Tolerate

5 Toxic Behaviors We Should Never Tolerate

 

“You’re such a frickin’ idiot! Is their something wrong with your brain?”

I know, right? How rude!

This type of verbal bashing, along with plenty of other toxic behaviors, shouldn’t be tolerated in any relationship. The reality, however, is that plenty of us allow some toxicity to rule the roost, whether by parent, friend, sibling, boss, or lover.

READ MORE AT ELEPHANT JOURNAL

How Codependent Are You?

How Codependent Are You?

How Codependent Are You?

 

Each of us is unique in our own way, which means that even our codependent characteristics differ from one person to another. In fact, every problem that we might encounter, be it depression, anxiety, phobia or codependency, has its particularities.

Two people facing the same situation will most likely react differently. That’s because our actions, behaviors, words, decisions, opinions and pretty much anything our mind can conceive is shaped by our personality and character.

There isn’t an exact number of features or characteristics to say that a person is codependent or not. Simply put, it’s challenging to quantify codependency. Each person is different and has her own way of doing things. The characteristics of codependency vary from one individual to another, as well as how these features conjoin with our existence.

The following are many of the characteristics people who struggle with codependency usually manifest in their relationships at least some of the time. The primary purpose here is to build a portrait of your codependency characteristics. Like I said before, having a clear understanding of your problem is part of the healing process. You can’t defeat an unknown enemy and by the same logic, and you can’t overcome codependency unless you know some about the characteristics that make up this challenging condition.

⇒You fear rejection

Fear of rejection is one of the main characteristics of codependency. In general, this fear is the reason why we avoid social interactions. Those of us who struggle with this issue tend to perceive others as arrogant, aggressive or cynical. In reality, the people with whom we interact might be just as normal as us. It’s our own negative self-image that determines us to see others as superior or judgmental, making us feel uncomfortable in their presence.

However, in the context of codependency, the fear of rejection can actually make us clingier. If we somehow muster enough courage to be with someone, we might get overly attached to that person because he or she is the only one with whom we feel safe enough to be ourselves.

By following this ‘all in’ strategy, we basically set ourselves up for a codependent relationship in which we dedicate our entire time and energy to our partner and no one else.

⇒You take things too personally

Codependent individuals tend to feel somewhat vulnerable and fragile on the inside. Because of our low self-esteem and negative self-image, we often think that everyone (except our ‘perfect’ partner) is carefully watching, waiting for us to make a wrong move and criticize us for it.

The anxiety that stands behind our issues is the reason why our attention seems to be focused on identifying possible dangers. Maybe someone makes an innocent joke about our relationship and we immediately interpret it as a threat. We have to understand that when we’re in a codependent relationship, we tend to be extra careful in eliminating even the smallest thing that may put our relationship in jeopardy.

Bottom line, the tendency to take things personally can sometimes fuel our codependency and make us act all ‘paranoid’ which can actually do more harm than good, relationship-wise.

⇒You blame yourself for everything

As I mentioned before, our codependent tendencies often stem from a profound lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. When we don’t value ourselves as human beings and don’t believe in our own inner strength, we tend to take blame for everything bad that might happen to us or the people around us.

Self-blaming is one of the telltale signs of codependency and a sure path towards depression and other related issues.

But how can this emotional abuse that we inflict on ourselves influence our relationship? Imagine that your ‘perfect’ relationship is suddenly troubled by some unexpected negative events. This may result in some tension, a bit of arguing and some frustration on both sides. But since you’re a self-blamer, you’ll automatically think that it was you who caused the problems. On top of that, you’re too dependent on your ‘impeccable’ partner and you can’t blame him because he might get upset and leave you. This is what usually goes on in the mind of a self-blamer.

⇒You get defensive when others criticize you

Being defensive is actually a result of your tendency to take things too personally. In fact, these two behaviors usually go hand in hand.

You defend yourself because you don’t want others to see your ‘weaknesses’, you defend your partner because you don’t want him to think that you’re careless, and you protect your current friends because (in your mind) they are the only ones who will ever want to spend time with you.

⇒You reject compliments and praise

By now, you’ve probably figured out that your codependent tendencies are closely tied to your self-esteem. In other words, the more your self-esteem drops, the greater the chances of you getting involved in a codependent relationship. One easy way to observe this ‘trend’ is by paying close to how you react when someone offers you praise or compliments.

If other people’s appreciation makes you feel uncomfortable, this can point towards a profound lack of self-esteem or self-respect, which in turn can be a sign of codependent tendencies. Maybe, for some reason, you don’t feel worthy of respect and appreciation, or maybe your partner takes you for granted, and somehow you have the same opinion about yourself – that you don’t really matter.

