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Overcoming codependency is key for any healthy relationship. If you want to be among the small percentage of people who experience successful marriages, you’ll have to learn how to do it.
This condition will slowly poison any romantic union and the self-confidence of the people in it. It’s a silent killer that has ruined millions of relationships in modern society. If you suffer from low self-esteem, it can be easy to fall into codependency with a similarly unconfident partner and not even know it. The key to overcoming codependency is to learn what it is, why it happens, how it damages relationships and the five key steps for overcoming it.
What is Codependency?
The term codependency is most commonly used to describe a relationship where both members are overly reliant on their partner to make them happy. Instead of lifting each other up, they tend to drag each other’s confidence into the gutter.
Many people in these types of relationships will deny that it is bad for them. The symptoms manifest as signs of true love in TV shows and movies. It’s easy for them to be mistaken as such by those who don’t know any better.
Even if people are aware of how destructive their relationship is, it could still be a struggle to leave. They’ll rationalize that the path to true love never did run smooth, or that they don’t deserve any better. At its worst, codependency can be as addictive as many drugs. What’s more, the longer you stay within it, the tougher it can be to recover.
What are the Signs of Codependency?
Codependency is as a condition suffered by one individual. However, the symptoms most commonly occur among both partners in romantic relationships. That is because anyone who displays these symptoms will struggle to attract a partner with high self-esteem. The symptoms include:
Feeling unworthy of your partner
Feeling unworthy is a common side-effect of low self-esteem. It might be OK to feel like you’re batting out of your league in a relationship. However, if you’re feeling completely unworthy of your partner, that’s a problem which needs addressing. A result of overcoming codependency is feeling deserving of a fantastic partner.
Fear of your partner leaving
Being sad about the prospect of your partner leaving is healthy. However, it’s another sign of codependency if you frequently experience unprovoked fear or anxiety about this. Once you’ve completed the journey of overcoming codependency, you’ll find it easier to feel secure in your relationship.
Many codependent couples will experience jealousy when their partner shows attention to the opposite sex. In extreme cases, it may even occur when they spend time with a family member or friend of the same sex. Unnecessary jealousy should dissipate once you’ve completed the process of overcoming codependency.
Self-esteem based on your partner’s opinion
Codependent couples will often experience heavy fluctuation of their self-esteem, based on their partner’s behavior towards them. Any minor dip in affection from their partner, even over a short time-period, tends to lower their self-confidence. In many cases, no amount of attention they receive is ever enough. Overcoming codependency involves developing self-esteem based on your own morals and values.
Because of this reliance on their partner for good emotions, many codependent people will make outrageous demands on their partner’s time. They can become upset or angry when their partner chooses to spend time away from them. They will often look for constant reinforcement of the partner’s affection over the phone and face-to-face. A positive result of codependency is that you won’t feel the constant need for your partner to tell you they love you.
If you recognize these symptoms in your behavior and your partner didn’t run away immediately, you’re in a co-dependent relationship. The same can be said if you put up with this behavior from your significant other.
The Symptoms of Codependency
A healthy symptom of codependency, when seen in happy relationships, is that both partners feel the need to impress each other. However, within a codependent relationship, this behavior is typically motivated by feelings of unworthiness. In this situation, the giver tends to look for signs that these feelings are true, and can become upset if their partner appears even slightly underwhelmed by the gift. Either way, this seemingly positive symptom bows to the toxic symptoms of codependency outlined below.
People prone to codependency were often brought up in households where their parents didn’t show enough love for them or each other. As children, they learn that loving couples argue and belittle each other. Also, due to a lack of parental love, they grow up feeling unworthy of affection.
When they go on to receive affection from their partner as an adult, it feels undeserved. It’s outside of their comfort zone, and they self-consciously sabotage the relationship by finding drama in the pettiest problem.
The poison drip
The poison drip describes the moments where your partner wears down your self-esteem through constant degradation. It’s supposedly another self-conscious act to prevent the partner from having the confidence to leave the relationship for someone better.
Look out for the way your partner words their displeasure. Do they add personal insults when explaining what you did wrong? These tiny jabs can take their toll on an insecure person.
Another form of poison drip is to actively discourage a partner from engaging in any form of self-improvement. It’s more common than you’d expect. How many married couples do you know that have let themselves go physically, have no hobbies and only spend free time with each other? Sadly, a less subtle and far too common form of poison drip is domestic violence. One of the best reasons for overcoming codependency is to gain the mental strength to walk away from situations like these.
Depression is the ultimate side-effect of codependency. The combination of dependence on a partner’s praise and incessant poison-dripping from that partner can lead to severe cases of depression.
Even so, the sufferer’s self-esteem is often in such tatters that leaving the codependent relationship appears scarier than being alone. This depression can last months or years after leaving a codependent relationship, especially if you remain in it for a prolonged period.
5 Steps to Overcoming Codependency
Now you understand the impact of it; you may be more motivated to undergo the often-difficult task of overcoming codependency. Below are five steps to help you on your journey to overcoming codependency.
