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Codependency versus Over-giving.jpg

Over-givers tend to be out of alignment with their authentic self, putting everyone else's wants, needs, and feelings first and theirs last. This is not healthy. A person who is in healthy alignment is in balance with giving and receiving. They can assert themselves, and they are in tune with how they feel—and they have deal-breakers and boundaries for how they expect to be treated. They know it's not healthy for them to sink themselves to save someone else or save a relationship.

Some common feelings and actions over-givers have are:

  • They are continually making justifications for being treated in an emotionally or physically harmful way. They would be horrified if their child or someone they loved was treated in the same way.

  • Trouble telling the difference between a healthy relationship and a dysfunctional one.

  • Feeling resentful at having to be the one to fix the relationship after being lied to continually, cheated on, stolen from, used in some way, manipulated, or if the other person is controlling or abusive.

  • They feel like a parent, teacher, caregiver, or therapist to others, especially to the problematic person in their life.

  • Trouble saying no or setting and enforcing boundaries with others.

  • An over-giver has difficulty being assertive and instead are passive, passive-aggressive, or aggressive. They stay in friendships, jobs, or toxic, draining, or one-sided relationships until the situation becomes unbearable.

  • They feel guilty for setting boundaries and saying yes when they mean no.

  • Feeling guilty for cutting off contact with controlling, crazy-making, destructive, disempowering, dangerous, or overall difficult people.

  • They continually think that other people are kind, compassionate, considerate, faithful, and loyal at their core or have the capacity to be like that. If they could get through to them, or if they give them enough love, therapy, rehab, time, understanding, or church—instead of seeing other people's behavior for what it is.

  • Not setting the line in the sand when it comes to others' actions or thinking that everything is fixable and workable and that improved communication solves everything.

  • Over-givers continually trust untrustworthy people.

Not everyone who gets taken in by a narcissist is codependent, but they did have some sort of vulnerability that the narcissist could exploit early on. They may have vulnerabilities of feeling lonely, scared, unloved, or perhaps they were recently widowed or even new to town. Whichever way, it's worth examining both your vulnerabilities as well as your programming about love, friendships, relationships, boundaries, and deal-breakers—because you aren't cursed, or unlucky, or somehow attract all the wrong people. There is more going on here, and it's most likely on a subconscious level.


To tell if codependency is a problem in your life or if it was only an issue in this relationship, it's helpful to look back at the other significant relationships you've had to determine if there is a pattern. If you've had several relationships or friendships that were toxic, then this isn't a coincidence, and no, you aren't cursed. The good news is that once you start examining your boundaries and vulnerabilities, you become conscious of them and start working towards getting more in alignment with what is healthiest for you.

The term codependency originated in the context of Alcoholics Anonymous and was initially used to describe the excessive emotional reliance a spouse of an alcoholic has on their alcoholic partner. So while the alcoholic is excessively reliant on alcohol, their spouse is overly reliant upon the alcoholic. These relationships are one-sided. The alcoholic spouse is continually having destructive behavior, and the codependent spouse is forever busy picking up the pieces, doing damage control, and trying to make things work.
The term codependency has grown over the past few decades, extending far beyond the dynamic of an alcoholic and their spouse. The term codependency now includes any relationship where one person has an excessive emotional reliance on another—no matter how destructive or dangerous they might be.
The concept of codependency is often viewed as victim-blaming. Many feel that it shares the burden of the abusive behavior of the destructive person on both people involved and doesn't consider that the codependent partner is being actively manipulated or is staying due to religious, financial, or other reasons. 

Because the word codependency can feel re-victimizing or victim-blaming, many people shut down or get defensive if it's even mentioned as an issue. Because there are many elements within the concept of codependency often critical to healing, it can help put aside the word codependency and think about the concept in terms of over-giving. 


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