Do you worry more about your partner than you do yourself? Do you find yourself trying to control his or her behavior by manipulating him or her? Are you constantly making excuses for things that he or she does? Do you hide the things that your partner does from your friends, because you know that they would tell you to get the heck out of there if they knew the truth?
If so, you may be suffering from codependency.
What Does It Mean To Be Codependent
Codependency, or being codependent occurs when you are so consumed by what your partner is doing that you forget to focus on yourself. Many times, codependency happens in response to being with a partner who has some kind of addiction or a mental illness. The addiction could be to alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, food, the internet, or video games. It doesn’t matter what kind of addiction it is, only that the addiction takes your partner away from you and makes him focus only on themselves. The types of mental illness that often attract or create partners with codependency are personality disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder and others.
Signs of a Codependent Relationship
Codependency can show up in many different ways. If you aren’t sure if you are in a codependent relationship, here are some checklist items to consider:
- Do you often cover for your partner so that he/she won’t face negative consequences of his/her behavior?
- Do you make excuses for your partner’s behaviors?
- Are you in denial that your partner has a substance abuse problem or mental illness?
- Are you aware that your partner has a substance abuse problem or mental illness but you are afraid to ask him/her to get help for fear they will get mad or leave you?
- Do you tell yourself things like, “Well, he only drinks after 5pm, so he’s fine,” even though he has to drink every night? Or downplay the fact that he watches porn everyday and there is a lack of intimacy between the 2 of you?
- Do you make excuses for your partner’s verbally, physically or emotionally abusive behavior towards you and others?
- Do you clean up after his/her messes, both literally and figuratively?
- Do you walk on eggshells so as not to upset your volatile partner?
- Do you find yourself worrying about your partner often? Wondering what he/she is doing but afraid to ask? Or snooping to find out.
- Do you feel unable to function and obsessing about your relationship when you and your partner aren’t getting along?
- Do you put your partner’s needs before your own?
- Do you have trouble setting boundaries with your partner?
- Do you find yourself giving your partner ultimatums that you never intend to follow through with because you are so desperate to get him/her to change their behavior?
Over Dependence In Relationships
If you are in a relationship with someone with an addiction or a mental illness, chances are you’ve experienced some of the behaviors above. You probably feel like your world revolves around your partner and their emotions and you are constantly walking on eggshells trying to manage their reactions. Just as the addicted person is addicted to alcohol, so the codependent person is addicted to the addict.
Let that sink in.
Being codependent means that you are addicted to your addicted person. Just like alcohol (or drugs or porn or video games) temporarily takes him away from his problems, focusing on him, temporarily takes you away from yours.
Think about it: If you are always focused on what your addicted person is doing or feeling, you can’t focus on yourself. You avoid having to be conscious of your own behaviors. Sure, you might be neglecting your own needs, or “not having time” to work on your own goals, but it would be selfish to focus on yourself and your problems when your partner is so much worse off, right?
The energy that you are spending trying to “fix” your alcoholic-addicted-liar-narcissistic-partner is going nowhere. Whatever problem your partner is having is not something that you can cure or control. In fact, the more you do for him or her, the less they will do for themselves. That’s why we call it enabling when a codependent person makes excuses or cleans up metaphorical (or literal) messiness for an addicted or mentally ill person. Even though you think you are helping, you are actually making it easier for the addicted person to continue his behavior without experiencing the natural consequences that should be happening.
Why Are People Codependent?
Many people who find themselves in a codependent relationship grew up in a home with a parent with an addiction or mental illness. They learned to tune in to that unhealthy parent’s emotions in an effort to predict when interacting with the parent was safe and when it was not. Addict and mentally ill parents are often unstable and unpredictable, both emotionally and physically. As a result, children of such parents learn to walk on eggshells and make their needs scarce in order to keep the parent calm and happy. This was an adaptive response as a child and often helps a child survive or stay out of danger in an unstable home.
Someone who grew up like that often becomes codependent. A codependent is the ideal partner for an addict or someone with a personality disorder because they have a much higher tolerance for abusive or unstable behavior, they are used to ignoring their own needs to cater to a difficult person, and they are often attracted to the familiar (albeit unhealthy) feeling of living with an unstable person. Recreating the environment of childhood in our romantic relationships is our unconscious mind’s way of trying to heal our childhood wounds.
How To Fix a Codependent Relationship
How To Stop being Codependent In My Relationship: Focus On Your Own Self-Esteem
Pay attention to the way that you talk to yourself. Replace negative self-thoughts like, “I am not good enough,” with positive ones like, “I am worthy of love just as I am.” Focus on your strengths instead of your limitations. Try to see failures as opportunities for growth, and for the love of llamas stop blaming yourself for what your partner does!! You are not their keeper.
