Last week we discussed the three different types of relationships that healthy people have: a relationship with God, with themselves, and with others. This week we will look further into relationships with others and how finding the right balance in connection with others can sometimes get a little tricky.
Think of connecting with others (friends, significant others, family members, co-workers, etc.) as a continuum. On one end is the idea of isolation, where one doesn’t experience much meaningful interaction with anyone. On the other end is the idea of being over-connected with someone, where one doesn’t experience much difference between where you start and another begins. Like most things in life, health would be somewhere in the middle of that continuum: not isolated yet not overly connected to the point of losing your sense of self.
A Swedish Proverb reads: Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.
But have you ever had someone in your life that feels more like the opposite of that proverb? Half the joy and twice the grief? That type of relationship is what we’ll be talking about today.
Sometimes in relationships there comes a sense of being “too close” where the boundaries get blurry and you feel responsible for someone else’s behavior, well-being and outcomes. This type of relationship can be with an adult child, a friend, a coworker, a parent, a sibling…with anyone really. If there is anyone in your life who you regularly experience anxiety over, you may be a little over-connected with that person. These types of relationship can feel simultaneously life-giving and suffocating. A person in this over-connected state would experience extremes of euphoria, purpose and joy when you’re connected, followed by anxiety, frustration, irritability or even anger.
Here are some signs of an over-connected relationship:
- Sharing a roller coaster: what happens to them feels like it happens to you as well
- Frequently talking about expectations for the relationship
- Feeling the need to have a “define the relationship” conversation
- A sense of responsibility for the other person’s happiness, wellbeing and choices
- Experiencing anxiety about the consequences the other may face and possibly intervening so that he/she won’t have to face them
- Overanalyzing what was said and reading into what was “meant” by this or that
- Giving (money, gifts, efforts, or otherwise) to a point that outsiders would feel uncomfortable about it
- Image maintenance: feeling like you have to minimize, defend or explain your friendship to other people
- “We” talk: Speaking on another’s behalf or as a unit (exceptions: your spouse or when your kids are little)
- Jealousy when other people get attention or discounting the other person’s connection with others outside your duo
- A general sense of anxiety or unrest unless you’re getting the person’s undivided attention
- Feeling depressed when the other person is not around
- If you’re obsessing about the friendship at the detriment of other things in your life
- If you feel more concerned about their life than your own
The goal would be to have one or a few significant people (some might call these people “best friends”) in your life where you feel comfortable being yourself, get a sense of a reciprocal friendship with trust, love and support, where you can speak the truth and hear the truth about your life, where you feel respected to be yourself and to make your own decisions.
Relationships with others are some of the best thing about life! They can bring joy, acceptance, laughter, support, a sounding board, hospitality, and much more. To feel known and loved is one of life’s greatest blessings! I sincerely hope you get to experience relationships with others as one of the deepest joys in your life.
If you want to talk further about how to remove unhealthy aspects of relationships out of your life (be it codependency, enabling, or something else), please feel free to reach out to me here. I’d love to coach you through this process! It’s truly one of my favorite topics because so much freedom can come by addressing this area of life.