When you hear about codependent relationships, you likely think that this doesn’t apply to you. However, a surprising number of people are codependent (and aren’t willing to admit it either). In some ways, this isn’t always a bad thing. After all, we all have some degree of dependence. We’re social beings; it’s a survival necessity. To determine if your codependency is a problem, though, you’ll need to recognize this trait in yourself. In this article, you’ll learn what codependency is and how to stop being codependent.
What Is Codependency?
Codependency describes a relationship where one person has an extreme preoccupation and a dependence emotionally, socially, and physically on another person. Some may not fully understand the meaning of codependence as the definition has changed over time.
Some think that it refers to relying on their partner or any other key person to get them through tough times. However, the initial definition was a person who was involved with someone who had an addiction. Yet, this probably isn’t a definition that strikes home with a lot of us, though.
Codependence can apply to the family and partnerships and often exists in the presence of an addiction. However, it can describe anyone who loses focus of their own identity when becoming overly dependent on another person. It’s also reasonably common in relationships where one partner is clingy towards another.
You could become codependent for many reasons, but one of the primary causes is an unsupportive environment. Many people find that trauma often from early life, neglect, or a lack of nurturing led to this trait. You may have experienced a lack of support growing up and, as a result, become a codependent person.
Even when you feel as though nothing was seriously wrong in your childhood, more minor things can still affect you. Something that might not bother you today could have been traumatic as a child, and we carry this to our adulthood.
Childhood factors that can lead to codependency include a chaotic household, harsh punishments, feelings of shame, a judgmental environment, and more. When these events happen in our early years, some may end up becoming codependent.
While our upbringing can cause us to grow up to be more codependent, our behavior as an adult is within our control. We can learn to be more independent instead of relying on others around the clock. Most people are capable of meeting their own needs without support in place. In cases of disability, a mental health or medical professional may help provide any additional support needed to help you stop being codependent.
Understanding Codependent Behavior
Before learning how to stop being codependent, you’ll need to recognize these behaviors in yourself. These are a few codependency behaviors that you or others may notice.
Codependent people tend to be people-pleasers who try and keep their inner peace. You may always be agreeing with others to create a positive environment. You don’t want to make someone uncomfortable, so you take steps to avoid any fighting. However, being a people-pleaser minimizes your say in a relationship. You may create an environment that’s unhealthy or toxic to you. While having inner peace is essential, you also want to ensure that there’s enough respect going around in your relationship with others.
Some forms of codependency can be controlling. If you felt like your life was out of control growing up, you may want to take steps to control your relationships as much as you can. However, in a relationship, there are at least two people who deserve an equal say. By trying to control the relationship, you may be doing to others what was done to you. Yet, that can be challenging for those on the other side of the relationship. Aim to be as respectful of the boundaries people set. Recognizing your need for control is a crucial step to stop being codependent.
3. Taking on a lot
You may feel as though you have a responsibility to feel like you’re valued and worthy. You may want to take on tasks that make you feel valued even if they’re not required. Often, codependent people tend to take on the caregiver role, which can burn them out. Some may sacrifice their well-being to support those around them. Their care may be overbearing to the person receiving it too. Some may feel suffocated by the amount of attention they’re getting. And since codependent people take on too much, they decrease their mental and physical well-being in the process.
4. Social bullying
Often, those in codependent relationships will bully others. For example, your behavior might be overbearing to another person, yet you’ll demand that the acts are reciprocated. A deep-seated fear of abandonment and relationship anxiety can cause you to come on too strong to others. And while you may have the best intentions in your mind, it can sometimes be seen as bullying. You might unintentionally manipulate others to behave in an unhealthy way in a relationship. If someone draws boundaries, remember that this is their way of maintaining a relationship with you. It’s important not to expect someone to behave similarly emotionally.
Am I Codependent?
If any of the signs here make you uncomfortable, then you may be codependent. Keep in mind that not all of these traits are going to apply to a codependent person. Also, most of us are going to be codependent to a certain extent in our relationships. We all depend on those around us, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s human to rely on others and have others rely on us too.
However, people who have a problem in this area are overly dependent. You may have low self-esteem and feel like you have to prove yourself to those around you constantly. Over time, this codependency can hurt yourself and hurt your relationships. It’s never too late to change your ways, though.
If someone close to you has mentioned that you’re being codependent, it may be time to reflect on some of your behavior. You can also ask for suggestions on what boundaries your partner would like set to meet their need for space.
