High Functioning Codependency and the Importance of Setting Boundaries

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The line between care and kindness and codependency is sometimes blurred. While it is normal to be invested in the lives of those we care about, how do we know when or if we are overly invested?

How to know whether your relationships are reciprocal or you are doing more than your share? 

Are you overly kind and caring to others, deeply invested in their emotions, experiences, and life choices?

Are you always available to help, often doing things for others or fixing their problems even if they don’t ask you to? 

Do you put in extra hours at work at weekends and nights to cover for colleagues? 

Do you have trouble saying ‘no’ even to obviously unreasonable requests?

Maybe your exaggerated interest in others’ well-being, empathy, and care are manifestations of high functioning codependency.

Understanding high-functioning codependency can help you set boundaries, take better care of yourself, and protect yourself in your relationships. 

What is High Functioning Codependency (and How Does It Differ from Codependency)?

High-functioning codependency is a behavior characterized by blurred boundaries and an imbalance in relationships. In highly functioning codependent relationships, one person takes responsibility for fulfilling another person’s needs, trying to control all aspects of their relationship.  

However, if you are more invested in your relationships, this may take a toll on your mental health and well-being. 

A psychotherapist and relationship expert Terri Cole coined the term high functioning codependency to describe the difference between traditionally understood codependency and high functioning codependency.

According to Cole, we all fall somewhere on the codependency spectrum because codependency is a part of shared human experience. However, she believes codependency is more often present in women because of their social role. A woman is traditionally seen as someone who nurtures, fixes, and cares for. So, some women internalize this social role while growing up, becoming codependent people-pleasers. 

So, how does how functioning codependency differ from regular codependency?

The traditional understanding of codependency means being involved in an unhealthy relationship with an addict of some kind and enabling their addictive behavior. 

On the other hand, in persons with high-functioning codependency, everything looks just fine on the surface. They seem as if they have it all together. They are successful professionals, perfect mothers, partners, and friends. Usually, they are high-achievers – they are working, getting things done, and making it look easy, not recognizing themselves as codependent. 

However, these people have a strong need to control others, fix their behavior, and take care of their needs. 

And they are doing it at the expense of their well-being. Highly functioning codependent people typically feel resentful, exhausted, and burned out because they neglect their self-care and needs.

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8 Signs of a High Functioning Codependent Relationship

High functioning codependency stems from the person’s need for control. Here are eight signs of a high-functioning codependent relationship to help you understand where you stand on a codependent spectrum. 

You Aren’t Aware of Your Needs

High-functioning codependent persons are always managing everyone else’s needs except their own. They lack the awareness of what they need, neglecting their own self-care, which prevents them from functioning optimally in life. 

You Overdo It/Give Too Much

If you are a highly functioning codependent person, you may invest much more in your relationships than you get in return. You are the one in your relationship always there to listen, give advice, or find a solution. You need to make sure everyone is okay before taking care of yourself. 

Also, you feel physically and emotionally exhausted, frustrated, and bitter because you give too much at the end of the day. 

You Always Cover for Others

You were probably that friend who covered for everyone else with parents and teachers in high school. Or you are juggling too much work at the office covering for your colleagues. Although you feel resentful, you don’t know how to say ‘no.’

You Do More than It Is Asked of You

Potentially, you are an overdoer who goes above and beyond to meet other people’s needs, even if they don’t ask for your help. 

You Need to Be Needed by Others

It feels good when you know you’re needed. But, because of your deeply rooted need to control everything, you feel good about yourself only when others cannot function without you. 

You Feel Like You Must Solve All Their Problems

You are stretching to your limits to help other people. If you are an avid advice-giver who feels good solving others’ problems, even those they can and should be solved by themselves. 

You Feel Like You Can’t Be Loved If You Are Not Useful

Your sense of self-esteem and your own value depends on how useful you are to others. Therefore, you feel that you always need to be at service to deserve other people’s attention, appreciation, and love. 

You Feel Used and Underappreciated

Potentially you feel used after all you have done for others. You are often overwhelmed by resentment and disappointment because people don’t appreciate your efforts.

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Setting Boundaries to Break Free from High Functioning Codependence

According to Terri Cole, high functioning codependency is about disordered and blurry boundaries. People with high-functioning codependency have difficulty setting and maintaining clear, healthy boundaries towards other people and life experiences. 

Similarly, they don’t respect other people’s boundaries. Instead, they intrude on others’ privacy, offering non-wanted advice, solving their problems, and taking care of their stuff when not asked to do so. 

However, it is possible to change your behavior, develop healthier habits, and break free from high-functioning codependence.

Become Your Own Boundary Boss

Becoming your own boundary boss means learning to say ‘no’ to others without feeling guilty or needing to provide additional explanations. It means allowing yourself to make mistakes and learn from them.

Setting boundaries also means accepting accountability for your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. But only for your own.

It means the readiness to communicate your needs, feelings, and desires without the fear of being judged or rejected. Or demand others to treat you with consideration, compassion, and respect. 

Finally, setting boundaries means understanding that you have the right to take care of yourself without feeling guilty or selfish.

Understanding healthy boundaries and making these protective behaviors habitual can help you become your own boundary boss and break away from high-functioning codependence. Coaching can be a huge help when you are trying to set boundaries and break free from codependent beliefs and behaviors. Book a time to speak www.chatwithkamini.com

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Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood is a Certified Life Coach, and best-selling author. Her mission is to empower high-performing adults and teens to become resilient self-leaders by reducing stress and anxiety, overcoming imposter syndrome, working through trauma, and re-discovering their AuthenticMe®.

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My name is Kamini Wood, and I’m here to accompany you on your journey toward understanding yourself on a deeper level so can create the life you want personally and professionally. It’s time to embrace your AuthenticMe ™