How to Overcome Codependency and Live a Happy Life
Codependency is one of the most toxic and insidious traits that can affect a relationship. Our early experiences shape our behaviors, values, and beliefs later in life, so if your relationship with your parents or caretakers was strained in your younger years, you might carry unhealthy habits into future friendships and partnerships.
If you’re codependent, recognizing and overcoming your codependency is one of the most difficult but valuable things you can do to live a free and healthy life. When most of your relationships have been built on codependency, it’s not easy to break away from the habit. Codependency feels comfortable because it’s what you know, but you deserve healthy, balanced relationships that build you up instead of depleting you.
You have the strength and the power to remove codependency from your life and your relationships. The first step toward overcoming codependency is understanding what it truly is, what it looks like, and what your resources are for change.
What Is Codependency?
Codependency is a complicated relationship dynamic that can occur in family relationships, romantic partnerships, and friendships. It can be considered an imbalance between two people where one is always the “giver” and the other is always the “taker.”
In a healthy relationship, both people support one another equally. Everyone goes through ups and downs in life, and when your partner is low, it’s natural for you to be their support system. Whether you offer emotional support, spiritual guidance, practical support, or any other form of help, you’re there for your loved one when they need you. When you love someone, wanting to care for them is a completely normal and healthy feeling.
However, the key to a healthy relationship is that these feelings and behaviors are mutual. You support your partner when they’re in need, and when the time comes that you need help, they’re present for you, too. You don’t support your loved one because your job is to be the “helper” in the relationship. You both support each other equally, which allows you to build a balanced and equitable partnership.
If you struggle with codependency, you may always feel the need to be the helper or the supporter. Your purpose in the relationship is to take care of your partner, and you feel lost without this responsibility. Being the helper may be all that you’ve ever known, so you feel comfortable in this role. You might seek out relationships with people with addictions or other serious mental health issues because your sense of validation comes from helping someone in need.
Signs You’re Struggling With Codependency
Recognizing codependency in yourself can be tough. We praise people who are selfless and supportive, but it’s difficult to notice when those traits are taken too far. Here are three signs of codependency that may indicate that you have a problem:
You don’t have boundaries, or you find that your boundaries are repeatedly crossed.
People with codependency issues struggle to set and keep their boundaries. You need clear, defined boundaries in any relationship to protect your own mental and emotional well-being, but if you’re codependent, you may find yourself repeatedly ignoring or redefining your boundaries to accommodate for your partner’s needs.
You need external validation to feel good about yourself.
Everyone needs to hear praise sometimes, but codependency causes you to rely on others entirely for your sense of self-worth. If you only feel good about yourself when others are telling you how helpful you are, you may have a codependency problem. Codependent individuals are notorious people-pleasers, and they’ll do anything to win the affections of others because it’s their source of self-esteem.
You have to control your partner.
Codependency causes an intense need for you to control your partner’s lifestyle or behavior. Because you need so desperately to take care of them, you may find yourself trying to micromanage every aspect of their life. The need for control can also be caused by a fear of rejection or abandonment. You may try to control your partner because if you lose the relationship, you’ll lose your sense of purpose and fulfillment.
How to Overcome Codependency
Breaking free from codependency is never easy, but it’s always possible. The following are the most important steps you should take for overcoming codependency and finding meaning and fulfillment outside of your relationships:
Practice positive self-talk.
If codependency is a pattern in your relationships, you probably struggle with your self-esteem. People often enter codependent relationships in an attempt to find validation from someone else because they can’t achieve it within themselves. To overcome this, you should start working on your positive self-talk.
We all have a critical inner voice that speaks to us harshly at times, but those with intense insecurities or low self-esteem may hear this voice constantly. One of the best ways to learn to ignore and dismiss this critical voice is to drown it out with positive self-talk. Every day, tell yourself what you like and love about who you are. Congratulate yourself on your successes, and recognize every single time you do something good. This positive self-talk may feel fake or unnatural at first, but don’t give up. Keep fueling your positive inner voice, and over time, you’ll start to truly hear and believe it.
Set and maintain your boundaries.
Creating and sticking to boundaries is one of the most difficult tasks imaginable for a codependent person. By nature, you want to go out of your way to support your partner. However, it is absolutely possible to give too much, and by ignoring your own boundaries, you’re depleting your mental, emotional, and physical resources.
Learning to keep boundaries can take a long time, but you can start with small, specific choices. Think of one rule in your relationship that you believe will be valuable for your mental and emotional health, and maintain that rule at all costs. Your partner may try to push the boundary, but stay firm. Setting, communicating, and keeping your boundaries will become easier over time.
Work through your trauma.
Trauma is a major contributor to codependency. Whether you had an abusive or neglectful childhood or you suffered a traumatic event in a previous relationship, any past trauma could cause you to seek out codependent relationships. Unresolved trauma can work its way into every aspect of your life until it’s controlling your every move, so processing and recovering from it is the only way out.
Help from a therapist is likely necessary for you to overcome your trauma. You need a safe and supportive environment to dive into your past experiences, explore the ways in which they’ve affected your life, and learn how to cope with the lingering effects of the trauma. Cognitive behavioral therapy is especially helpful for managing trauma, but you and your therapist could utilize a wide variety of techniques to find a treatment approach that works best for you.
See a therapist for codependency.
Not only is therapy a great opportunity to work through your past trauma or other underlying causes of your codependency, but you can also talk to a counselor about the codependency itself. Therapy for codependency offers you a chance to explore your relationship dynamic with a neutral third party. You can talk through the reasons you seek out these relationships, and you can learn specific, actionable skills that will help you break free from this struggle.
Menachem Psychotherapy Group offers individual and couples counseling to address a wide variety of concerns. If you’re looking for a codependency therapist in Los Angeles, you can contact us today for a free consultation.