Just what is relationship codependency recovery and is this something you should consider? Let’s find out together!
A codependent relationship is characterized by psychological, spiritual, or emotional reliance on someone else. Behaviors are self-destructive and harmful and may include enabling behaviors, as in the case of alcoholism.
These types of relationships aren’t very well balanced, meaning one person’s needs come before the other person’s needs. A codependent relationship doesn’t need to be a romantic relationship. These occur between friends and family members as well.
If you’re in this type of relationship, your mood may depend on the mood of your codependent partner. If he’s angry or irritated, your mood falters, but if he’s in an unusually good mood, so are you.
Those are all signs you might need relationship codependency recovery.
Do You Need Relationship Codependency Recovery?
Several things say you might need relationship codependency recovery:
- You don’t have clear boundaries in your relationships
- Your self-esteem is low
- You put the needs of others before your own, often ignoring your own needs completely
- You feel addicted to the other person
- Your relationship is abusive or unhealthy and you feel you can’t leave
- Your constant focus is on your partner and you believe his happiness is your responsibility
- You feel you put more into your relationship than he does
- You feel that if he isn’t happy, it’s because you’ve done something wrong
- Your life is about sacrificing what you want instead of what he wants
- You give more than you receive
Relationship codependency is often called relationship addiction. When you aren’t doting on your partner, or when he rejects you, you feel lonely. You don’t see a need for relationship codependency recovery until you hit rock bottom.
Of course, just like a drug or alcohol addict, you aren’t the first person to see that you need help. Your loved ones have been watching you suffer for a long time.
When rock bottom hits, it comes in the form of feeling completely burnt out and depressed. You feel like you’ve given and given, and you finally have nothing left to give. You have trouble getting motivated because it seems like life is the same thing every day. What’s the point?
Faulty Beliefs Common in Codependent Relationships
You’re Responsible for His Happiness
Your continual focus in the relationship is on meeting his needs and making sure he is happy. You believe his happiness is your responsibility and if he isn’t happy, you’re to blame. He probably backs this up with words.
Ask yourself this. Does it make sense to you? Are you responsible for his happiness? Can any one person be responsible for the happiness of another? If his happiness is your responsibility, then whose responsibility is it to make you happy?
What if you were to accept responsibility for your own happiness and your partner did the same? Of course, this is assuming your partner wants to be in a healthy relationship too. Doesn’t it make more sense for each of us to be responsible for our own happiness than that of others? That we should each own our thoughts, beliefs, emotions, behaviors, attitudes, and actions?
You Should Pursue His Happiness at Your Own Expense
When you spend all your time worrying about his happiness, you have no time to focus on yourself. What are your wants? What are your needs? Do you even dream of your future anymore? Have you taken the time to think about your own goals?
You are the captain of your own ship, pardon the cliché. You, and only you, are responsible for making your dreams come true, meeting your needs, and working for what you want. Yet, because you spend so much of your time focused on someone else’s needs and wants, yours are sacrificed. It’s time to dream of your future again. You should always have goals you’re pursuing and dreams you’re envisioning.
You Must Stay in This Relationship
Have you ever said to yourself or someone else, “If I leave, who will take care of him?” That is a big waving red flag that your relationship is codependent and it’s also a faulty belief. “If I stop taking care of him, he’ll fall apart.”
He’s a grown man who should be able to take care of himself. It’s time he got up and got his beers from the fridge, did his laundry, and picked up after himself and if that’s all you are to him – a maid – then why stay?
Relationship Codependency Recovery | Your Efforts are Futile
You envision the moment when your partner wakes up and says, “Hey! Thanks for everything you’ve done but I’ve decided to take responsibility for my own life, starting today!”
Keep dreaming, Girl. This isn’t going to happen. Not today; not next week; not even next year. There will never come a time when he says, “Hey, you’ve done a great job” or “I can take it from here.”
