Letting go of codependency is not an easy task but you can do it. You learned it and can unlearn it.
In this article we will look what codependency is. It’s origin and how to over come it.
What is a Codependent Relationship
A codependent person is someone who derives their sense of self and meaning in a relationship by putting aside his or her needs.
They have learned that love is bending to the desires and whims of other people.
They not only feel responsible for others moods and behaviour, their own mood depends on and fluctuates with theirs .Whence, they become out of touch with their own emotions.
Why Letting Go of Codependency and Relationships is Hard
Even when the relationship gets abusive and dysfunctional the codependent will find it hard to break up and let go.
They are likely to draw toxic people into their life, who will take advantage of the codependents desire to serve. The codependent will welcome this as it makes sense in their codependent world, they think it is love.
Letting go makes them feel anxious because they believe they will not survive without the other person.
Even if they meet people who are not toxic, the codependents need to put others before themselves leads the healthy partner to rely on them more and more. Which is what the codependent needs. But makes for a unhealthy relationship.
Origin of Codependency
Codependency comes from childhood trauma.
The child was punished for its desires and expressing its emotions. And was only given validation when he or she was doing something for the parents.
The child felt immense abandonment anxiety when the parents did not validate it. Imagine as a child, thinking who will look after you?
So the child’s sense of self did not fully develop and. The child became shut of from it’s own feelings because they only judged how they should feel based on what the parents felt. It develops an anxious attachment style.
The healthy traits of a child, who wants things and asserts itself and it’s boundaries were quashed. It confused abandoning it’s own needs for the parents as love.
Everyone is different. However there are some common codependent tendencies, even though people l display them uniquely.
Codependents are painfully focused on what people think of them. So they adjust their behaviour to please.
They will also adjust their language, saying things they do not believe and think others want to hear.
This can lead them to take the blame for something even though it was not their fault or responsibility.
Even when they are right, they will avoid conflict, even it means suffering and loss for themselves.
They will manage and take over loved ones lives.
This leads them to take on more work than they can realistically do, just to feel validated.
Codependents may even encourage unhealthy behaviour like drug or alcohol use, just so they can take care of the person.
On the outside this looks like helpful behaviour and can seem like the codependent is forced into this position. However, the codependent will use controlling manipulating behaviors to make sure the remain as the care taker.
This is often why codependent relationships end up dysfunctional. (see Codependency and Control)
Codependents have poor or non existent boundaries. They will not stand up for themselves when someone is abusive, physically or verbally.
They won’t take time out for themselves. When they do, they will feel guilty and anxious for looking out for themselves.
Where “they” start and the “other” begins begins is porous. Doing something for others means they are doing it for themselves. In their mind.
Need for validation
They don’t exist without someone validating them.
“Who am I, If I am not serving others?”.
Their self-worth that depends on what others think about them.
If they don’t get validation they have overwhelming fears of abandonment
Letting go of Codependency and Moving On
The way to let of toxic current relationships is to let go of codependency.
When a healthy relationship ends, a person will mourn the end and eventually move on. Their sense of who they are is separate from the relationship.
Because a codependent derives it’s identity from how they are validated by others, when the relationship ends the codependent will find it difficulty to let go. They do not know who they are without the relationship.
In order to let go of codependency they must relearn what it is to be a healthy person in a healthy relationship.
This applies to any relationship. Romantic, friendships or a family member.
Here are ways to overcome codependency…
1. Understand co-dependency in you
The first step is to realize you are a co-dependent and what that means. Educate yourself on common behaviours and see if they apply to you.
This is a challenging process, so if you need to see a therapist to help you through.
2. To let Go of Codependency Set Appropriate Boundaries
When you have a life time of poor boundaries and low self esteem, what comes natural to others will make you feel anxious and scared of being abandoned.
However, you must set boundaries. This means letting people know what you will and will not tolerate. And how much you are willing to do for them.
You don’t just say this, you must act. If they make an unreasonable request you say no, and if they insist you walk away.
You also must set boundaries for who you are. You have to be clear where you end and others begin. This means you have your feelings, ideas, expectations and opinions and others have theirs. You are responsible for your own. They are responsible for theirs.
3. Journal to Help Let Go
Writing your thoughts and feelings down in a journal will help you clarify what you are feeling and thinking.
