Are you drawn to flawed or broken people?
Do you parent your partner?
Are you over-busy in your relationships?
Do you cancel plans if your partner needs something?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, you might be codependent. Maybe you already know that about yourself and are looking for help to break the cycle.
A lot of people struggle with codependency, myself included.
But we don’t have to disappear into our relationships. We can learn how to break codependency habits and live more fulfilling lives.
So let’s talk about how!
- What is codependency?
- Is it possible to stop being codependent?
- How do I know if I am codependent?
- How do I fix codependency?
- 10 Steps for How To Break Codependency Habits
- 1. Reflect and Self-Assess:
- 2. Dedicate time to yourself:
- 3. Get Help and Find Your Support Networks:
- 4. Find yourself again:
- 5. Establish boundaries:
- 6. Communicate:
- 7. Love yourself:
- 8. Look for Signs of Codependency in Other Relationships in Your Life:
- 9. Learn to say no:
- 10. Learn to ask for what you need:
- Final Thoughts on How To Break Codependency Habits
What is codependency?
A codependent relationship is an unhealthy bond where both parties depend on each other.
Relationship expert, Stacey Rocklein, has an interesting take on codependency. She defines it as an over-functioning in someone else’s life and an under-functioning in your own.
Usually, codependent relationships consist of one giver and one taker. The partner who constantly gives loses their sense of self and becomes wholly defined by their relationship.
They find meaning in being needed by someone else.
At some point, they become incapable of making decisions for their own life without worrying about how it impacts their partner.
They organize their entire existence around another person’s schedule, needs, and wants without receiving that same level of consideration from their partner. The lines between love and codependency become blurred, and they can no longer sense the warning signs.
Is it possible to stop being codependent?
Yes, it is 100% possible to stop being codependent. But it’s not a simple on/off switch.
It requires deep personal work to identify and break codependency habits, usually with the help of a therapist or coach.
You must identify, assess, and unlearn all your codependent behaviors. No easy task! But with time and commitment, you can do it.
How do I know if I am codependent?
If you are in an imbalanced relationship where one person does all the giving while the other does the taking, you may be in a codependent relationship.
Here are some additional questions to ask yourself.
- Complete most of the housework, errands, and chores in your household?
- Feel guilty about making plans with friends that don’t include your partner?
- Constantly think about your partner’s schedule or needs before making any decision for yourself?
- Feel like you “parent” your partner?
- Feel like you have to ask permission before doing things?
- Value other people’s opinions more than your own?
- Struggle to communicate in relationships?
- Lack trust in yourself?
- Have low self-esteem?
- Have a heightened fear of abandonment?
If you answered yes to any of these, you may be in a codependent relationship and/or struggle with codependency.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to change.
How do I fix codependency?
To fix codependency, you must first acknowledge that you are codependent. Once you do that, you can work with a therapist, coach, or support group to identify your specific codependent habits and learn strategies to break them.
It can be a long, complex, and sometimes painful process, but on the other side of it, you will find a happier, healthier life.
A word of caution.
You are empowered to fix your own codependency, but you may not be able to save your codependent relationship in the process.
That requires two willing participants.
Many codependent people will hear that, triggering their fear of abandonment. They may reject getting help for fear it will end their relationship.
It’s a valid fear.
You might go through the process of breaking codependency habits to find you no longer want that relationship.
But if, in the end, you are a stronger, more resilient person with self-worth and purpose, won’t it be worth it?
Let’s talk about some common strategies you can use to break the cycle of codependency.
10 Steps for How To Break Codependency Habits
The following strategies will help you break free of codependency. It’s a process that will force you to confront some hard truths, but you’ll learn a lot about yourself in the process.
On that note, let’s dive in!
1. Reflect and Self-Assess:
Reflect on where you become codependent in your life. Where has it happened in the past, and where does it happen now? It doesn’t always come from childhood. This would make a great journal activity.
The objective is to take an honest look at your behavior and tendencies to understand where the codependence comes from and how long it has impacted your life.
2. Dedicate time to yourself:
Trying to latch on to someone to feel fulfilled is common when you have codependency issues.
This used to be me.
I was the type of person who completely disappeared whenever a new love interest came into my life, and I heard the advice to spend time alone to work on myself a hundred times.
But that felt like death to me.
I didn’t want to be miserable or lonely, so I became defined by my relationships.
As much as codependent people might not want to hear it, we really do need to take a break. We must step away from our relationships or the dating world and spend time with ourselves.
If that feels unbearable, it’s a sign that we need help with our self-worth, which brings me to the third step.
3. Get Help and Find Your Support Networks:
Join a support group, speak to a therapist, and educate yourself via podcasts, books, Ted Talks, YouTube, etc. Try to learn about codependency to understand how it plays out in your life.
