How To Stop Being Codependent in Your Relationship

How To Stop Being Codependent in Your Relationship

You might already be familiar with the term “codependency” and it may sound like a buzzword due to recent popularity in mainstream media…

but it’s actually a very real and potentially harmful dynamic that can affect your relationships, quality of life and overall well-being. 

So, let’s dive in and learn more about what it means to be codependent, why it’s important and how to break free from this pattern.

Understanding Codependency: Symptoms & Behaviours

So how can you tell if you’re codependent? 

Some common symptoms include a fear of rejection, difficulty saying no, and a need for control. You may find yourself constantly worrying about other people’s problems, or feeling like you’re responsible for their happiness. This can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

Codependent tendencies can manifest in a variety of ways, but some common behaviors include people-pleasing, enabling, and caretaking. 

For example, you may feel like you have to say yes to every request, even if it means sacrificing your own time and energy.

Or you may find yourself making excuses for someone else’s bad behavior, or even covering up for them. 

You may have legitimately good intentions – for others – but this one-sided abundance of grace can create patterns of feeling used, neglected, unseen or unappreciated. 

Common Reasons for Becoming Codependent

How To Stop Being Codependent in Your Relationship

There are many common reasons why people become codependent individuals. Understanding these underlying factors can be helpful in identifying and addressing this issue. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Childhood experiences: Growing up in a dysfunctional or emotionally neglectful environment, such as a family with addiction, abuse, or mental illness, can lead to codependent behaviors. This can be seen in the role a child adopts as a coping mechanism, such as being The Caregiver (also known as a ‘’Parentified Child’’).
  • Low self-esteem: Individuals with low self-esteem may seek validation and approval from others, leading to codependent behaviors.
  • Lack of boundaries: A lack of healthy boundaries can lead to over-involvement in other people’s problems and difficulty saying no.
  • People-pleasing tendencies: A desire to please others can lead to neglecting one’s own needs and putting others first, resulting in codependent behaviors.
  • Fear of abandonment: A fear of being alone or abandoned can lead to clinging to others and sacrificing one’s own needs to keep relationships intact.

So, why is it so important to stop being Codependent?

If left undealt with, codependency can have a serious negative impact on your mental and emotional health. It can prevent you from forming stable relationships and lead to feelings of resentment and burnout. And by enabling someone else’s problematic behavior, you may actually be doing more harm than good.

If some of this resonates, it may feel pretty daunting to sit with, right?

That’s why it is also important to remember that it is always possible to learn how to stop being codependent and prioritize your own well-being.

Your well-being, the quality of your life and the quality of connections matter! By learning how to set boundaries and prioritize your own needs, you can start to build healthier relationships and live a more fulfilling life. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.

In the next section, we’ll explore common patterns, along with practical tips and strategies for breaking free from this issue and taking care of yourself.

Identifying Codependent Patterns

Now that we have a better understanding of what codependency is, let’s take a closer look at some specific behaviors that may indicate you’re struggling with this dynamic.

Codependency can take many forms, but some common patterns include constantly seeking approval or validation from others, sacrificing your own needs for the sake of someone else’s, and feeling like you’re responsible for fixing someone else’s problems. 

You may also find yourself in a cycle of rescuing and enabling behavior, where you’re constantly trying to “save” someone else from their own mistakes.

Your common roles in your inner circles may be: The Golden Child, The Caregiver, The replacement Parent, The older/eldest sibling, The Good Listener, The Hero/Rescuer…

How To Stop Being Codependent in Your Relationship

At the core of codependency is often a deep emotional dependence on someone else. You may feel like you need someone else to feel happy, secure, or even just “normal.” This can lead to a pattern of sacrificing your own needs in order to please or appease someone else.

Enabling behaviors can also play a significant role in codependency. When you enable someone else’s problematic behavior, you essentially witness them continue down a destructive path. 

It can be hard to break free from enabling because it can ‘go against’ what that person wants. Speaking up and ‘against’ their wants is often put aside out of fear of being rejected, seen as ”bad” or being abandoned if you voiced your true feelings.

This can be harmful not only to them, but also to you and your relationship with them.

How to Stop Being Codependent: 4 Key Starting Points

If you’ve identified some codependent behaviour patterns in your own life, don’t worry – there are steps you can take to break free from this pattern and start taking care of yourself.