Learn to love yourself
Loving yourself is the catch-all solution for avoiding and overcoming codependency. People who love and respect themselves have boundaries for who they’ll remain in relationships with. They won’t crave affection from just anyone. They’re able to leave a partner who isn’t right for them and therefore won’t fall into codependency. However, if you suffered from a difficult upbringing, learning to love yourself may be easier said than done.
Write a self-love list
Complete a list of 50 things you love about yourself. Include past achievements, physical attributes, likable parts of your personality and anything else you can think of. Feel free to add weaknesses that you’re attempting to improve upon too. The fact you’re bothering to better yourself at all makes this list-worthy.
Fifty is a lot. The challenge is supposed to be difficult, so it forces you to dig deep and uncover everything you appreciate about yourself. The result is a huge helping of self-love. Those who believe in the power of affirmations may want to read their list every day. Either way, the fact you managed to write 50 items should provide a jolt of self-esteem during difficult moments.
Start a gratitude journal
If you start a gratitude journal, you’ll be joining world-famous celebrities such as Tony Robbins, Arianna Huffington and Oprah Winfrey in doing so. There are many forms of gratitude journals. Many people use them to list five things they’re grateful for each morning, and five achievements they’re proud of every evening. Nothing is too insignificant to be listed.
Meditation is the practice of staying in the present moment, rather than listening to your internal voices. It’s fantastic for improving focus, calming anxiety and reducing stress. If your inner voices constantly remind you of your fears and insecurities, it could be a great habit for increasing your self-love too. In fact, it’s possible to focus your meditation on gratitude and self-love.
Develop hobbies and passions
Find an activity you’re truly passionate about. That will go a long way to stopping you worry about your relationship status. The best hobbies for overcoming codependency are those you can engage in alone. Your passion should allow you to garner a flow state that makes the hours fly by without you even noticing. Many athletes describe experiencing this sensation during sports. Musicians experience the same while practicing their instruments, as do artists in the middle of their latest creation.
Your passion doesn’t have to involve talent. It can be as simple as reading or listening to music. Indulge in anything that makes you satisfied in your own company. If you haven’t found a passion, that’s a fantastic excuse to try new activities. Meetup.com is a brilliant website, which will list plenty of ideas in your local area.
Of course, you can engage in hobbies with your friends too. Just don’t become too dependent on their company for a good time.
Create a wealth of romantic options
Most people fall into codependency because they feel their destructive relationship is their only chance for love. They cling to that unhealthy person because they believe no-one else will have them. As such, a great step for overcoming codependency is to gain romantic abundance. That might be a more long-winded step than the others, but it remains essential.
If you’re not currently abundant with romantic options, you may have to indulge in self-improvement. That’s fine. Learning to love yourself will do loads to gain you more romantic options. Indulge in hobbies. Nurture friendships and lead a life that other people want to be a part of. Make an effort to meet more people, whether that’s through social events or dating apps like Tinder. These ideas will all really help.
You can work on your appearance, perhaps by exercising or updating your fashion. Still, it’s the added confidence from the other steps listed above that’ll do the most to attract more love interests into your life. This work will make you less attached to lovers who are wrong for you. Ultimately, you’ll get the ability to choose your best fit from a bigger field of people.
End your codependent relationship
Just as going cold turkey on cigarettes is the best solution for smokers, ending your unhealthy relationship is a key step for overcoming codependency. A clean break from the relationship is crucial if you’re serious about focusing on yourself.
You might believe you’re able to become the hero that saves your partner from their codependent feelings. It’s harder than you think though. You can only save people who want saving. Remember, most codependent people came from backgrounds where they only knew pain. No matter how much love you show them, they’ll reject it, unless they’re ready to change. Only they can make that decision.
A break-up is likely to be the best aid for your partner.
Scott Wetzler, psychology division chief at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, explains, “Sometimes people delude themselves into thinking they are helping a codependent partner by continuing to cater to his or her anxiety. But ask if you are truly helping or simply fostering that negativity.”
Perhaps in cases where marriage and children are involved, it’s worth taking a shot at saving your relationship. In such situations, it’s recommended to do so with the assistance of a professional relationship counselor.
Choose a new partner with high self-esteem
The next step after learning to love yourself with or without a relationship? Finding a new partner who can do the same ability. Be careful to look for signs of extreme neediness, jealousy or attempts to engage in controlling behavior. If you spot these red flags, call them out straight away. If these symptoms persist, break the relationship off. You deserve better.
Overcoming Codependency is Possible
Codependency is probably more common than you realize, so don’t beat yourself up if you fall into it. It can happen to anyone who suffers from a low bout of self-esteem.
However, it is essential to be aware of its detrimental effects and never to accept being part of a codependent relationship. Now you’re armed with the knowledge to identify codependency and a roadmap for overcoming codependency; you should be able to get your self-confidence and your love life back on track. Overcoming codependency isn’t easy, but it’s well worth the effort to secure your long-term happiness.