Talk therapy is great because you need a neutral third party who can hear you and give you good, objective advice. The combination of counseling and education will help you break free of codependent behaviors.
Try any of these book recommendations for people who struggle with codependency:
- Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
- Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover Tawwab
- Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood
- Raising Empowered Children: The Codependent Perfectionist’s Guide To Parenting by Alana Carvalho
4. Find yourself again:
This closely relates to taking a break and dedicating time to being alone. Spend time with yourself.
When you are in a codependent relationship, you lose yourself. Your needs, interests, and sense of self disappear or become secondary to the relationship.
If you’ve recently ended a codependent relationship, you’ll need to rediscover who you are.
But even if you are still entangled in a codependent relationship, you need to get physical and emotional space between you and your partner to find yourself.
This can be easier said than done. Although not wholly related, people who quit drinking go through a similar process as they navigate a new world without alcohol.
5. Establish boundaries:
If you want to stop being codependent, you have to learn to establish and keep healthy boundaries. This is important for all your relationships, not just romantic ones.
Figure out what you are and are not willing to tolerate in a relationship. Write those things out. Then work with your counselor and support team to learn how to communicate and maintain those boundaries with your friends, family, partners, or future partners.
If setting boundaries is a completely new concept, I highly recommend taking the time to watch this video:
Let your partner know how you feel. Advocate for yourself. Speak up when something you don’t like or wish is different happens. Don’t stay silent and allow someone to walk over you.
It’s normal for poor communication to be rooted in fear and insecurity.
We don’t want to speak up because we fear how our partners will react.
We want to defend ourselves, but we are also terrified of abandonment.
This results in staying silent or an inability to clearly articulate your feelings and concerns.
You must find your voice if you want to break your codependency habits.
Good communication skills do not come naturally to most people. This is especially true for codependents.
The following books can help you become a more effective communicator:
- Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD
- The High Conflict Couple: A Dialectical Behavior Therapy Guide to Finding Peace, Intimacy, and Validation by Alan E. Fruzzetti
- Attached: Are You Anxious, Avoidant, or Secure? by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
You might also find a lot of value in this video:
7. Love yourself:
The most transformative thing you can do to overcome codependency is to find joy in being with yourself.
Get to know who you are and embrace all aspects of yourself.
Create a life you are happy to live that is not dependent on the presence of anyone else. I used to hate when people gave this advice to me.
It felt condescending.
Of course, I wanted to love myself, but I struggled. It was almost as if the more I tried to love myself, the more I didn’t. The fact that I was lonely and dissatisfied with my life contributed to that feeling.
This is why getting outside support is important. You can’t force yourself into this headspace. It takes guidance, help, and patience.
8. Look for Signs of Codependency in Other Relationships in Your Life:
We rarely limit codependent behaviors to just one facet of life. Where do codependent tendencies show up in other areas of your life?
Do you have codependent relationships with friends or family members?
Are there other relationships where you do the bulk share of giving while the other person happily takes, giving little in return?
Look for signs of over-functioning in another person’s life at your own expense.
Breaking codependency habits means learning to prioritize your needs first and then giving what you have left to others instead of the other way around.
9. Learn to say no:
Say no to activities that drain you emotionally or physically. For most codependents, saying “no” feels like torture.
A visceral fear and anxiety come with holding firm against a codependent partner. The difficulty is that manipulative partners know that and will use it to their advantage.
We can’t change those types of people, but we can escape them.
Healthy relationships give partners the space and safety to say no when necessary. If you have a relationship with someone who never accepts “no” and expects you to give, even when you can’t, that is a codependent relationship.
Learning to say “no” empowers our personal and professional lives. Your counselor, coach, or support group can help you build the confidence to use it!
10. Learn to ask for what you need:
Ask for what you need from your partner. Ask for what you need from friends and family. Ask for what you deserve in your career. Ask for what you want in your life.
Self-confident, successful people do this every day, and so can you!
Ask for what you need without feeling guilty about it. You’re entitled to your needs.
Many codependents don’t know this at first. We’re so accustomed to doing the opposite and only considering the needs of our partners that the thought of asking for anything is terrifying.
We’re afraid of rejection or feeling like our needs will repel our partners.
When you can overcome that fear, the sky is the limit!
Final Thoughts on How To Break Codependency Habits
Codependency habits are deeply ingrained. Unlearning and breaking free from them will not be easy.
But you can do it.
Cliche as it sounds, the first step truly is acknowledging the problem. Once you understand codependency and your part, you can begin the work of undoing it.
It’s okay if that sounds terrifying.
It’s likely to change your world in profound ways. When you’ve spent years disappearing into other people, the prospect of change is scary, no matter how much you crave it.
We don’t know what the journey will look like or who we will lose along the way, but I promise there is a future version of you who wants you to take that first step.
There is a future you who is no longer a victim of codependency, who loves you, and who knows you will be okay.
And you will be!