1. Understanding Your Own Needs

The first step is to get in touch with your own needs and desires. This can be tough if you’re used to putting others first, but it’s an essential part of learning to be more self-sufficient and confident. 

  • Who were you before this relationship? 
  • Who are you when you are single or unattached?

Take some time to think about what makes you happy and fulfilled, and start prioritizing those things in your life.

2. Set Boundaries

If you suspect you fit the descriptions here, then you’re probably too used to saying ”yes”, so it’s time to start learning to say ”no”.

Establishing boundaries is a key aspect of moving towards interdependence and independence. This means recognising, and then learning, to say no when you need to and setting limits on what you’re willing to tolerate from others.

Boundaries help you change the way you may usually consider others ahead of you. By thinking about your needs and wants, you can start to protect your energy and time, grow a strong sense of self-value whilst also learning to feel a sense of control.

This can be uncomfortable at first and takes practice, but it’s a crucial step in learning to take care of yourself and forming healthy, assertive styles of communication. 

3. Practice Self-Care

Self-care is also essential when it comes to breaking free from codependency and growing your sense of self-worth. It means you are allowing yourself to take centre stage, adopt healthy ways of being and exist as a priority in your own mind.  

This can include anything from taking time for yourself to engage in activities you enjoy to building basic healthcare patterns, such as getting enough sleep, exercising, emotional care and eating well. Start sitting with your true self in simple easy ways, such as journaling, getting into nature and taking time to meditate.

Reduce self-limiting, unhelpful patterns, such as addressing poor sleep, imbalanced meals or substance abuse issues. Remember, physical and emotional well-being contribute to unhealthy patterns in your relationships – since you can’t take care of others if you’re not taking care of yourself first!

4. Seeking Professional Help

It can be hard to try to change. 

Don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you’re struggling with committing to important changes in your life. A Psychotherapist, counsellor or therapist can help provide you with the support and guidance you need to break free from this pattern, figure out what’s happening and start living a more fulfilling life. 

Licensed and trained professionals can provide an abundance of evidence-based coping strategies, keep you on track towards self-improvement and identify unhealthy core trauma, traumas and inherited baggage originating from your family of origin. 

It can also help you identify your core wounds, your anxious attachment style and trauma that led to codependency, along with tools, skills and healing required to form new secure relationship patterns, take control of your life and grow as a person. 

Did you know there is support available at Loving Therapy? Head over to the Events & Workshops page for wellbeing resources, workshops and events.

Codependency & Cultural Considerations

It’s important to mention that much of the understanding around codependency comes from Western psychology, which is primarily informed by Eurocentric academia with a major push towards self-actualisation and individualisiam. 

This contrasts what we often see in Group, Collective and Community Cultures that typically reside in non-Western parts of the world. However, a community being Group or Collective culture is not ‘’wrong’’ or ‘’bad’’ and we need to be careful how with how Western expectations of what ‘’healthy’’ look like, impact the judgment of non-Western cultures.

There is also a difference between what is a healthy network of human connection versus Codependency and emotional entanglement. I won’t go into detail in this post but you can read more about culture and its role in Codependence vs. Interdependence vs. Independence – AND Culture or Codependency? articles here. 

Growing a Secure Relationship

How To Stop Being Codependent in Your Relationship

By taking the time to explore this issue here, you have already taken small steps to overcome codependency by learning about what it is, how it shows up, how it limits and why.

Now it’s time to learn how to grow and maintain a secure relationship.

But first, in order to break unhealthy relationship patterns, let’s look at some of the aspects of Interdependence in relationships too.

Understanding Interdependent Relationships

Interdependent relationships are a good medium between Independence and Codependence. This style of relationship is built on mutual respect, support, trust, and open communication.

Both partners are able to maintain their independence while still being supportive, present and understanding of each other’s needs.

There is no pressure to fulfil the other person’s emotional needs or to sacrifice personal well-being for the sake of the relationship but a willingness to be a part of one another’s support system. This dynamic works like a dream team, two willing players in the game of life, learning, overcoming and navigating challenges collaboratively.

On the other hand, codependent relationships are characterized by an unhealthy level of emotional reliance on each other. Both partners may struggle with low self-esteem, and may feel like they cannot function without the other.