If you find that it is a pattern for you to get involved with people with addictions, it’s okay to explore whether you might be a “fixer,” but do it with self-love. Try to be curious, rather than judgmental about your patterns. Most likely this is something that started in your childhood (as described above) and it’s not your fault. I know it can be scary to look at your own patterns, but it’s well worth it. If you want to start that journey, it’s definitely something that we can work on in therapy.
One of the things that I like to do with my clients is to help them learn to “re-parent” themselves. Basically, you learn how to relate to yourself as if you were the responsible, loving parent that you never had. It might sound kooky, but it really works.
How Do I Stop Being Codependent In A Relationship? Let Consequences Happen
If your partner is going to be late for work because he’s been pulled over for a DUI, don’t lie to his boss for him. Let the natural consequences of his actions take place. Sometimes, the only way an addict can get better is by hitting “rock bottom,” and that can’t happen if someone is always covering for them.
Sometimes, it will feel extreme to let these consequences happen. For example, if you have to kick your spouse out of the house, you might feel like a horrible person. You aren’t! I’ve even known mothers who have had to stand by and watch while their children go to jail. This isn’t easy, but the alternative is to continue to block the lessons that the addicted person desperately needs to learn to feel motivated to change.
How To Stop Being A Codependent Enabler: Know Your Boundaries
Realize that “NO.” is a complete sentence. Recognize what your limits are and stick to them. One way to do this is to scan your body for your own feelings. Know when something makes you uncomfortable and give yourself permission to put a stop to it, even if it might make your partner upset. Learn to give priority to your own feelings of comfort, instead of constantly trying to please your partner.
Setting healthy boundaries is one way of truly loving yourself. Many times people who tend to ignore boundaries are drawn to those who don’t know how to set them. Don’t expect your partner to know when your buttons are being pushed. You have to be willing to say “NO,” and mean it.
Stop Being Codependent: Focus On Yourself
This is a big one. Get to know yourself better. Find out what you like and what you don’t and take steps to fill your life with more of what you like. Make plans with friends and don’t wait until you know your partner is unavailable to make plans! Make sure that you are practicing self-care (eating well, exercising, getting enough rest, etc.) and allow time to find hobbies that you enjoy that don’t involve your partner.
It’s very healthy to have interests outside of your romantic relationship. Some people worry that this could ruin their relationships, but the opposite is actually true. Having individual interests makes each person in the relationship feel better about themselves, and this helps to make a healthier couple. Plus, when you have your own jam, you have more exciting things to talk about when you do spend time with your partner.
How To Stop Codependency: Reach Out
Above all, know that there is help available! Try reading one of Melody Beattie’s works like her groundbreaking book, “Codependent No More,” which has helped millions. Or, find an Al-Anon meeting, which is a sister meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, for partners and loved ones of those suffering with addictions.
Knowing that you aren’t in this situation alone is a very powerful tool. It can help you to feel less isolated, and it might even help you recognize others who do the same things that you do. This will help you become aware of why you think and feel that way that you do. It’s extremely healing to realize why you act the way that you do; this is what we call “becoming conscious,” and it’s the pathway to emotional freedom.
If you think that you may be in a codependent relationship, contact me. I’m here to help!
HOW TO GET OVER A BREAKUP. REAL ADVICE FROM A CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST
Breaking up is hard to do. Whether it’s been a long time coming or it feels like a sudden crash and burn situation, the relationship that you put your heart and soul into has lost its heartbeat and that is rarely an easy pill to swallow. Maybe you expected to be with this person forever…or perhaps you knew it wasn’t permanent but you still weren’t ready for it to end. Or maybe you were the one that ended it. Whatever the case may be, you are probably feeling a whole lot of feelings right now that can be extremely hard to deal with, especially since you don’t have the one person you would normally lean on to talk to anymore.
The good news is, you will not feel like this forever. Let me say that louder for the people in the back. YOU WILL NOT FEEL LIKE THIS FOREVER. This too shall pass. I know that doesn’t make it easier right now, but it’s still important for you to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You are brave. You can do this.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET OVER A BREAKUP
Some common questions I get when I work with people who are going through a breakup, is “How long should it take to get over a breakup?” or “How long is too long to be sad about this?” or “What are some ways to get over a breakup faster?” The answer to all of these is; it varies. It all depends on how close the two of you were, how seriously you were taking the relationship, what your relationship history is like, what your childhood consisted of, and what your zodiac sign is. I’m kidding about the last one.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET OVER YOUR EX?
