woman on couch; Boundaries and codependency

Boundaries and Codependency

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What’s the connection between boundaries and codependency?

Do weak boundaries mean I’m codependent?

These are common questions and this article and the video shared below will help you understand why problems with boundaries are associated with codependency and determine if you have codependent traits.

Boundaries

For this discussion, it’s important to remember that boundaries serve several purposes, including:

  • Boundaries separate me from you. My boundaries define me as a separate, unique person; I have my own ideas, values, thoughts, and feelings and I know that it’s okay for me to think and feel different than you do. Boundaries ensure that I’m not enmeshed with others.

  • Boundaries are a way to express how I want to be treated. They are limits that I set for myself and others.

Codependency

Below are some of the most common symptoms of codependency. You don’t need to have them all to consider yourself codependent. I find it’s helpful to think of codependency as existing on a continuum rather than being all-or-nothing. Some people experience more symptoms and distress due to codependent traits than others.

  • Fixing, helping, or rescuing others gives you a sense of purpose and makes you feel needed (or lovable).
  • You focus on other people and their problems and ignore your own feelings and needs.
  • You may enable, give unsolicited advice, nag, or be controlling.
  • You often feel worried or anxious.
  • You’re self-critical and possibly perfectionistic.
  • You don’t have a strong sense of who you are, what you like, how you feel, or what matters to you.
  • You’re a people-pleaser who will sacrifice what you want or need to avoid upsetting or disappointing others.
  • You have trouble setting boundaries and being assertive.
  • Intimacy, open communication, and trust are difficult.
  • You have difficulty asking for and accepting help.
  • You’re probably hard-working, overly responsible, and give to the point of exhaustion or resentment.
  • You suppress or numb your feelings and absorb other people’s feelings.
  • You have low self-esteem, feel unlovable, or not good enough.
  • You want to feel in control and have a hard time adjusting when things don’t go according to plan or the way you want.
What is the connection between boundaries and codependency?

Boundaries and Codependency

Having difficulty with boundaries does not necessarily mean you are codependent. However, as noted above, boundary problems are a symptom of codependency. Let’s take a closer look at how boundaries and codependency are connected.

People with codependent traits often struggle with boundaries because:

1) They focus on other people and their problems (caretaking, helping, fixing). As a result, they often neglect their own needs and undervalue themselves.

2) They may lose sight of who they are, what they need, and how they feel—all of which are needed for setting boundaries. Who we are and what we need direct us toward the type of boundaries we set. Our feelings are also indicators that we need to set boundaries. For example, if you feel tired or resentful or afraid, it’s probably because you’re lacking boundaries.

3) Codependents often struggle to speak up for themselves. They may think they shouldn’t need anything or feel worthy, so they don’t assert their needs and set boundaries. This relates to my first point above—codependents prioritize others over themselves and sometimes let others take advantage of their kindness or loyalty.

4) The caretaking and focus on others that I’ve discussed is often fueled by fears of making other people angry or being abandoned. These fears can be unconscious, but they contribute to not setting boundaries or asserting your needs or preferences because you’re afraid other people will get angry.

The short video below explains more about the connection between boundaries and codependency.

Learn More

For more information about codependency, please visit the codependency page on my website.

For more information about boundaries, consider getting a copy of The Better Boundaries Workbook (available at most bookstores).

I also invite you to sign-up for my weekly newsletter, where I share new blog posts, free resources, and other information about codependency and boundaries.

©2022 Sharon Martin. All rights reserved.

Better Boundaries Book

Learn to Set Better Boundaries

This evidence-based workbook will show you how to set healthy boundaries across all aspects of life—without sacrificing your kindness or compassion for others. You’ll learn to define your boundaries and discover why they’re so important for your emotional well-being.

Sharon Martin, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist specializing in codependency recovery with an online practice serving California residents. For the past 20 years, she’s been helping perfectionists and people-pleasers overcome self-doubt and shame, embrace their imperfections, learn to set boundaries, and reclaim their self-worth. Sharon writes the blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today and is the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and The Better Boundaries Workbook.

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