Codependents do not understand what they are feeling. Emotional intelligence is something they need to work on.
A an exercise you can try is writing down whatever you are feeling and being as specific as possible. Is it anger or frustration? Are you happy or excited?
If you need to, use the wheel of emotions (easy to find on google).
Journaling is also a great way of getting rid of negative thinking.
4. Build a Sense of Self
You build a sense of self by getting in touch with what you want. This can be another difficult task when letting go of codependency.
Codependents derive who they are and what they want from other people.
What are your hobbies? Your favourite movies? What kind of people do you like to be around (and not)?
Try a new hobby, watch a movie that you feel like watching or take a walk. Do something without getting permission from someone else.
As you do more and more things, you will start to understand what you want and your self esteem will improve. You will develop a solid self.
5. Use Therapy to Let Go of Codependency
There are some great therapies out there that will help you understand and assist you in letting go of codependency.
Some examples that you can look into are family therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and group therapy.
6. Take care of yourself
Co-dependents abandon their own needs over others. So reverse this. Take time to do things you enjoy and that are good for you.
Take a break, go the gym or get a massage. Spend a day at a spa and get pampered.
You will feel guilty. Understand you were made to feel this way in childhood. There is nothing wrong with doing what you want and taking care of yourself.
In fact, it is important for everyone that you do. You cannot help others if you are not happy and well yourself.
Healthy people understand this. So if anyone makes you feel guilty for taking of your own health, they are toxic.
If it helps you can start with small acts of self care. Small things that are all about you. Then build up.
7. Clear Direct Communication
Because co-dependents are afraid of rejection and abandonment they will manipulate people into getting what they want, rather than asking directly.
So in this sense, as a co-dependent you have to see the part you are playing in not letting go of codependency.
Do not use passive aggressive communication. Catch yourself when you are about to get your way in an indirect manner.
Also part of setting boundaries for yourself is to tell people directly what you do not want, so there is no confusion.
If you do not communicate directly, you will never be sure if it’s the person who is the problem or you.
8. Let Go of Your Stories
We have learned stories about our selves from childhood.
Things like, “we are not good enough”, “other people are dangerous” or “other people are important and I am not.”
In transnational analysis these are known as life scripts.
You have to let these go. You do this by understanding the stories are not you. They are the voices of your parents and other significant caregivers you internalized.
Read the article Life Scripts – The Hidden Patterns that Control Your LifeF for more on this.
9. Learn what a healthy relationship is
Take time to learn what a healthy relationship is. This will give you a baseline to measure from and a goal to aim for.
Here are some qualities to look into…
Trust: The foundation of any strong relationship. Trust ensures people can rely on each other in times of uncertainty and vulnerability.
Communication: Open, honest and regular communication allows couples to understand and meet each other’s needs. See the blog post – Questions For Long Distance Relationships. The questions are useful for any relationship.
Respect: Recognizing and valuing your partner’s feelings and boundaries demonstrates mutual respect.
Boundaries: Setting and respecting personal limits ensures that both partners feel safe and understood.
Quality Time: Spending meaningful moments together deepens the bond and creates cherished memories.
Empathy: Feeling and understanding your partner’s emotions promotes connection and understanding in challenging times.
Shared Values: Having common goals and beliefs.
Flexibility: Being adaptable and open to change means the relationship can evolve and grow.
Independence: Maintaining individual identities and pursuits.
Conflict Resolution: Disagreements are natural, resolving them constructively prevents resentment and deepens understanding.
10. Release attachment to the outcome
Life is not straight forward. When we think we have got the hang of it, it surprises us.
Relationships are the same. This is why it is important to be comfortable with uncertainty and not having it all figured out.
Spiritual and mindfulness practices will help you with this. As will looking at life in a realistic way.
Letting Go of Codependency Conclusion
Codependents derive their self worth and identity by doing things for other people. This creates and unhealthy relationship dynamic and can lead to them attracting toxic people who will take advantage of them.
Letting go of codependency means changing your behaviours and stories about who you are what love is. This is why it is important you learn codependent behavior patterns, so you recognize them in yourself.
You must develop healthy boundaries and say no to people, learn what a healthy relationships looks like and get in touch with your desires.
Love does not mean abandoning your own needs.
See also Karpman Drama Triangle Codependency.