Depriving yourself of positive feedback, such as compliments, tokens of appreciation and praise is equal to losing your self-worth, and when that happens, you’ll become the perfect candidate for codependent relationships.

Make sure you consistently nurture your self-esteem by accepting other people’s compliments, so that you will never feel the need to ‘tie’ to someone else, so that you can feel valuable. Simply say, “Thank you.”

⇒You think your happiness and well-being depends greatly on others

In general, codependency is a dysfunctional pattern unique to dependent personalities. One of the main signs of both codependency and dependent personality is our inability to find happiness and well-being on our own. Basically, one of the core beliefs of a codependent individuals is that in order to find real, authentic happiness, he/she needs to be in a relationship with someone who will help him/her achieve this goal.

But just because the quest for happiness can be a common goal doesn’t mean you can’t embark on this journey by yourself. In fact, there are times when making happiness a personal mission may be more interesting and enjoyable than taking a ‘co-op’ approach.

It’s perfectly ok to share your happiness with a significant other, but make sure you also invest in personal projects and activities. You can pick up a hobby, invest in a new skill, or simply spend some time alone with your thoughts.

⇒You don’t want to assume responsibility for your life

One of the fundamental truths about codependent people is that they find it challenging to take responsibility for their own life. Either because they were never taught how to take care of their needs and desires by themselves, or because they can’t tolerate the frustration that results from tackling life’s difficulties on their own.  

As a result, they choose to put their life in the hands of other people, constantly waiting to be groomed, spoiled, satisfied or rescued from difficult situations. At first glance, it sounds like a pretty good deal, but the odds can quickly turn against them.

In most cases, the moment when we finally realize that our responsibility issues are detrimental to our well-being is when our partner decides to leave us or when he no longer wants to be a ‘safety net’.

But you can avoid this hassle by slowly learning how to care for yourself, as self-care will become one of your highest priorities in codependency recovery.  

You take excessive responsibility for other people’s lives

Not all codependent individuals are running away from responsibility. In fact, some of them tend to take excessive responsibility for their life and for the lives of others too. Usually, the tendency to be overly responsible stems from guilt or shame. More specifically, we think that we ought to be competent and strong enough to take care of others and solve their problems, while taking care of our own business too.

Sadly, feeling too responsible for your partner’s happiness and well-being can indicate the presence of codependent tendencies. In other words, you can’t let go (or you don’t want to) of a complicated relationship because you think that your partner won’t be able to cope and that makes you feel guilty or ashamed. To avoid these unpleasant feelings, you choose to remain in that relationship, even though taking care of yourself and your partner completely drains your energy.

In such cases, you need to remember that the most important person in your life should be you. Only after you’re strong enough to assume responsibility for yourself should you start lending others a helping hand. lLet’s not forget that a relationship is a pact between two independent people who choose to spend quality time together. Notice the word ‘independent’. It means that the two of you should find a way to split responsibility; not pass it from one to the other.

You may struggle with obsessive tendencies

Just because you have a few obsessive thoughts now and then doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re struggling with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). However, obsessions can sometimes point towards codependency, especially when the content of your obsessive thoughts is related to your partner or your relationship.

Thoughts like “I have to check him/her constantly”, “I have to know where he/she is all the time”, “It’s been an hour since we last talked. I have to call him/her”, “I have to marry him/her, no matter what”, etc. are actually obsessions that result from your insecurities.

These irrational have’s can quickly transform you into a suffocating and overly-attached person, who seeks to control every little aspect of the relationship. But the same obsessive thoughts that nurture your codependent tendencies can drive a wedge between you and your partner, making him/her less willing to continue this suffocating interaction between you two.

Once you deal with your insecurities and come to terms with whatever bad experiences that may have left you emotionally scarred, your obsessions will slowly fade away, leaving room for confidence, trust, and respect.

⇒You deny and repress your true self

Once again, we’re forced to bring up the topic of shame and guilt. It appears most of us are too ashamed to discuss our codependent issues openly. Besides, knowing that codependency affects our relationship can often make us feel guilty.

According to many experts, shame and guilt are two of the most ‘perverted’ feelings that blitz our minds. The reason why these emotions are completely useless and irrational is that they keep us in a constant state of idleness. In other words, we pity ourselves, and we don’t do anything to get out of our miserable situation. That is how shame and guilt restrict our freedom, trapping us into all sorts of unpleasant situations like codependency or other types of dysfunctional relationships.

