Codependent is also known as “relationship addiction.” It’s an emotional and behavioral condition that makes it difficult for a person to form a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It can be frustrating and destructive, but there are things you can do to learn how not to be codependent.
The term codependency was first used to describe an addict’s partner, whose unhealthy choices enable or encourage the addiction to continue. However, over time, it has been broadened to include people who are in one-sided, emotionally destructive, or abusive relationships, and those relationships do not have to be romantic.
What Exactly Is Codependent?
Codependency is defined as a psychological, emotional, physical, and/or spiritual reliance on a partner, friend, or family member. “The term was first used in the context of Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1950s to support partners of individuals who abused substances and were entwined in the toxic lives of those they cared for,” says Dr. Renee Exelbert, a licensed psychologist and author based in New York.
Codependency is neither a clinical diagnosis nor a formally classified personality disorder in and of itself. Codependency, in general, incorporates aspects of early childhood attachment style patterns, and it can also overlap with other personality disorders, such as dependent personality disorder.
Examples of Codependent
The following are some examples of codependent relationships:
It can include the following in parent-child relationships:
- Taking care of an adult child who should be self-sufficient.
- Finding meaning or purpose in financially supporting an adult child
- Never let a child do anything on his or her own.
- Putting one’s life on hold to care for a parent
- Ignoring other responsibilities and relationships in order to meet the demands of one’s parents
- Never discuss issues in family relationships or behaviors.
It can include the following in romantic relationships:
- Devoting a significant amount of energy and time to caring for a partner who has an alcohol or substance abuse problem.
- Making excuses or covering for the bad behavior of another person
- Ignoring self-care, work, or other relationships in order to care for your partner
- Tolerating destructive or unhealthy behavior from a partner
- Refusing to let your partner take responsibility for their own lives.
- They do not allow their partner to keep their independence.
Why Does It Happen?
Codependent is learned through observation and imitation of other family members who exhibit this type of behavior. It is frequently passed down from generation to generation. As a result, a child who grew up witnessing a parent in a codependent relationship is likely to repeat the pattern.
Codependent develops in dysfunctional families where members frequently deny or ignore their anger, pain, fear, or shame. The following may be underlying issues that contribute to the dysfunction:
- Drug, alcohol, work, food, sex, gambling, and relationship addiction
- Abusive behavior (physical, emotional, or sexual)
- Long-term physical or mental illness
Codependent people do not bring up the fact that they have problems. In order to care for the struggling individual, family members suppress their emotions and ignore their own needs.
The individual who is abusive, ill, or addicted receives all of the attention and energy. The codependent person usually sacrifices all of their own needs in order to care for the struggling family member. They usually suffer social, emotional, and physical consequences as a result of their disregard for their own health, well-being, and safety.
Risk Factors and Characteristics of how not to be codependent
While anyone can become involved in a codependent relationship, certain factors make it more likely. Researchers have discovered several factors that are frequently associated with codependency:
- Lack of faith in oneself or others
- Anxiety about being alone or abandoned
- A desire to exert control over others
- Persistent rage
- Frequent deception
- Lack of communication abilities
- Difficulties making decisions
- Issues with intimacy
- Difficulty in defining boundaries
- Difficulties adjusting to change
- A strong desire for approval and recognition
- A proclivity to be hurt when others do not acknowledge their efforts.
- They do more than their fair share all of the time
- A proclivity to mix up love and pity
- An exaggerated sense of responsibility for others’ actions
According to studies, the codependent is common in adults who were raised by parents who used drugs or alcohol, who live in chronically stressful family environments, who have children with behavioral issues, and who care for the chronically ill. Women are more likely than men to be codependent.
How Not to be Codependent in a Relationship
The term ‘codependency’ is frequently used colloquially to describe relationships in which one person is needy or dependent on another. This term refers to much more than just clinginess. Codependent relationships are far more severe. A codependent person will organize their entire life around pleasing the other person, or the enabler.
In its most basic form, a codependent relationship occurs when one partner requires the other partner, who in turn requires to be needed. This circular relationship is what experts mean when they talk about the “cycle” of codependency. The codependent’s self-esteem and self-worth can only be obtained by sacrificing themselves for their partner, who is only too happy to accept their sacrifices.
Related Articles: HOW TO BE IN A RELATIONSHIP with Different Personalities
How not be Codependent Relationship Develop?
Codependency is a learned behavior that is often the result of previous behavioral patterns and emotional difficulties. It was once thought to be caused by growing up with an alcoholic parent. Codependency can now be caused by a variety of situations, according to experts.
1. Endangering parent-child relationships
People who are codependent as adults frequently had issues with their parental relationship when they were children or teenagers. They may have been taught that their own needs were secondary to, or unimportant in comparison to, those of their parents.
In these families, the child may be taught to prioritize the needs of the parents and to never think of themselves. Needy parents may teach their children that if they want something for themselves, they are selfish or greedy. As a result, the child learns to disregard their own needs and focus solely on what they can do for others.
