You’re comfortable. Safe. Sheltered. Defined. What a life—what more could you ask for? But wait, not so fast: You’re so comfortable that you’re afraid. And because you feel safe, because you’re so sheltered, you deny opportunities to venture out. And yes, you’re defined—but in a way that you never desired… as his. It’s all you know—until you realize the downside of this life that you once thought was okay, in fact desirable, and you yearn to know who you could become. That’s when everything changes.
When asked to picture a happy life, many don’t only envision themselves but a partner standing next to them, hands intertwined. We hope to one day find that other half, that person that somehow makes sense of everything, the one that brings everything together. And if we’re lucky, we find them. And together, embark on a new adventure—one filled with love, growth, and beautiful memories. Or so we hope. It can start out that way, and it often does, but that doesn’t ensure the fate of the rest of the relationship. Instead of continuing to love and grow and make wonderful memories, couples can enter unchartered, dangerous territory. And one, or both partners, can find themselves trapped in the difficult predicament above: codependency.
Codependent individuals rely heavily on their partners (or others) for fulfillment—they fear being rejected or abandoned, they have and understand no boundaries, and they often have a difficult time communicating their thoughts and feelings. And perhaps, most difficult of all, they live in denial of their codependency. But that isn’t to say that there’s no hope for codependents—in fact, there most certainly is. Codependent individuals can get out of their unhealthy relationships and adapt healthier behavior patterns; here’s how to do it:
1) Acknowledge your codependent tendencies.
The first step to getting out of a codependent relationship is recognizing it as such; you must acknowledge the problem. This can be difficult, especially if an individual has a history of codependency, but doing so is essential—even if it takes the assistance of loved ones, an outsider’s perspective, or a mental health professional’s intervention. Now, it’s also important you understand codependency as a problem: one that comes with harmful effects and consequences.
2) Have a calm, effective conversation with your partner.
Once you’ve recognized your codependency, and begun to understood its harmful effects, you can now discuss it with your partner. This conversation can take a few different routes, depending on the severity of the codependency, the overall dynamic of the relationship, and the intentions of your significant other. If your partner is controlling and/or you fear what might happen when you bring up the problem at hand, it might be best to have a friend or a counselor present. Whatever the case, the goal of the conversation is to explain your concerns regarding codependency and to end the codependent relationship.
3) Focus on yourself—cater to your wants and your needs.
Codependents often feel the need to be in a relationship at all times—but it’s time to break this harmful habit. Now that you’ve ended your relationship and are single once more, you’re free to discover self-fulfillment. Get out into the world and find what makes you happy, what makes you feel good about yourself: this could be a hobby like painting or running that gives you meaning, or it could be a job that gives you purpose. Experiment, play, have fun. Find what makes you, you.
4) Continue to recognize and understand codependency.
You can’t end a codependent relationship and then wipe it completely from your mind—nor should you. Part of your new journey should involve contemplating and understanding codependency: how it affected you then, how it affects you now, why it’s harmful, why it’s important to move away from, etc. Continue to make connections as you rediscover yourself. This will help you to forego codependent tendencies in the future.
5) Recognize yourself as deserving and worthy.
You’ve realized and admitted to your codependency; you’ve ended the unhealthy relationship; you’ve started attending to your personal needs and desires; and you’ve vowed to continue exploring all that is codependency, as to prevent yourself from falling back into its vortex. Now? You recognize yourself as deserving and worthy. Codependents oftentimes make sacrifices to care for their partners, they rely on them for fulfillment, and they dedicate all of their time to pleasing them. So now, you take this opportunity to pay yourself a little attention, to see all that you are: deserving, worthy, strong, and capable.