You didn't set out to be in a codependent relationship, yet somewhere along the line you started sacrificing your own happiness for your partner's. You fell into a pattern of needing approval from your partner to feel good about yourself. Your identity became tied to that approval. Recognizing the fact that you're being codependent is a huge first step. Learning how to stop being codependent can take a little longer to accomplish, but it is possible to regain your independence.
Signs of Codependency
Codependency is a dysfunctional relationship in which one person gets all self-esteem and emotional needs from the other person instead of being able to fulfill those things on her own. A person who is codependent often has low self-esteem and has a people-pleasing personality to the point where she can't say no to anyone. Codependent people often lack relationship boundaries and may take responsibility for other people's problems or blame people for their own. Some people who are codependent make themselves the caregivers to the point that they put everyone else's needs before their own. Codependency is often associated with being unable to express feelings, being obsessed with people or relationships, fearing rejection and being in denial about being codependent. Intimacy can also be an issue because of the fear of being judged or rejected.
Setting boundaries is a crucial first step in ending your codependent behavior, but it's also challenging. You may be unclear where you need to tighten your boundaries. Journaling your experience can help you sort out the areas where you need to draw clear lines. You might realize that you take on your partner's emotions, problems and mistakes as your own, for example. You might hold yourself personally responsible any time he is upset, angry or sad.
Perhaps you start to recognize that you take care of everyone else to the detriment of your own health. Your boundaries might involve easing up on caretaking for those around you, instead putting more of the responsibility on them and less on you.
Setting boundaries is especially important if you plan to continue your relationship. Your partner may be surprised by the changes in what is acceptable and what is not. Discuss the new boundaries with your partner to ensure you are on the same page.
Face Your Fears
Fear often drives codependent relationships. You might be afraid of how others will perceive you or that someone will cut you out or abandon you. Perhaps you're afraid of angering your partner or losing control of the relationship. Whatever the source of your fear, it's important to dissect those feelings and confront them. Remember that those fears are often based on your imagination. Your partner may be upset by certain actions, but disagreements and strong emotions are part of all healthy relationships. If abandonment scares you, work on picturing yourself alone, strong and thriving. Challenging those fears helps build your confidence and makes it easier to move away from being codependent.
Work on Your Confidence
Low self-esteem often characterizes codependent relationships. Strengthening your confidence can help you stop being codependent because you feel comfortable doing things on your own without approval from your partner. Stopping self-blame is a big part of improving your self-esteem. When you feel yourself taking on blame for someone else's mistakes, confront those thoughts. Remind yourself that your partner is responsible for her own actions and the consequences they bring.
Changing the way you think about yourself also helps with your confidence. Quiet your mind when you start telling yourself that you aren't worthy or that you are less than others. Repeat a mantra that makes you feel confident and strong.
Follow Your Own Interests
When you're in a codependent relationship, you often give up your own interests in lieu of those of your partner. Take back yourself by pursuing your own interests. If you've forgotten what you enjoy, try out several new things. Join your friends at an art class, or sign up for a yoga class at the gym. Browse class offerings through your local community education program to find something that sounds interesting. Reconnect with old friends. Remind yourself that it's not selfish to take time for yourself and your interests. Doing things on your own can make you feel refreshed and allow you to be a better partner or parent.
Surround Yourself With Supportive People
You won't go from being codependent to independent overnight. It's a process that requires lots of self-reflection and hard work. Make the job easier with a group of supportive people in your corner. Spend more time with family and friends who boost your confidence and make you feel like you can be yourself. Spending time with other people helps you rely less on your partner, which can ease your codependency.
You may also need the support of a professional mental health care specialist. Changing your entire way of behaving isn't easy. A therapist can help you identify your specific codependent behaviors and take steps to change them. Continue working with your therapist throughout the process.
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Shelley Frost writes professionally on a full-time basis, specializing in lifestyle, family, parenting and relationship topics. She holds an education degree and has extensive experience working with kids and parents.