Friends and family may notice the codependent couple become more and more isolated from the rest of the community.

This can lead to enabling behaviors and a lack of personal boundaries.

It also can have troubling effects if that relationship doesn’t work, since the other person can feel like their entire world in a codependent dynamic and it can be hard to vision a life without them.

Building a Secure Relationship

Now that you have a clear understanding of what a potentially happy medium looks like, let’s talk about how to work towards it. Here are a few key tips:

  1. Communicate openly and honestly: 

    Build a foundation of honest and open communication. This means learning to express your thoughts and feelings in an honest but respectful way, and being willing to listen and validate your partner’s perspective.
  2. Respect each other’s boundaries: 

    Both partners will have at least some personal boundaries. Make sure you are respecting your partner’s boundaries and communicating your own boundaries clearly.
  3. Work through conflicts together:

    Every relationship will face conflicts, but as a team, you need to learn to work through them together. This means being willing to compromise, apologizing when necessary, and seeking solutions that work for both partners.

Communication Skills

How To Stop Being Codependent in Your Relationship

The next part of a healthier relationship dynamic is effective communication. We constantly need to engage with one enough, the way we do so is crucial for building and maintaining a healthy relationship.

Q. Have a think about your lived and learnt experiences with communication. What did you observe in your upbringing, within your environment on how individuals would communicate with one another?

This experience often can define what we learn, take away and replicate in our relationships as adults.

If you’ve picked up traits you feel don’t serve you or others you are in a relationship with, opt out of this learned behaviour and adopt better forms of communication.

Here are a few tips to help you improve your communication skills:

  1. Listen actively: When your partner is speaking, make sure you are actively listening and understanding their perspective.
  2. When expressing your needs, feelings or concerns, use “I” statements instead of blaming or accusing language.
  3. Validate each other’s feelings: It’s important to validate your partner’s feelings and let them know that you understand where they are coming from.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it! We have explored the reasons, symptoms, and negative impacts of codependency, as well as how to identify and address codependent behaviors through understanding our own needs, setting boundaries, practicing self-care, and seeking professional help! Whew!

Codependency is a complex and often harmful dynamic, but it’s not something you have to live with forever.

By understanding the origins and symptoms of codependency, identifying codependent behaviors in your own life, and taking steps to address them, you can start to build healthier relationships and prioritize your own well-being.

As the famous quote goes, 

“You can’t pour from an empty cup.” 

Additionally, we have covered insights into the importance of building healthy relationships, such as leaning more towards Interdependence and communication skills. 

Remember, seeking help and practicing self-care are signs of strength, not weakness. By prioritizing your well-being, you can create a healthier, happier future for yourself. 

So take care of yourself first, and the rest will follow.

If you’d like to put some of this into practice with professional guidance and support, make sure you’ve secured your spot in the waitlist for our Secure Path Series – Live Workshops where we dive deep into emotional healing and implement some of the key tools to creating – and maintaining – healthy attachments.

You can find out more about the extra support, guidance & learning opportunities HERE.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is codependency?

A: Codependency is a behavioral pattern where an individual excessively relies on another person for their emotional needs and well-being, often neglecting their own needs in the process.

Q: How can codependency be harmful?

A: Codependency can lead to feelings of low self-worth, anxiety, depression, and a sense of losing one’s identity.

It can also negatively impact relationships, leading to a cycle of enabling behaviours, neglect and resentment.

Q: Can codependency be unlearned?

A: Yes, codependency can be unlearned with self-awareness and a willingness to change.

It helps to have support in this, particularly with trained professionals who understand codependency and can unpack the history of this behaviour with you.

Q: How can I identify if I am codependent?

A: Some common signs of codependency include putting other people’s needs before your own, difficulty setting boundaries, fear of being alone, and an excessive need for approval and validation.

Q: What are some steps to take to stop being codependent?

A: Steps to take to stop being codependent include understanding your own needs, pracsetting boundaries, practicing self-care, and seeking professional help if needed.

Q: Can codependency affect any type of relationship?

A: Yes, codependency can affect any type of relationship, including romantic relationships, friendships, work and family dynamics.

Q: Is it possible to have a healthy relationship after overcoming codependency?

A: Yes, it is possible to have healthy relationships after overcoming codependency by learning how to maintain boundaries, communicate effectively, and prioritize self-care.

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