Toxic Love: Recovering From a Codependent Relationship
What Is Codependency?
Codependency is not to be confused with depending on someone. To rely on someone is part of a secure, healthy relationship. Codependency is an entirely different monster. The difference is when your entire life is centered around your partner where your identity and sense of self-worth is contingent on that person’s approval.
People in codependent relationships cannot survive without the other - a dependent behavior that is toxic to the mental and physical health of both individuals.
According to a study by the University of North Dakota, codependent men and women will remain loyal to their partners despite ongoing stress and lack of reward for their efforts. Controlling behavior, exaggerated sense of responsibility, and worth dependency are a few key characteristics of codependency.
So, How Do You Know If You're Codependent?
Ask yourself these questions.
Do you give all the support while sacrificing your own emotional, physical, and mental needs?
Compromise and even a little sacrifice is something you should be prepared for to strengthen a relationship. But it's not healthy when you’re the only one sacrificing and providing support while your partner is doing all the taking.
Do you feel lost when left by yourself?
Maintaining your individuality is crucial for developing healthy relationships. If you feel lost and not sure what to do with yourself without your “other half,” it may be time to re-evaluate who you are outside of the relationship. Who are you without your partner? Do you remember?
Are you always anxious and feel like you’re never doing enough to make the relationship work?
If you’re feeling anxious more often than not, something is wrong. It’s normal to have dips and lows in a relationship, but if you always feel stressed and like you're never good enough, that’s not normal. A healthy relationship should be a place of comfort, not one that’s giving you insecurities and sleepless nights.
Does your partner raise all your red flags but you stay anyway, thinking you could change them?
Everyone has their list of deal-breakers, and people don’t change. If you’re not content with who your partner is in the present and hope to change them into the person you "know" they can be, then it’s time to reassess your relationship. You have to love the person, not the potential.
Have you tried to be more independent but only feel more anxious when you’re not with them?
Take this as a sign that your identity is too tightly wound up in the relationship. Doing things by and for yourself is not selfish, it is essential to your well-being and will strengthen your confidence and self-esteem.
Poll: Are You Happy?
How happy are you about your relationship right now?
What Do You Do When You Are in a Codependent Relationship?
Here are a few things you should do to rediscover who you are and to build yourself back up. Once you’re comfortable within yourself, you’ll gain the much-needed insight into your life and your relationships.
Learn to recognize your thoughts and become more self-aware so you’ll realize when you start changing who you are for someone else. Ask yourself: “Why am I doing this?”
You don’t need validation from anyone else but yourself. Everyone has flaws, but your imperfections are what make you who you are. You deserve to be with someone who accepts you - flaws and all - but first, you have to accept them yourself.
Once you’re comfortable with who you are, you’ll be able to build healthier relationships as a result.
Recognize and satisfy your needs
Put yourself first for a change. If you’re naturally the supportive type, understand that you can’t take care of others if you’re burnt out yourself. You have needs as well and don’t be scared to make them known. A healthy relationship goes both ways, and you deserve just as much support and care that you’re providing for others.
Also, the more comfortable you are with expressing yourself, the more comfortable you will become with openly communicating with your partner and loved ones. This is key to building healthy, secure relationships.
Know when to protect yourself
According to a report by Jaffe and Burris, a woman will be assaulted by her partner on an average of 35 times before her first report to the police.
If you feel abused or disrespected, it’s important to know when to walk away. Yes, easier said than done, but recognize that you’re your own person and deserve to have your boundaries respected. Don’t waste time trying to get them to change. Realize that you’re not responsible for another person’s behavior, and nor should you be. But you do have power over what you do so you can leave, speak up, or seek help. Protect yourself.
Remember to laugh and have fun. Studies have found that laughter breaks the cycle of negative thought and is a very effective stress-reduction technique. Laughter is even used in cognitive-behavioral therapy to facilitate healthy relationships.
So, enjoy life because it should never be a burden. There are responsibilities, sure, but you need to allow yourself to play, be creative, and recharge. If you’ve been isolated from your friends and family for a while, make sure to reconnect by spending more time with them. They’ll help ground you and remind you of who you are.
Pursue your passions
Nobody and nothing can make you happy but you. Do something that excites you every day. Don’t give up before you’ve even tried. It’s natural to feel depressed and like you’ve failed, but just focus on recovering. Keep moving forward and listen to your heart. Your passion in life will return.
Poll: What Makes You Happy?
Tell us what makes you happy!
Focus on You First
Staying too long in a codependent relationship can leave you emotionally exhausted and can destroy your self-worth and sense of identity. But, breaking up and walking away is not always the only solution. Sometimes, a codependent relationship can be steered back on the right track.
But most importantly, focus on you. Reconnect with your family and friends. Meet some new people. Find new hobbies. Rediscover who you are and what makes you happy. And never hesitate to find help.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.