The difference between a codependent relationship and a healthy one is the same as the difference between compromise and giving up on yourself. In a healthy relationship, you are able to find a resolution to your differences that works for both of you. And this is without one person consistently giving up on their needs or desires.
If you're trying to figure out how to stop being codependent, then that is an incredible first step for your future relationships. Breaking the cycle of codependency basically means learning how to value yourself and treat yourself tenderly, so much so that you know you don't have to sacrifice anything as an incentive for love to stay.
Here are some practical ways to make sure that, going forward, you don't compromise your hopes and desires for someone who isn't worth your time:
1. Stop Thinking A Relationship Is Key To Your Happiness
When you are in a codependent relationship, it might be hard to separate yourself from a partner in order to accomplish your goals. Your one and only goal might actually just be sustaining a relationship, even if it is with someone who is incapable of making you happy. Because you think that being with someone is the only thing that can bring you satisfaction, you start pouring all of your love and resources into a partnership that is imbalanced and not actually that good for you.
Leaning on a relationship as the main source of your security and self-esteem puts way too much pressure on your partner. It might even lead you to perceive yourself as needy or clingy, particularly if your partner claims you are needing too much maintenance in the relationship.
A relationship is just one small piece of the many things that can bring you a sense of joy and satisfaction. Start viewing your friends, your passions, and your ambitions as equally worthy of your time as dating or meeting someone. And when you do meet someone, evaluate them carefully. Is this someone you really want to be with? Or are you using them to fill an emotional void? Be honest and you'll find the answer.
2. Stop Believing Emotional Intimacy Is Only For Romantic Relationships
You heard it here first: Loneliness can be a major contributing factor in codependent relationships. I don't have any statistics to back this statement up with evidence, only my convictions. Regardless, friendships that give you the space you need to be vulnerable, open, and truly yourself are necessary for avoiding codependency.
When you have a large network of different people whom you can lean on in different moments, you will find that it is OK to not be totally independent, and that it's also good to not make your romantic relationship the center of your universe.
Friendships can be just as stabilizing and emotionally fulfilling as a romantic relationship. All these years I have been single, it's been friendships that have helped me through the tough times and built my esteem back up when I needed it.
Plus, knowing what authentic care and support looks like means I am not willing to accept mediocrity out of my romantic relationships anymore. I already have people who love me, so anything that anyone else might bring into my life is only an addition to it, not a necessity.
3. Stop Refusing To Spend Some Time Alone
After my first relationship ended, I started dating someone new three months later. My new boyfriend was the first person I had connected with after my breakup. We had fun together, but we definitely were not relationship material. However, I had not taken enough space for myself to recognize what I actually needed in a relationship.
I think that figuring out who you are as a single individual is necessary before you can truly break the cycle of codependency in a relationship. What are your needs and what are your expectations? Why do you want to be in a relationship in the first place?
At first, being on your own is definitely lonely. I used to worry if I didn't have weekend plans set by Thursday. Was I going to spend my days off rattling around my house by myself?
When I acclimated, though, I found I actually cherished being on my own. I didn't need someone else there all the time to fulfill me. If I wanted to see someone, I could reach out and make plans with a friend, but being on my own didn't freak me out or fill me with a sense of the void. With a little practice, I found I could learn how to actually hang out with myself and have fun. I learned I didn't have to compromise when it was just me.
This meant that I wasn't looking for a relationship to make me less lonely anymore, and I could start focusing on finding what I actually wanted out of love.
4. Stop Putting Everything Else On Hold When You Meet Someone New
I'm definitely guilty of placing everything on pause as soon as I meet a new love interest. Ditching plans with friends to meet up with my new lover? Check. Calling in sick so we can spend a few more hours in bed? Check.
Fortunately, I haven't met someone new for years, and so I have the clarity of time and insight to know these behaviors are a recipe for codependency. Canceling on friends will place distance between you and some of your most important relationships. Not showing up for work or failing to complete the creative projects you wanted to start also means you pull away from outside goals and interests.
When you start giving up on the things that are important to you from the get-go, pretty soon, you are going to give up on yourself in other ways: bending over backward to accommodate a partner, backing down from expressing concerns you might have about the relationship in the future, or being willing to have your feelings dismissed by your partner.
When you know your own worth and the worth of the life you have outside of the relationship, then you won't be willing to let someone into your life who doesn't value who you are the way they should.
5. Stop Forgetting To Be Tender With Yourself First
When you are in a codependent relationship, you stay because you think you will not get anyone better. You might honestly believe you are lucky to have a partner who “puts up with you” or who is willing to be with you in the first place.
If you heard someone say that about your friend, though, you would think it was ridiculous. Nobody is doing anybody any favors by dating them, and romance is not a charity case. You are with somebody because you want to be with them — period, end of story.
When you start valuing yourself and the contributions you give to your relationships, then you won't accept it when someone doesn't treat you with the respect you deserve. You'll be able to cut out problematic people from your life before they take root in it, and you will be able to recognize who makes you feel good, who makes you feel anxious, and why that anxiety doesn't actually mean you're in love.
Lifting yourself up and recognizing your own worth also means you are able to provide yourself with care, tenderness, and love, and be patient with yourself and your feelings. That means when a new relationship does come into your life, you will know from the jump that you don't need them to make you happy. You already have yourself.
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