Recovery from codependency can be a challenging process that requires ongoing maintenance. You can learn how to conquer codependency in just a few steps.
If you tend to put your partner’s needs and wants before your own, you may be in a codependent relationship.
What may begin as a persona or posture of selflessness, can warp into a compulsive codependent style in relationships where someone will do anything — anything — to make their person happy.
Codependency is a pattern of forsaking your well-being, needs, and self-care to instead put most of your energy into supporting (or enabling) the people in your life.
If you’ve been stuck in codependent thoughts and behaviors for a while, you understand that recovery is a long-term process requiring mindful self-care and self-love.
Recovery from codependency isn’t all or nothing. It will take some time as well as trial and error. Understanding the difference between healthy and unhealthy behaviors and going through all of the required stages and steps can lead you to finally conquering codependency once and for all.
The first step to overcoming codependency in your relationship is learning the difference between unhealthy codependent and healthy interdependent behaviors.
In a codependent relationship, you may put your partner’s needs before your own and not know who you are without the other person, says Holly Schiff, a licensed clinical psychologist in New York and Connecticut.
She adds that someone who’s codependent “may make excuses for the other person and tolerate harmful behavior.”
A healthy, interdependent relationship has mutual respect and no power imbalance. You’re able to rely on your partner for mutual support but can still maintain your identity as a unique individual, explains Schiff.
If you see codependent characteristics in your relationship, it may be time to make a shift and move into interdependency.
Idil Ozturk, a licensed professional counselor in New York, shares what codependent and dependent behaviors may look like in a relationship.
Characteristics of codependent behaviors
- overreliance on a partner to meet most of your needs
- lack of your own identity
- choosing partners that you want to “fix” to feel valued (conscious or subconscious)
- distress when there is a shift in communication
- lack of boundaries, taking responsibility for your partner’s well-being
Characteristics of interdependent behaviors
- relying on partners for some things, but not all things
- having explicit boundaries
- managing disappointment if a disagreement occurs
- a healthy sense of self outside of the relationship, such as your hobbies or friends
- can successfully co-regulate, wherein you can mutually rely on your partner for comfort without taking personal responsibility for their every waking moment
While change is not easy and will take time, it’s possible to heal from codependency. You can start the process by following these steps:
1. Make self-care a priority
Self-care means valuing yourself and giving yourself love and compassion, says Schiff. She suggests getting back to doing the things that you’ve always enjoyed. Honor your own needs, wants, and feelings by engaging in hobbies and activities that you love.
2. Nurture your social relationships
“In order to overcome codependency, make sure you reconnect with friends and family — nurture your other social relationships,” says Schiff.
When you’re in a codependent relationship you may isolate yourself from others so try and reach out to the people you’ve distanced yourself from to rebuild those relationships.
3. Get comfortable setting and maintaining boundaries
When you’re in a codependent relationship it can be hard to speak up for yourself, or identify what you want, says Ozturk. But “learning to set and maintain boundaries is crucial for any healthy relationship,” says Ozturk.
“It’s important to get comfortable and set boundaries.”
4. Find healthy ways to regulate emotional responses with your partner
It’s natural to long for connection when you’re feeling upset. Ozturk suggests identifying what you need for a warm and responsive interaction with your partner.
“Remember it’s helpful to listen and say ‘I’m here for you,’ even if you can’t solve your partner’s problems.”
5. Practice self-soothing behaviors
To better manage difficult emotions on your own it’s best to develop coping skills, says Ozturk. Learning self-soothing behaviors such as deep breathing or going for a walk can help you manage your emotions.
Healing from codependency takes time. Learning the main signs of codependency is a good place to start. However, speaking with a therapist may help you explore your sense of self so you can better understand why you came to rely so much on another person, explains Schiff.
Trained therapists can also:
- teach you how to set personal boundaries so you can avoid codependent relationships in the future
- help you acknowledge specific patterns of behavior so you can learn how to modify the behaviors for healthier alternatives
- help you change “irrational thoughts, so you can learn how to tolerate uncomfortable emotions
There are online therapy options and support groups as well. While you vet a therapist it’s still good to “put yourself first and honor your own needs, wants, and feelings,” says Schiff.
Taking time for yourself doesn’t mean you should never consider others’ feelings. It just means that you’re taking the time for your self-care. As the metaphor commonly extrapolated from airplane safety protocol goes: You have to put on your own oxygen mask before seeking to help someone else.
Codependency is focusing on others’ wants and needs before your own. While it’s natural to want to support your loved one, it’s also important to consider your own needs and respect their, and your, boundaries.
If you’re having a hard time working through the steps by yourself, a therapist can offer guidance and support. Remember, it is possible to break the cycle and conquer codependency with consistency and mindfulness.