But we don’t want to accept this truth. It’s too painful to talk about it, so instead, we choose to bury it deep down inside. Unless we find the strength to bring our codependent tendencies out into the open, we are doomed to fall into one toxic relationship after another.

You can’t tolerate uncertainty

Life consists of ups and downs and this can influence our relationship in a positive or negative way. However, it’s not the ups and downs of our relationships that cause us to feel uncertain, but the fact that we can’t predict the future course of our relationship, marriage, friendship, affair, etc.

Although most of us have simply accepted uncertainty as a normal part of life, codependent individuals seem to struggle with this issue a lot. They are desperate to know the exact course of their life in advance. I can relate to this so much. I tend to like to know what’s going to happen, or I’ll struggle with a lot of anxiety.

If you find yourself feeling confused and discouraged by the fact that your life seems chaotic and uncontrollable, the worst thing you can do is trick yourself into believing that someone else can provide you with that beautiful sense of control that you desperately crave.

You feel like an outsider

Codependency can often make us feel like we’re some kind of ‘weirdo’ or outsider. Consider this next scenario. Everyone around you seems to move on with their lives and engage in all sorts of exciting projects, and here you are, stuck in a relationship that feels increasingly more like a prison – and you feel like you wouldn’t fit anywhere else.

For you, life seems to have stopped long ago, and the only thing that’s keeping you afloat is this relationship that you don’t even find satisfying or fulfilling anymore.

Such grim perspectives can make anyone feel discouraged, sad, or even depressed. It’s like your existence is no longer yours anymore, and you can’t seem to find a way to regain your thirst for life.

And people around you are visibly worried about you. Some of them might pity you; others might offer a helping hand or a few kind words. Since shame determines you to deny your codependent tendencies, any intervention from a friend or family member will be immediately blocked by a barrage of rationalizations and ‘carefully-packed’ explanations.  

The bottom line is that people will slowly begin to distance themselves from you. Soon enough, the only person left will be the one with whom you share the same codependent relationship.

You feel like a victim/prisoner

Since codependency keeps you trapped in a toxic relationship, it’s somehow normal to feel like a detainee. But this is a special kind of prison, one in which you are the warden, the guard and the prisoner all at the same time. For many of us, getting rid of our codependent tendencies seems like a scattered dream, but there are plenty of ways to escape.

What most of us probably don’t know is that there is a huge difference between being a victim/prisoner and acting like a victim/prisoner. Codependency makes you adopt a victim-like attitude and behavior, and since you’ve probably played this role for quite some time, you’ve become accustomed to it. In other words, you’re not really a victim or a prisoner, (because you have the power to overcome this issue) – you’re just acting like one.

Second, since you’ve built this prison with your own hands (or your own attitude), it means you know its every weakness. Moreover, you are the one who holds the keys to every door. In short, you can escape anytime you want.

You find it difficult to make a decision (even a trivial one)

When codependency is built into the foundation of our relationship, even the simplest decision, like what to eat for dinner, becomes an overwhelming challenge. Since we don’t trust ourselves with anything and we almost always rely on our significant other to do the job for us, at some point, we simply give ourselves entirely to that person. But that’s not the only explanation behind our unwillingness to make even the smallest decisions.

There are situations when we avoid making decisions because we don’t want to upset our partner in some way. We are so terrified by the idea of being single and facing life’s challenges by ourselves that we give up on making our own decisions, hoping that he or she will feel ‘important’. In short, we put our partner on a pedestal, and we let him/her be the boss.

Your relationship feels like a roller coaster

The life of a codependent individual unfolds between extremes. Relationships are marked by ups and downs, moments of intense passion followed by ridiculous drama. One day you’re on a wonderful vacation together and the next day you’re sleeping in separate rooms. The main problem is that in time, these constant shifts between love and war will deteriorate your relationship.

But why is this happening to us? Why do we keep jumping from one emotional state to another? The answer is relatively simple. It’s an internal struggle between two conflicting desires. On one hand, you want to express your originality and free spirit and on the other, you don’t want to let go of that wonderful sense of security that your codependent partner might provide. It’s also a coping skill you picked up most likely as a child.

Unless you find a way to reconcile these two opposite desires, your relationships may go through the same reckless circle of sublime bliss and profound agony.

As always, write down all the characteristics that describe your behavior and attitude towards your current partner. If you’re single, think of a past relationship and try to identify what were the telltale signs of your codependent tendencies back then.

This will be the portrait of your codependency and as you move forward, and you can keep this portrait in mind when it comes to healing and growth. This is the “false” you that will be moving toward the “authentic” you.