The Thin Line Between Being Helpful and Co-Dependence


It wasn’t our most restful weekend.

Jon wrote about it on his blog.  About how he came to see that the cannabis he was taking for sleep and anxiety was actually making him more anxious not less.  At the same time he was having a bad reaction to the antibiotics he was taking for a tooth implant.

It was one of those times, for me, where the line between helping and co-dependence can waver.

Knowing the limits of how much I can help  Jon and how much he needs to do for himself can be  tricky. Whether it’s emotional or physical help.  But having two people who are aware of the dangers of being co-dependent and don’t want it, makes all the difference.

Jon and I both experienced co-dependence in our first marriages. We’ve never had the problem in ours because we are both aware of it.   And if we do see it creeping in we adjust what we are doing to stop it.

I seem to have a built in mechanism that makes me get only so involved in what Jon may be going through.  He jokes that when he gets sick I’m good for three days of taking care of him, then I get frustrated and irritable.

I couldn’t pin point the exact timing, and it does depend on the severity of the issue.  Obviously, Open Heart Surgery is different than an upset stomach.

But what Jon says is true.  I have my limits.

Yesterday afternoon I didn’t just want to get to my studio and do some work. I needed it.  My art helps keep me sane, helps balance my imbalances.  So I cut a conversation with Jon short and practically ran out of the house.

The good part is Jon understands the importance of this as much as I do.  He says he doesn’t take it personally. And even if he is just saying that to be kind , I’ll take it.

Because it is true.

In the past I would have thought I was being selfish, and felt I was being a bad person.  But now I don’t think of being selfish as just a bad thing.  There are times being selfish can lead to something good.

Like when helping others in a bounded way.  It makes me feel good to teach an Art class at The Mansion once a month.  It’s not the only reason I do it, but I don’t think I would continue doing it if it didn’t make me feel good.

I also know if I did it more than once a month, I would begin to resent it.

When I have a need to do something for myself, like going to my studio, even if it’s not the most opportune time for  Jon, ultimately it will be better for both of us.  I will be less angry and frustrated and better able to be there for Jon when I return.

I have leaned to trust my feelings about co-dependence.

I  know that helping someone has to have boundaries.   In the past I have experienced how helping someone with a problem, can lead to taking it over for them and then wanting to control them.

I’ve been on both sides of that.

Yesterday I did less blogging than I normally would have.  I give myself permission to do what made me feel the best.  And yesterday blogging wasn’t one of those things.

Today both Jon and I have been thinking and talking about what happened over the weekend.  It was big in ways we hadn’t realized.  We listened to each other and trusted each other in a new way, which will be lasting and make our relationship even better.

It turns out it may not have been our most restful weekend, but it was an important one.  And having gotten through it together the way we did, makes my love and trust for Jon even greater.

5 thoughts on “The Thin Line Between Being Helpful and Co-Dependence

  1. Ah, the sneaky thing of selfishness. So prevalent in many woman. Sticking to your true authentic self is more important than many realize.

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