There will be no thank you’s coming from your partner. There’s no recognition of the countless hours you’ve spent focused on keeping him happy. There’s no acknowledgment of the sacrifices you’ve made. There’s simply the expectation that you’ll keep on doing what you’re doing.
Healthy Interdependent Relationships vs. Unhealthy Codependent Relationships
You read several of the signs of an unhealthy codependent relationship above. Here are a few codependent behaviors you might recognize. You:
- Over-rely on someone else to meet your needs or
- Seek out someone who wants to fully rely on you to meet his needs
- Don’t have your own identity
- Choose partners who need to be fixed so you can feel valued
- Don’t have boundaries
- Take responsibility for his well-being
Interdependent relationships are healthy relationships where you:
- Rely on your partner for some things, but not everything
- Have clear boundaries and you enforce them
- Can manage the disappointment after you’ve had a disagreement
- Maintain a healthy sense of who you are outside of the relationship, keeping activities with friends and pursuing hobbies as priorities
- You mutually rely on one another in times of need but you don’t take personal responsibility for one another’s happiness or behaviors
Relationship Codependency Recovery Steps
I speak of this as relationship codependency recovery because that’s what it is. Remember above, I said it’s often called relationship addiction. To overcome an addiction, you must enter recovery.
This isn’t an all-or-nothing deal, though. Relationship codependency recovery takes time and an ongoing effort. There is trial and error involved in determining what works best for you and your partner.
Proceed through the steps slowly and steadily and things will turn around.
Take Time for Self-Care
Engage in self-care like massages, a day at the salon or spa, relaxing with a good book or favorite music, and just existing. Shut off your phone, or at least check it infrequently and just let life happen around you.
There’s no pressure to please anyone but you. You don’t need to do laundry, cook dinner, drive someone to soccer practice or wash dishes. You just need to take care of yourself!
The very moment you feel guilty, stomp that feeling right out. There is no guilt over self-care. If you’d been practicing self-care all along, you wouldn’t feel burnt out right now. If you want to take care of others, take care of yourself first.
Reconnect with Friends and Family
When you’re in a codependent relationship, you often lose touch with everyone who was once important to you. Since your only focus was on someone else’s needs, you’ve forsaken those relationships.
This will take time, and you might owe an apology or two if one or more of them tried to tell you something was off. These relationships will take time to rebuild, but it’s important to do so for your mental health.
Boundaries are a healthy way to draw a line in the sand that states how you allow others to treat you. It’s a set of clearly defined rules for what you’ll accept from others.
Boundaries are necessary to protect yourself from being treated badly and to command respect. Everyone is owed respect, including you.
With a boundary, you know when you’ll allow a guy to have sex with you. With a boundary, you’ll demand people treat you with respect. Boundaries enable you to say “No” to things you don’t want to do.
They follow your values, so if you value being on time, your boundary that says you won’t allow other people to make you late. Drive yourself to the party or appointment so you’re in control of when you arrive.
If you value volunteering at your church or school, say “Yes” to those opportunities and “No” to those that take you away from them.
Once you identify your values, setting boundaries is easy.
What can be challenging at first is maintaining boundaries. People who have made it their hobby to crash your boundaries or use you will fight your sudden need to stand up to them, but you must do so. One way to help this along is not to give a long-drawn-out explanation.
“I’m going to drive myself to quilting class tonight. I’ll see you there.” There’s no explanation, just a statement. If your friend asks why, you say, “I want to be sure to catch the beginning of class tonight.”
Of course, your friend will argue that she’ll be on time, and she’ll try to sway you, but just repeat your original statement, “Gee Kelly, that’s really nice of you to offer again, but I’ll drive myself anyway. See you there.”
Learn to Regulate Your Emotional Responses
Instead of trying to solve your partner’s problems, instead learn to say, “I’m here to listen if you need someone to talk to.” This says, “I can’t solve this for you, but I will support you to the best of my ability.”
Not every codependent relationship is a constant angry exchange.
Mike and Joanne have a codependent relationship and both could be described as two of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.
