Do you feel the urge to be a part of every aspect of your partner’s life? Do you often find yourself making sacrifices for your partner? If so, chances are, you’re in a codependent relationship. This is a relationship dynamic in which one partner prioritizes the other and their needs while turning a blind eye towards their own needs.
This is not only unhealthy but may even lead to destructive behaviors and leave the couple feeling hurt and angry. However, since codependency is a learned behavior, you can learn how to not be codependent. Let’s learn how.
What Does Codependent Mean?
Codependency essentially refers to a person being extremely dependent on or involved with someone. This phenomenon can occur in any form of relationship, often romantic, and involves dysfunctional and unhealthy behavior patterns.
It’s important to note that codependency is a learned behavior that is connected to adverse childhood experiences (ACE). That is, it often stems from a troublesome and neglected childhood.
Some signs of ACE are:
• Having a parent who has trouble establishing boundaries
• Having emotionally available parents
• Being parentified to act as a caregiver for younger siblings or do grown-up chores like mediating a conflict
• Having a parent with an addiction
• Living with a mentally or physically ill person
In cases like this, the child typically represses their emotions to meet the needs and desires of the person who was suffering. But this can later influence their view of how intimate adult relationships should work.
Consequently, they may find themselves in relationships where they’re always the ones taking care of or relying on their partner. They may find it hard to separate their identity from their partner’s or may be constantly afraid of their partner leaving.
This is an unhealthy relationship dynamic where the couple cannot recognize and respect each other’s boundaries, which could build resentment.
But don’t worry. It is possible to learn how to not be codependent.
How to Not Be Codependent: 6 Tips
Codependency is not necessarily bad, but the imbalance of power it brings can leave you with no control over your life.
Here are some ways you can move toward a healthier relationship:
1. Communication Is Key
Stop being diplomatic or people-pleasing and start being honest with your partner about your needs and desires. Do so without being aggressive; be gentle and kind but firm about what you want so that there is little room for misinterpretation.
Talk with intention using “I” statements — they help us take responsibility for our thoughts and actions, opening the possibility of healthy communication.
2. Establish Boundaries
Are you a yes man/people pleaser? Do you have trouble saying no?
If yes, it’s time to start setting healthy boundaries and start putting yourself first, without worrying about how you’re being perceived by your partner and letting it consume your entire being.
This transformation will be a little tough because you’re used to being the helper. But, if you set limits, deny doing anything that oversteps your boundaries, and stay firm in your decision, it will get easier to establish an interdependent relationship in time — where you co-exist with your partner and don’t rely on them for your happiness or validation.
3. Identify Patterns of Codependency in Your Life
If you tend to take care of others or feel anxious about changes in your life, take a step back to identify what triggers your codependency.
When you take stock of your actions, you’ll be able to assess the extent of damage they can cause both you and your partner.
But to truly break out of the toxic cycle of codependency, you must also learn to incorporate signs of healthy relationships. It’ll help you identify your partner’s needs and support each other in times of need without becoming codependent.
4. Practice Self-Care
It’s healthy to have some alone or “me” time. Every now and then, take a break from your partner to prioritize your needs.
Here are some self-care habits you can indulge in to become healthy and resilient and bring joy into your life:
• Improve your sleep environment and sleep 7-9 hours every day.
• Learn to say yes to new experiences. It sounds counterintuitive to establish boundaries, so be careful. Say yes to friends who want to help you discover new hobbies or go for that solo trip you’ve been secretly wanting to go to.
• Try journaling. It’s a great way to show self-love and work on affirmations.
• Watch what you eat; it reflects on your mood, mental health, and behavior.
As you’re trying to break the cycle of codependency in your relationship, we encourage you to do these activities without your partner to help improve your self-esteem. Initially, it will make you feel as if you’re being selfish, but over time, you’ll understand having time apart together is what helps you to thrive.
5. Try Mindfulness Techniques
Mindfulness allows you to take account of your thoughts and actions while helping you avoid being overly reactive and overwhelmed.
For example, if you feel guilty about putting your needs before your partners’, being mindful of these thoughts can help you overcome this self-defeating voice in your head and be kinder toward yourself.
6. Put Your Own Needs First
If you feel like you’re losing yourself in your relationship, it’s time to take a step back.
Ask yourself what you truly want for your future and what can you do to meet your needs. Give yourself grace and remind yourself that you’re human and that humans make mistakes.
It will allow you to take care of your needs, reducing the likelihood of suffering physical, emotional, and psychological issues from over-giving and negating the need of seeking validation.
If All Else Fails, Get Professional Help
If you find yourself struggling to move away from codependent behaviors, it’s best to seek counseling. A counselor/therapist is an unbiased third party who will help you uncover the root causes behind your codependency struggles, providing you with a good starting point to bring a positive change in your life.