037: Overcoming Codependency with Sharon Martin, LCSW

Sharon Martin

Ever been in a lopsided relationship where you were giving and giving, and lost track of who you are and what you want out of life? If so, you may be caught in a codependent relationship. 

Codependency is a spectrum of behaviors that can exist in any type of relationship. It happens when one person is overly focused on another person’s feelings, needs and problems, and even taking responsibility for things they have no control over. If this sounds like you, how can you untangle yourself from this pattern of behavior?

Dr. Sharon Martin, a licensed psychotherapist specializing in codependency for 25 years, and helps people pleasers and perfectionists overcome self-doubt, shame, embrace their imperfections, and learn to set boundaries. Dr. Martin is the author of two books and writes the popular blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today.

In this episode, Dr. Martin defines codependency, where it comes from, and how it can be normalized in women. She walks us through what happens when we try to people please and lack boundaries. Finally, she discusses how to recognize warning signs that you may be codependent and the first steps to changing your behavior.

Key Highlights:
  • Codependency is not an official diagnosis, but rather a spectrum of behaviors that can apply to any type of relationship.
  • The root cause of codependency lies in low self-worth and feeling like one has to prove their value through giving to others.
  • Women are largely socialized to be caretakers, so it may be harder to recognize codependency in women.
  • Questions to ask yourself:
    • How many of these behaviors or thinking patterns do you recognize in yourself?
    • How does that show up in your life? 
    • What kind of problems is that causing for you? 
    • If it’s not really causing you any problems, then you probably won’t feel inclined to do anything about it.
  • Codependency can come from your own childhood trauma (growing up in a family where there’s a lot of chaos or it’s unpredictable) or it’s a learned behavior, passed down from generation to generation.
  • A lot of these behaviors are things that we do in childhood to try to keep ourselves safe.  Understanding this can be helpful for people in accepting that the behaviors absolutely serve a purpose when we start doing them.
  • It’s sometimes hard to look back at your childhood and make an accurate assessment on what you went through.
  • You can’t actually please everybody all of the time, even if you do exactly what they say they want you to do. 
  • We’re need to see ourselves as a whole and separate people rather than somebody’s spouse or an extension of our parent. So, a boundary is also an element of this that helps us define who we are, what’s important to us, so we’re not just that extension of somebody else.
  • Codependency can become almost compulsive for some people that they really don’t know how to stop. They’re quick to accept the responsibility for the outcome even if it’s out of their control.
  • Sometimes people will recognize that they are exhausted. They are depleted, angry, and resentful that they have to do it all, even though they’re signing themselves up to do it all. They’re not setting any boundaries, but they’re resentful of the fact that they have to do it.
  • Acknowledging how you actually feel about what’s going on, and how you feel about yourself is not necessarily a small task. Even though that’s the beginning, there can be a lot of work that needs to be done just to get to that place of accepting what the reality is for you and what state your relationships are in.
Links Mentioned:

Full Bio:

Dr. Sharon Martin, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist specializing in codependency recovery with an online practice serving California residents. For the past 25 years, she’s been helping perfectionists and people-pleasers overcome self-doubt and shame, embrace their imperfections, and learn to set boundaries. Dr. Martin is the author of two books: The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and The Better Boundaries Workbook. She also writes the popular blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today and has been featured in various media outlets including PsychCentral, Web MD, Women’s World, and Highly Sensitive Refuge.

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