Every relationship Mike has been in since dating in high school was with a girl or woman who needed rescuing and Joanne is no exception. Her son has Level 3 Autism, the most severe level, and Joanne is also a victim of child sexual abuse. She was just the type of woman for Mike.
Their dysfunctional relationship caused Mike to lose many jobs, due to his overwhelming need to keep her happy and do everything for her. His health issues, which involve extreme pain, might be due to the overwhelming stress he feels as a result.
When Mike and Joanne were considering marriage, Mike pulled back, nearly leaving the relationship, until Joanne threatened suicide. They married, much to the disappointment of Mike’s friends, family and children. In the end, Mike sacrificed his relationship with his kids for his codependent relationship.
The point here is that if you’re reading this section about talking about it, but your codependent relationship is more volatile, you may be shaking your head, wondering how on earth you can say something like this.
You might not be able to and that relationship may be beyond repair, but this is an important tactic to tuck into your arsenal for your next healthy relationship.
Develop a Habit of Saying What You Mean Without Being Mean
When you deny you’re upset, then go off slamming cabinet doors and stomping around the house, you’re being passive-aggressive and this isn’t healthy for you or your relationship.
It’s okay to state your mind or your feelings, but it isn’t necessary to be mean in doing so. You can calmly say that you plan to take the day for yourself without dumping accusations while doing so.
The wrong way: “Gary, I’m so sick of picking up after you! I’m leaving for the day and if you’re lucky, I’ll be back by bedtime!!!”
The right way: “Gary, I’m planning a ‘me’ day today. There’s lunchmeat in the fridge for lunch and I put some leftovers in there for dinner. I’ll be back later! Enjoy your peace and quiet.”
In the second way, there are no accusations or mean statements. You can convey the same message in a way that doesn’t start World War III. No good comes from ‘you’ statements.
It’s always better to state something as an ‘I’ statement. It’s harder for someone to refute:
- I feel like I need a spend a day on myself
- I feel like taking a long walk to think about things
- Today, I’m going to treat myself to a pedicure and try to shake my mood
Behaviors You Probably Need to Change
Learn to Self-Soothe
Many people grow up without the ability to soothe themselves when they feel bad. A parent who doted too much or did everything for you may have squashed your ability to soothe yourself. Sadly, there seems to be a whole generation of parents who are afraid to allow their children to feel much of anything, and when they do, parents swoop in to make sure they don’t feel it for long.
Soothing yourself is all about learning to manage your own emotions. Feel them and learn to work through them. I read an analogy once that I love. When you’re feeling something uncomfortable, envision it as a leaf floating on a stream. It’s slowly, gently floating away from you, just like that emotion. You feel it, but you allow it to pass on by.
Don’t Be Afraid to Admit that You Don’t Know
Nobody knows everything so it shouldn’t be expected of you either. You don’t need to be right all the time to gain respect. People will respect you more if you admit you don’t know something than try to fool them into believing you do.
When you spend all your time trying to solve everyone else’s problems, you take on a heap of someone else’s stress and anxiety. You become exhausted from the effort, which is fruitless since you might not know how to solve those problems anyway.
Resist the Urge to be Everyone’s Dear Abby
It is possible to be supportive of someone without providing advice. As hard as it might be at first, it’s time to resist the urge to give advice every time someone comes to you with something.
Instead, become a better listener. Spend that mental energy forming a question to ask or finding ways to state your support.
Most of the time, people just need to talk it out, they don’t expect you to fix their problem for them. This is especially true of men and it’s a disconnect between men and women because men are natural fixers of things.
When you come to your guy with a problem, he tries to fix it, right? All you wanted was to talk it out and here he is with a solution.
Don’t be that person who always feels they need to fix everyone. Instead, work on being a better listener.
Focus on Your Center of Control
Some things in your life fall into your circle of control and some fall outside it. Often, we try to focus too much time on things outside our circle of control.
Things that fall outside your center of control in a relationship include anything that is someone else’s responsibility, like their happiness, actions, and behaviors, as well as their reactions to things.
