Healthy Giving

The topic of giving is important for all recovering co-dependents. I think co-dependent individuals tend to be very giving by nature. In regards to our significant relationships, we want to feel that by our giving, we are contributing to another person's growth or well being. This is the "helping" and "caretaking" role we often fall into.

Giving is also dangerous for co-dependents. Whether we are giving our affection, our money, or our time, we want to be appreciated for our giving. Our egos want the gift to be recognized. At the same time, we also don't want our significant others to take advantage of our generous nature or take our generosity for granted. We can become resentful if our gift is not acknowledged or received with the proper gratitude.

We may also give with an expectation of getting something in return. We give in the sense of striking a silent deal—since I'm doing something for you, I expect you to do something for me. This is a form of co-dependent manipulation and we tend to let such deal-making substitute for honest communication.

But what is healthy giving? How do we, as recovering co-dependents find balance in this area?

First we must realize that healthy giving is our choice. We must give our gifts freely because we want to. If we are giving from a sense of obligation or guilt, we are not truly giving. Healthy giving comes from the heart, based on our conscious decision to give a particular gift.

Second, healthy giving is for our benefit—not the recipient's. In fact, the recipient need not even be aware that we are giving something of value to them. We give for the joy that we derive from our ability to give. By giving freely, we are developing our capacity to give more. Like exercising a muscle. Healthy giving does not need to be proclaimed for all to see and hear, nor does it need to be acknowledged by anyone but the giver.

Third, we give what we can give at the moment. Perhaps we say a prayer for an addicted friend. Perhaps we give a smile to someone who is grouchy. Perhaps we forgive the cross remark a spouse or child cast our way. There are hundreds of gifts and opportunities for us to give without giving up our power or our sense of calm and balance. We never have to feel compelled to give beyond our means—emotionally, financially, spiritually, etc.

continue story below

Fourth, we give without expectation of return. We give an unconditional gift, with no strings attached. There is a blessing for us in this type of giving. Giving is not about the other person. Giving is about us. We do not give in order to receive—we give for the joy of giving. Our motivation is love, kindness, compassion, and treating another person the way we would like to be treated. If we are giving in order for someone to like us, approve of us, love us, or do things for us in return, then we have fallen back into unhealthy giving.

What are some healthy gifts that we can give?

Good deeds
Cards and letters
Telephone calls
Volunteer services

Healthy giving is a way for us to get outside of ourselves and our problems (and all co-dependents need to do that!). Giving allows us to focus on helping others without enabling them and without getting caught in a web of crazy, co-dependent expectations.

next: Recovery Is...

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, November 30). Healthy Giving, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: August 8, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

More Info