Ten Steps to Heal from Co-Dependent Relationships
What is Codependency?
Many of us have heard the term codependency, but what does it mean? Do you show signs of codependency in relationships? It can be difficult to balance the intimacy and autonomy of a relationship where we are able to give and receive while considering ourselves and others. We can get very close to our partners to the point that we become completely emerged in the relationship and it led to losing our own self-identity and even self-love in the process.
If this is you, there may have even been times after a relationship has ended that you have said “never again.” You would never lose yourself in a relationship again! Then there would be periods where you could totally take on independence and not get attached, but then the loneliness would set in and you would find yourself back in the same cycle all over again. That cycle can not only be difficult and overwhelming but lead to shame patterns and negative self-talk and blaming that only furthers the need for codependent relationships in your life. So… how do you find the balance? What does that even look like? How do you find deep intimacy and your own self-identity?
A codependent relationship evolves when we primarily rely on our partners for a sense of purpose or value. That means that we start neglecting ourselves and others. Instead, we start to over-prioritize our partner and their own values, needs, and goals. We lose sense of self or even our own purpose. It can also cause an imbalance in the relationship and also a lot of pressure for the relationship to work and for our partners to not only live up to our expectations but surpass them.
What are the signs that you might be codependent?
If you have read this far and some of it really resonates with you, take a deeper look at yourself and the relationships that you have.
· Do you love people that try to rescue you or pity you?
· Do you feel responsible for the reactions of others?
· Do you overcompensate in the relationship to ‘keep the peace?’
· Do you have a fear of rejection, abandonment, or being alone?
· Do you need approval from others in order to feel a sense of self-worth?
· Do you find it impossible to make decisions on your own and often doubt yourself?
· Do you have trouble trusting the people around you?
· Do you notice that your own thoughts and feelings are controlled by people around you?
If these ring true, there are signs that you may be codependent. There is also high correlations of codependency with other diagnoses including Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), addiction concerns, and depression.
How do you begin to heal from codependency?
The good news is that codependency is a learned behavior and can, therefore, be unlearned. You need to heal yourself first. Sometimes that can include maintaining your relationship, but sometimes it means needing to take a break from it as well. Here are some tips to get started:
1. Be honest with yourself (and the people around you). You deserve to stop doing things that you don’t want to. It usually only brings resentment even if that isn’t your intention. This doesn’t mean that you need to be mean or hurtful, but that you are working to communicate honestly by expressing your needs and desires. Sometimes that can even just mean asking yourself what your own needs and desires are!
2. Reduce negative self-talk. Be mindful and aware of your thoughts. When you notice them becoming more and more negative work to reframe them. Reframe with gratitude and healthy expectations of yourself and others.
3. Acceptance. In codependent relationships, it is easy to find ourselves trying to rescue or fix. In order for you to work on your own codependent tendencies, you have to first work to accept others as they are without trying to fix them.
4. It’s okay to take breaks! Not only is it okay to take breaks from your partner or loved one, but it is really healthy. To be able to find balance in your life, it is important to have friends and others that you can have social interactions with. This can help to center us and remind us of who we are outside of our closest relationships.
5. Establish and set healthy boundaries. Boundaries are difficult in relationships even when they aren’t codependent relationships. However, in codependent relationships it becomes difficult to know where our needs begin or the other person’s end. This can lead to unnecessary guilt when we don’t put other’s first.
6. Learn to separate showing support from enabling. We want to help the people that we love especially when they are struggling. However, paying attention to your actions and responsibilities and learning to separate that from enabling. Often, in codependent relationships, our efforts to support and help end up causing us to believe it is our responsibility that our loved one is okay or that they are happy. This leads to a tug of war with control in the relationship.
7. Identify what a healthy love looks like. It can help to look at other relationships and see what makes them healthy. Healthy love allows for a cycle of contentment and comfort. Codependent relationships or toxic relationships often involve pain and despair. You deserve to feel healthy love which involves trust, security in your self-worth, and healthy compromise.
8. Value yourself. There is often a link between codependency and low self-worth or self-esteem. If you are putting your self-worth into your ability to care for others or that your self-worth is tied to how ‘successful’ your relationship is going to lead to low value on yourself. By separating the two, you can learn true confidence, self-compassion, and even happiness that is not dependent on others.
9. Strongly consider counseling. It can be healing to seek out counseling for your relationship and, more importantly yourself! This can provide an unbiased party to help you see some of these codependent behaviors and tendencies and offer feedback. Counseling can also help support all of the tips above as well.
10. Get peer support. Consider joining a support forum or support group such as CoDA. CoDA is similar to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) because it uses a 12-step approach to break free from codependent patterns.
Codependent behaviors and tendencies are often learned over our lifetime sometimes from a very early age. That makes it really difficult and overwhelming to change. However, with the right support you can unlearn those tendencies and learn new, healthy behaviors. If you are looking for therapy, consider therapies that are skills-based such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Mindfulness Based Therapies, or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). These models for therapy can help you learn tools and techniques to change those thinking patterns and also the unhealthy behavior patterns.
If you are searching for a therapist or counselor you can learn more about tips to starting therapy here or use a directory service where you can narrow your search based on types of therapy, insurance, location, etc.. Counselor directories to get started can include psychology today, therapyroute, or mental health match. If you are interested in connecting directly with Mindful Solutions you can reach out via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), phone (619-353-5139), or book your free 30 minute consultation on our website!