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Understanding Codependency with Terri Cole

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Psychotherapist Dr. Terri Cole joins Better Together to help us with our understanding of codependency and creating boundaries. Codependency, as she defines it, is caring too much about others’ feelings at your detriment, or at your own expense. So many of us are guilty of this and need to stop putting ourselves on the back burner. Luckily, Dr. Cole shares how we can do just that. 


Terri Cole’s 11 Tips for Understanding Codependency and Creating Boundaries: 


1) Putting others’ first isn’t a badge of honor 

We learned that the more you self-sacrifice, the better you are as a person. We learned that being a good person was all about being nice and not making others uncomfortable with your emotions. In reality, caring about yourself is NOT selfish and we shouldn’t see it as so. 


2) Reframing Practice

If you are in a situation in which a friend hurts you and makes you feel bad about their wrong actions, try this tactic. Think about if your best friend was in that situation – what would you tell them? Odds are, you wouldn’t blame them for someone else’s wrongdoings and the same should go for you – don’t let other people make you feel guilty for being upset with them. 


3) Codependency is an overt bid for control over people’s outcomes

People often come to codependents with their problems because we and the reason we try to manage them is because we know we will have to handle chaotic situations. But that’s work for us. We don’t want our bff marrying that jerk because we will have to deal with the aftermath, so we do everything to get them out of the mess before it happens. We say it is for them, but really, it’s for us. 


4) We all need to learn our own lessons

When Terri was younger, her sister was in a bad relationship and she was asking her therapist how she could help her. Her therapist replied, “what makes you think you know what lessons your sister needs to learn in life?” While it may be hard to watch a loved one go through a rough patch, they have to learn their own lessons. 


5) Codependency is just disordered boundaries

Boundaries are knowing your limits and non-negotiables. If codependents had those, they wouldn’t be codependents. Communicating your boundaries will help reduce your codependency. 


6) Boundaries will help you feel seen  

Saying yes when we want to say no is giving corrupted data about who we are to the people in our lives. If our external is way different than our internal experience or narrative, we are never going to be seen because no one will ever really no know us the real us. Creating boundaries gives those around you a look into who you are and allows them to love the real you, which will in turn make you feel more seen. 


7) New boundaries may take some getting used to…

We train people how to treat us. If you constantly allow a friend to interrupt you and not say anything, you are enabling that bad behavior. So when we start to set boundaries, there may be some resistance because the other person is not used to your new behavior. Just be aware that this may happen and if they are a true friend, they will learn to adjust and even appreciate you setting the boundary. 


8) You don’t have to provide context

When setting a boundary, you don’t need to explain yourself. Providing context is almost like you are trying to convince them you have the right to set this boundary but you don’t need to justify anything. You are allowed to set any boundary you would like, no explanation necessary. 


9) How people receive your boundary is on them, not you

If you are afraid that setting a boundary with a loved one will end the relationship, is that a relationship you even want? That is a fragile connection that probably isn’t serving you all that much anyways. True friends would respect your wishes, not punish you for them. 


10) Express your feelings in a letter

If you are having trouble in your friendship but don’t know how to express it in person, write your feelings in a letter. It is not only a cathartic for you but can help your friend better understand what it is you are truly feeling. 


11) Feeling guilty about setting boundaries? Don’t!

Guilt is something you should feel when you do something wrong. Setting a boundary is not wrong. However, if you feel badly about it, give yourself 48 hours before taking back the boundary. After 48 hours, you can reevaluate. 

Maria Menounos Guest Terri Cole on Understanding Codependency


Listen to our 2 part interview with Terri here:


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