In such cases, one of the parents may have:
- A problem with alcohol or drugs addiction
- A lack of emotional development and maturity, resulting in their own self-centered needs
These situations cause gaps in the child’s emotional development, leading them to seek out codependent relationships later in life.
2. Sharing a home with a mentally or physically ill family member
Caring for a chronically ill person can also lead to codependency. Being a caregiver, especially at a young age, can lead to a young person ignoring their own needs and developing a habit of only helping others. Being needed by another person and receiving nothing in return can shape a person’s self-worth.
Codependency does not develop in many people who live with a sick family member. However, it is possible in these types of family environments, especially if the parent or primary caregiver in the family exhibits the dysfunctional behaviors listed above.
3. Abusive family
Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse can all lead to long-term psychological issues that can last for years or even a lifetime. Codependency is one of the many issues that can arise as a result of past abuse.
An abused child or adolescent will learn to repress their feelings as a defense mechanism against the pain of abuse. As an adult, this learned behavior leads to only caring about the feelings of others and not acknowledging their own needs.
Because they are only familiar with this type of relationship, abused people may seek out abusive relationships later in life. This is common in codependent relationships.
Signs of a how not to be Codependent Person
People who are codependent have good intentions. They want to help a family member who is in need. Their efforts, however, become compulsive and unhealthy. Their efforts to rescue, save, and support their loved ones cause the other person to become even more reliant on them. Giving often provides a sense of satisfaction to a codependent individual as long as they receive recognition.
As a result, they devote all of their time to caring for others and lose sight of what is important to them. It can be difficult to tell the difference between a codependent and someone who is simply clingy or overly enamored with another person. However, a person who understands how not to be codependent will usually:
- Find no satisfaction or happiness in life apart from doing things for others.
- Stay in the relationship even if they are aware that their partner is doing things that are hurtful.
- Go to any length to please and satisfy their enabler, regardless of the cost to themselves.
- Experience constant anxiety about their relationship as a result of their desire to always make the other person happy.
- Devote all of their time and energy to giving their partner everything they desire.
- Feel guilty for thinking about themselves in the relationship and refuse to express any personal needs or desires.
- Ignore their own morals or conscience in order to please the other person.
Others may try to express their concerns to the codependent. However, even if others believe the person is overly dependent, a person in a codependent relationship will find it difficult to leave the relationship.
How to Stop Being Codependent on my Boyfriend
Here are a few tips on how not to be codependent on my boyfriend:
1. Recognize and contextualize your codependent tendencies
In our hyper-independent culture, codependency gets a bad rap, which is why I recommend that people who struggle with this issue start by practicing compassion toward themselves when they get caught in codependent loops. Collectivistic cultures value many of the characteristics that individualistic cultures regard as “codependent.”
For example, putting others first, self-sacrifice for the greater good, and nuanced sensitivity to the needs of others. Codependency does not imply that you are weak or flawed, or that you have “failed” to care for yourself. It denotes that you are a relational survivor.
Codependent has a psychological function as well. It often begins in early childhood, when this pattern of “merging” with the needs of others provided you with the safest and best way of staying connected to caregivers who were unable to prioritize you and your needs; often despite good intentions.
2. Experiment with small acts of “smart selfishness.”
Keep in mind that codependency is a spectrum disorder. It’s not a rigid, absolute classification. Many of the same “codependent” behaviors are also pro-social, kind, and thoughtful. Growth for people on the other end of the codependency spectrum, those who are counter dependent or stuck in a narcissistic mindset, entails honing more of the skills you’re probably already very good at, such as relational attunement and sensitivity to the needs of others.
Notice patterns in your responses to people close to you to keep yourself from veering too far on your end of the spectrum. Could you respond differently in the long run and feel better? Allow yourself to engage in small acts of “smart selfishness”—acts in which you honor your needs, wants, and feelings for the sake of your relationship’s long-term success. Recognize when you’ve gone too far in putting others first, and then try something different. Don’t berate or judge yourself.
3. Recognize your own true needs.
Distinguish between true needs and fear and avoidance. Do you need to avoid someone’s disapproval at all costs, or do you need to be careful not to over-give? Do you have to avoid making a mistake, or do you have to give yourself some grace and allow yourself to be human at this time? Make a habit of slowing down, soothing yourself, and checking in with what you truly require.
4. Communicate clearly and directly.
When possible, learn to be courageously direct in your communication with others, leaving as little room for interpretation as possible. If someone asks you, “Are you available tonight?” and you’re not, say, “No, I’m not available tonight,” rather than, “Well, I’m feeling a little tired.” Clear communication begins with clear communication with oneself. Allow people to see you for more than your “pleasing,” peacekeeping, or diplomatic persona.