You can only control yourself and things in your life like your emotions, actions, beliefs, values, and behaviors. You control how you earn and spend your money, what hobbies you pursue, which friendships you value, and so on.
The difficult part comes when you know someone is headed for an uncomfortable consequence.
Maria’s son is headed straight for disaster. He’s almost 40 and his life is a mess. This summer, he had legal difficulties, then broke up with his girlfriend. He’s one of those guys who needs to rescue women, so all his relationships are codependent.
Maria has heard that in a few days, he’ll be without somewhere to live. He spent his savings trying to keep up a life his last girlfriend demanded. While she stayed home, he worked hard to earn enough money to support his three children, her two and the two near-adult kids she wanted to adopt, but it wasn’t enough. He has no money for a deposit on a new place and his lease is up at the old one, which he can’t afford.
As much as it breaks Maria’s heart to do so, she must allow him to feel his way through his own life. She’s begged him to get help and take time between relationships to get himself together, but he refuses, bouncing from one codependent relationship to another. It’s out of Maria’s center of control and it’s killing her.
Learn to Say “No”
If you struggle to say no to someone, think about it this way instead:
When you say “Yes” to something you don’t want to do, you’re saying “No” to something you do want to do.
How much are you willing to sacrifice? It’s time to look at your values and determine what fits into your new “Yes” category and what goes into the “No” bin.
This is where those boundaries come in. If you value a cause, like Alzheimer’s disease, Autism, Animal Rights, or something else, it’s easy to say “Yes” to those things. Conversely, if someone comes to you and asks you to do something that doesn’t fit into your beliefs or values, it’s time to say “No”.
Of course, people who have relied on you in the past to always say yes will have a hard time with you suddenly growing a backbone but stick to your guns! It’s okay to say “No!” Just be nice about it in the process. There’s no reason to be mean unless they won’t let up.
It’s Okay to Ask for Something You Need
When you’re a codependent person, you probably don’t think it’s okay to ask for something you need because the needs of the other person are always first.
Well, let me tell you that it is okay for you to ask for something you need. You aren’t accustomed to putting your own needs first, but I’m here to tell you that it’s okay for you to do so!
Make sure some of the balls you’re juggling are your own.
It’s okay to consider other people’s needs, but not at the expense of your own. Learn to balance the two.
End the Worry About What Other People Think
Who cares if you’re wearing your favorite tie-dye t-shirt and sweats? If you’re comfortable, go for it. And yet if you go to the grocery store, you’ll change, won’t you? You’ll change because you don’t want someone to think badly of you.
The heck with that! If you’re comfy, go for it! Worrying about what other people think is a low-confidence move that stems from a need to be accepted.
The chances are better that someone will think to themselves, “Boy does she look comfy! I wish I wasn’t wearing these heels!”
You cannot control how other people react to what you do or say. You also don’t know what someone else is thinking unless they verbalize it. This means that when you imagine other people will talk about you, it’s beyond your control and your imagination isn’t always right. I know, tough to read.
Stop Worrying About What Others are Doing
How many times have you either stepped in or wanted to step in so badly that you about drove yourself crazy? You’re watching someone do something you feel they either shouldn’t be doing or are doing wrong and you have this urge to butt in.
Let it be. Remember from above, you aren’t perfect. Neither are they. You learn by doing things and making mistakes. Allow them to gain the same lesson. Besides, who’s to say your way is the right way or the only right way?
This focus on what other people are doing is often a distraction from your issues. Rather than focus on yourself, you focus on what other people are doing wrong.
Relationship Codependency Recovery
Relationship codependency recovery is as much about fixing yourself as it is about fixing your relationship. Confident people don’t enter codependent relationships, so codependency is a huge signal that your confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem need some work.
Take some time to change the behaviors above and go through the relationship codependency recovery steps outlined in the article. If you feel you need more help, don’t be afraid to seek professional advice. There’s no shame in that!