How to Stop Being Codependent
Once you notice these codependency traits in yourself, it’s time to stop being codependent by making changes. Your relationships will be stronger and more fulfilled when you become independent. In this section, we’ll highlight some practical ways to help you learn how to stop being codependent.
1. Identify What Is Codependent
Not everyone is going to have every single behavior of a codependent person. You probably have a specific trait that someone has picked up on. Maybe you feel as though you have to take responsibility. You could also put in a great deal of effort for everyone except for yourself.
Whatever habits you’ve formed, figure them out or ask someone to be specific with feedback. Look for the codependent behaviors in your relationship. You may have only one or multiple traits. Keep a list of when you notice these behaviors. Determine what emotions or feelings arise when these behaviors take place. This habit will help you realize when you’re doing something that you need to stop. It’s impossible to stop being codependent if you don’t recognize the behavior, so this is an essential part of improving.
If you notice that you become codependent when you feel insecure in your relationship, you may need to look for signs that your partnership is stable. If you feel guilty about something, you may want to talk about that guilt with the individual since it may cause you to be overbearing.
2. Value Yourself
This advice may seem cliche, but you must recognize your self-worth if you want to stop being codependent. The relationship that you need to focus on improving is primarily the one with yourself. You can read self-love quotes to help inspire yourself to treat yourself right. For some, being codependent is caused by their insecurities. It’s more challenging to love yourself in today’s day and age, especially with the rise of mental illness. If you want to know how to be happy, you’ll need to focus on investing in yourself first instead of relying on external factors and people.
Take the time to recognize that you’re a valuable person. You don’t need to be perfect, but you should focus on taking time to think about what makes you happy every day. Focus on improving your self-image before moving forward in your relationships.
3. Set Boundaries to Stop Being Codependent
Now that you have a list of codependent behaviors in your relationships, you need to stop being codependent and set boundaries. Realize that these things you’ve been doing aren’t helping you and are detrimental to your relationships with others. Set up limits for yourself and others that don’t let you fall into these codependency behaviors.
For example, if you constantly clean up after your partner, talk to your partner about setting up a schedule that would allow your home to be clean without doing all the work yourself. If you find that your behaviors prevent you from accepting help, work on delegating responsibilities to others. Learn how to say no. Mastering delegation and saying no isn’t going to happen overnight, but it will make a difference in the long run, so focus on small changes over time.
4. Work Through the Past
Since much of being codependent started in childhood or from past trauma, you’ll need to work aiming for your future self. Reflecting on the past is often complicated and painful, but you can’t simply ignore it. You can learn good habits by overcoming past trauma and moving forward in life. Analyze the past and try to determine which parts of your life may have contributed to your codependency.
Analyzing your past may be difficult or impossible to tackle on your own. You can find a therapist to chat about how your past may play a role in your current codependency behavior. A qualified therapist is a great way to work on addressing the underlying causes of these behaviors. This trained professional can help you work through these problems and build a healthier mindset moving forward.
5. Avoid Denial to Stop Being Codependent
The worst thing that you could do at any point in this process is deny that you have a problem. Be honest with yourself. Tell yourself that your traits are real regardless of whether or not you can find the source.
The longer that you wait to acknowledge these behaviors, the harder it will be to change them. Encourage yourself to avoid denying what you’re doing and instead deal with it head-on. You’ll have the ability to work through dysfunctional relationships and build a healthier life for yourself in the future.
It’s hard to fix or heal from something you don’t believe is happening. So by accepting that you need to stop being codependent, you can improve your relationships and take that first step.
6. Find Support
Depending on what caused your codependency, you may need to cut some people out of your life. Instead, it may be better to avoid or limit some relationships. Remove the toxic people from your life and instead find supportive people to surround you. It may start with your therapist’s recommendations and be a good friend, parent, or spouse.
You won’t stop being codependent overnight, and having healthy support is a great way to continue your healthy journey. When you have this support system in place, please encourage them to note any codependent behaviors. While being reminded of your codependent behavior may be hard to hear, it will help keep you honest while working.
Focus on the Journey
As you work on how to stop being codependent, you should keep in mind that this process isn’t fast or straightforward. It’s probably going to take time and most definitely a fair amount of effort. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were you. Instead of focusing on your failures or successes, though, work on making minor changes to improve your mental health and get back to a healthy relationship. You’ll find that over time, learning how to stop being codependent will strengthen your relationships and improve your well-being.