5. Maintain your position on your side of the fence.
When you begin to be concerned about how others perceive you or what they think of something you said or did, remind yourself that you have no control over what happens in other people’s minds. People should be trusted to find their own paths and solve their own problems. Even when you disappoint people, your own goodness shines through.
6. Cultivate your own unconditional self-love.
Self-judgment interferes with our ability to love ourselves and others. Experiment with self-approval. Even if you wish things were different, you can approve of what is happening. Always find reasons to be proud of yourself, even when times are tough.
7. Let your stories go.
Recognize the worst-case scenario stories that come to mind. Stories keep you trapped in a painful cycle of attempting to control others when your time and energy would be better spent connecting with your own feelings, needs, desires, and values. Letting go of stories honors life, opens you up to new possibilities, and respects the right of others to be on their own unique growth journey separate from yours.
8. Let go of your attachment to the outcome.
To be able to let go of attachment to outcome, you must be willing to tolerate the unknown and live with uncertainty. When attempting to overcome codependency, it is critical to practice this on a regular basis. Fear of disappointing someone whose opinion matters to you, or of being “disliked,” is part of what keeps the cycle of codependent behaviors going. Simply put, releasing the outcome means learning to accept the possibility of disappointing important people in your life.
How to Deal with a Codependent Partner
The good news is that codependency is a learned behavior that can be undone. If you love your partner and want to keep the relationship, you must first heal yourself.
Some healthy steps to codependent relationship healing include:
1. Begin by being truthful to yourself and your partner.
Doing things we don’t want to do not only waste our time and energy but also breeds resentment. Saying things we don’t mean hurts us because we are then living a lie. Be truthful in your communication and in expressing your wants and needs.
2. Stop thinking negatively.
Recognize when you start thinking negatively. If you find yourself thinking that you deserve to be treated poorly, stop yourself and change your mind. Be optimistic and set higher goals for yourself.
3. Avoid taking things personally.
It takes a lot of effort for a codependent to not take things personally, especially when they are in an intimate relationship. The first step is to accept others as they are, without attempting to fix or change them.
4. Take frequent breaks
It is perfectly acceptable to take a break from your partner. It is beneficial to have friendships outside of your relationship. Going out with friends reconnects us to our core, reminding us of who we truly are.
5. Think about counseling.
Consult with your partner about getting into counseling. A counselor acts as an objective third party. They may be able to identify codependent tendencies and actions between the two of you that you are unaware of. Feedback can help you start and point you in the right direction. Change cannot occur unless we change.
6. Seek peer support
Co-Dependents Anonymous, like Alcoholics Anonymous, is a 12-step program that assists people who want to break free from codependent behavior patterns.
7. Define boundaries
Those who struggle with codependency frequently struggle with setting boundaries. We have no idea where our needs begin or where the needs of others end. We often thrive on guilt and feel bad when we do not prioritize the other.
How to Stop Being Codependent on a Narcissist
What I want, what I require, and what I desire! These are the areas in which a narcissistic person focuses. It’s almost as if you’re an accessory in their life, a tool that propels forward their grandiose ideas and erroneous self-perception. Do you ever feel as if you’re losing your identity, the spark that made you unique, and your zest for life?
A narcissist, whether a parent, a friend, or a significant other, can cause you to feel all of these negative emotions and more!
You will learn how to stop being codependent with a narcissist in relationship in how to stop being codependent with a narcissist in a relationship:
- Narcissists: Are they broken, traumatized people, or evil masterminds?
- Why do you get that sick feeling every time you interact with a narcissist?
- The one and only unfathomable distinction between a classic and a psychopathic narcissist (and how to tell which one you’re dealing with)
- The most efficient way to begin establishing healthy boundaries
- A 10-step plan for overcoming codependency
You’ll learn how to stop taking responsibility for other people’s feelings, as well as how to engage in empathic confrontation and disengagement. All of these techniques can help you lay the groundwork for a healthy relationship while also safeguarding your inner peace.
It’s time to stop being someone else’s doormat and begin believing in your own inner strength, beauty, and qualities. You are deserving of love and respect! Begin learning how to turn your life around and get yourself out of a sticky situation.
Seek professional help if you suspect you are codependent in your relationship and are struggling to make positive changes. You could begin by speaking with your doctor or a mental health professional about how to stop being codependent.
Consider online therapy if you aren’t comfortable speaking with a therapist in person or if you are hesitant to attend a group. You can communicate with a therapist from the comfort of your own home, using video, live chat, or messages on one of your electronic devices.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a codependent person like?
Codependency occurs when one person believes that their wants and needs are unimportant and will not express them. They may have trouble recognizing their own feelings or needs.
Is there a cure for codependency?
It is unlikely that codependent relationships and maladaptive behaviors will improve on their own. In fact, Psych Central warns that they will most likely worsen over time. Codependency is reversible with treatment that addresses these behaviors as well as other mental health issues, and relationships may be salvageable.