I’m driving down the road, a completely normal day when suddenly he is in the street. A kid, holding a skateboard. His legs moving fast, dashing from lane to lane, till he easily clears the sidewalk with no car even close to him. The part of this that was nuts though, was the way this kid jumped. He looked around him, and then bolted for it, no hesitation in his body, seemly no thoughts of panic, just determination. I wonder what it would be to live life that way?
I bring this up because one population of men that I work with are those who identify as codependent. Being codependent is less about the “label” and more identifying with the sediment that you self-harm in relationships, because you relentlessly put others before you at the detriment to yourself, your health, and your safety. You can find a longer description of this label here.
Sometimes we call codependency “Nice Guy Syndrome”.Now all of us want the people in our lives to be happy, but with codependency, or Nice Guys, the amount of monitoring they do in relationships seems to be over the top. And taking charge of their lives feels impossible, so there is always a reason not to. A reason to be patient, or more giving, or more carrying in some small way that they “should” always see. There is always a car in the road telling them not to move, to wait for a time that won’t upset others around them.Time and time I get asked the question about what to do about this, and the thing that seems to resonate with Nice Guys? Becoming Wild. Instead of paying close attention to what people think, and monitoring reactions within yourself, you simply focus on what you want to do. Like the kid on the skateboard, you feel it, and you look around and then you go. Do you want to be in relationship to this person, yes or no? Do you want to give that person the time of day, yes or no? Do you like what that relationship looks like in your life?Often the resistance to these things comes down to one truth for those within codependency or Nice Guy syndrome, they are scared. Scared that if they did this, if they spoke what was truly on their minds, people would leave. Or hate them. Or worse..The concept of just being who you never cross their minds, mainly because they are so concerned with that one keyword: Selfish.So here are some things to help you become wild:Trust Your Heart/Emotional Center: This is so key because all the logic in the world isn’t going to get you out of depression. Or anxiety. Or fear. It is going to come down to your emotional response to others. And you have doubted this for so long, why not make a change? What if your gut had something really important to say to you? (Here is the science on this in case you don’t believe me.) And if you don’t know how to do this, consider some of these activities.Begin to set boundaries: Boundaries are so important, they are what allow people to come close to us, or keeps them at arm's length. Often we aren’t aware of how we are keeping people out but there are some things we can do to become aware. And with that awareness, about how close or far we want people or things in our lives, we can begin to transform our lives. Affective boundaries tend to have three main components to them: They are concrete, time-sensitive and respectful. We don’t demand others compline with our boundaries, we simply note what they are and then we progress from there. An example would be: "For the time being, I would really like, if you would when you come home, hang up your jacket. This would mean a lot to me." This boundary allows you to be you, does not judge their action “when you are fucking lazy and leave your shit..” and allows the person to respond with what they think and believe. 3. Know that Relationships Are Resilient: So you say the ‘wrong’ thing? You are a little ‘too’ loud, or ‘too’ obnoxious. If you come to regret these actions later, you can always apologize. And know that if someone is willing to hear you, and not simply make passive-aggressive remarks. This is just the start, of some tools and some change, but I’ll leave you with this quote from Melody Beattie: “We Are Lovable even if the most important person in your world rejects you, you are still real, and you are still okay.” -Melody Beattie