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In many relationships, a partner can seem to lose themselves in their significant other, catering to their every need, want, or desire. In many cases, the individual with codependent tendencies will seek out or becomes attracted to potential partners who can be rescued, saved or fixed in some manner. They may lack motivation, self-esteem, self-worth, or have other problems such as substance abuse or anger issues. This provides a ‘need’ which allows the codependent individual to become absorbed in helping them fix the issues they have.
Codependency is often a product of low self-esteem, or an inability to seek out healthy alternatives to finding personal validation for their accomplishments or goals. Women are more likely to become codependent due to the nurturing nature many women naturally possess.
Signs of Codependent Behavior
Codependency can take many forms, from an obsessive drive to constantly be in communication or company with a partner to controlling behaviors and manipulation to ‘fix’ what problems the partner may have. There are a variety of characteristics that indicate that an individual might be codependent. Some characteristics include:
- A need to care for others, even when care is not requested or required
- Seeking to please everyone they are around
- Difficulty establishing or expressing emotional intimacy
- A strong dislike or fear of being rejected, particularly by those closest to them
- Perceiving critiques or criticism as personal
- Taking responsibility for other people’s feelings despite a lack of actual cause
- Difficulty establishing and maintaining boundaries
- Finding or creating excuses for the bad behavior in others
- Using manipulation, lying or guilt to control those around them
- Defining themselves by the opinions of others
- Being selfless, up to and including ignoring the need for self-care
Codependency in a relationship can be a source of detriment, causing a partner to feel smothered or unable to develop healthy social relationships with others outside of their romantic partner. Relationships with a codependent can often be unhealthy, where tactics such as controlling behaviors or manipulation are used regularly to maintain the relationship. In other cases, the codependent may remain in a relationship with a toxic partner, ignoring or excusing away their bad behavior because they believe that they are the reason for the problem or that they can fix or save the partner from themselves.
5 Tips to Overcoming Codependency
As with any relationship problem, codependency is something that you can actively work to improve with the right tools and mindset. Here are 10 tips to help you stop your codependency.
1. Recognize your codependent behavior
Do you rely on your partner as your sole source of happiness or contentment? Are you unable to attend social gatherings or events without your partner? Do you base your own opinions and beliefs on your partner’s ideas? These are just a few of the signs that might signify your codependent behavior. Take a few moments a day and think back on all your interactions with and without your partner. Identify those areas which might illustrate codependent behavior and write them down in a journal or notebook. By first recognizing that you are exhibiting codependent tendencies, you can become more self-aware of these patterns of behavior when you begin to engage in them.
2. Work on Your Self-Esteem
Many times, individuals who are more susceptible for developing codependency issues are those who do not have a healthy self-esteem. When individuals experience self-esteem issues, it is much easier to find joy and self-worth in making a partner or loved one feel happy, completed, or content. There are a variety of tools and programs you can engage in to help boost your confidence and self-esteem, lessening the need to receive validation from your partner’s happiness. Check out some positive affirmations to repeat to yourself every morning, download a daily positive quote application on your phone, go for a run or change up your wardrobe.
3. Find Hobbies or Activities Just for You
In many instances of codependency, the codependent one fails to seek out their own enjoyment for fear of losing the attention or love from their partner. Finding activities or hobbies that you enjoy, even if your partner has no interest in them, will allow you to gain a better sense of fulfilling yourself. By seeking out your own activities, you may find that you can easily achieve happiness and self-worth through the accomplishments you engage in. Painting, crafting or even sports activities will give you goals and rewards as you complete projects or participate in competitive games.
4. Set Boundaries for your Relationship
Codependency issues in relationships often exist because there have been no boundaries set for each partner. The codependent individual will often ignore the need for personal space and privacy or seek out situations to invade their partner’s privacy based off a belief that they are doing so to protect or prevent some negative behavior. Establishing boundaries in the relationship can allow both partners to understand what is private and what is shared. Individuals struggling with codependency should establish their own boundaries about what lines should not be crossed with their partner.
5. Seek Professional Assistance
In some cases, individuals struggling with codependency may not recognize the severity of their issues or otherwise may attempt to justify their behavior. Seeking the professional assistance of a counselor or therapist will allow the individual to become aware of how their behavior affects those closest to them. A therapist or counselor can help you to identify where your feelings of codependency generate as well as allowing a safe space for you to recognize and deal with these issues head-on.
A common problem for those struggling with codependency in relationships is the fear that they will lose their partner. However, in their attempts to protect or save their relationship, their behavior becomes a form of self-sabotage, driving their partner away and creating the circumstances which further their fear of rejection. By taking proactive steps in recognizing the unhealthy attitudes and beliefs, setting up boundaries and seeking professional care when necessary, codependency issues can be resolved to allow for a healthier and happier individual.