It’s hard to say exactly how long it will take you to get over your relationship. There is no getting over a breakup timeline. One equation I’ve heard is that if the relationship was less than a year, then it will take six months to get over it, and if it was more than a year, it will take at least a year until your heart heals. I’ve also heard that it takes 1/2 of the time that you were in the relationship to get past it. However, these are just ideas, and while they may be true for some people, they still might not be true for you. I’ve definitely never seen any scientific studies backing that up and anecdotally, I would say those timelines only hold true for some.
What IS true is that however long it takes, it’s important you let yourself grieve for what you’ve lost. This means grieving for the person, the relationship and the hopes, dreams, and ideas that you had about your future with this person. Sometimes, it also means grieving the idea of the person that you were with or the security of being in a relationship even more than the person themselves.
STAGES OF GETTING OVER A BREAKUP
The grieving process involves the usual stages of denial, anger, sadness, bargaining, and acceptance. However, they don’t always go in that order, you may experience them multiple times, and you don’t always go through all of the stages either. Each person grieves in his or her own way and no one can tell you how long this should take. Also, sometimes, you may think that you’ve finished a certain stage but then find yourself back in it again. This is normal. You aren’t back at square one, you are continuing to heal in your own time. For more on the stages of getting over a breakup, check out this blog post.
STEPS TO GETTING OVER A BREAKUP (healthy ways to get over a breakup)
FEEL YOUR FEELINGS
As I’ve said, the grieving process is necessary to go through when you are trying to get over a breakup. As much as you might want to skip the anger or the sadness, these emotions are very important to go through in order to heal. In fact, if you try to skip over feeling your feelings, you will probably end just up prolonging your heartache. This means no numbing out (or at least try to limit that).
Some ways you may be tempted to numb out are by:
- drinking alcohol
- eating crappy food
- doing drugs
- sleeping around
- dating someone new right away or dating around with multiple people right away
- binge-watching TV
- working more than usual
- staying really busy so you don’t have time to think
None of these are terrible if done once in a while, but if they become regular habits and are being used to avoid feeling sad or to avoid any other feeling, you are not letting yourself go through the grieving process and need to slow down and really allow yourself to sink into those hard feelings. I know it hurts but the only way out is through. Anything else is just a temporary bandaid.
ACCEPT THAT IT IS TIME TO LET GO
When you finally get to the acceptance phase of your grieving process, it’s important to tell yourself that breaking up was not a mistake. Resist the temptation to play the game in your mind where you mentally go over all of the things that you could have done or said differently to make the relationship work. If it didn’t last, there’s a reason for that. You didn’t make a mistake and there is nothing that you should have done differently. You might not know the reason right now, but one day you will look back and thank the Universe that this didn’t work out. Sometimes rejection is the universe’s protection.
Garth Brooks sings a song called “Unanswered Prayers” where he tells the tale of a man who prayed for his high school crush to like him back but she never did. In the song, he ultimately thanks God for not answering that prayer because he ends up marrying the love of his life; not his high school crush. For those of you that follow country, you know Garth married a fellow country icon, Trisha Yearwood. Now if this song is an autobiography, I’d say he came out winning. I see this type of thing happen more often than not and it’s beautiful when you finally find out why the one you thought you wanted didn’t work out.
The moral of the story is: What is meant for you will always find a way. Even if it doesn’t seem like it right now, the Universe truly does have your back and everything is happening FOR you, not TO you. If the Universe is taking people out of your life, let them go! This is all part of your soul’s evolution and growth.
FORGIVE YOUR EX
It’s impossible to get over a breakup without forgiveness. Of course, this is easier said than done. Maybe your ex cheated on you, lied to you, or constantly put you down. All of these behaviors are really hard to forgive. Until you remember that forgiveness isn’t actually for the other person, it’s for you.
Holding on to anger for something that someone else did doesn’t hurt that person, it only hurts you. It’s like drinking poison and expecting someone else to get sick. That’s why you have to let it go. Otherwise, the anger will fester inside of you and bring you down.
Getting to the point where you can feel grateful for what you learned from your ex is an amazing sign of healing and growth.
As hard as it is to forgive your ex, forgiving yourself can sometimes be even harder. Yet, it’s necessary if you want to move on.
The trick to forgiving yourself is to stop playing the tape of all of the things that you think you did wrong. Stop thinking that you should have known better, that you never should have gotten into the relationship in the first place, or that you somehow ruined a good thing. Remember, if this relationship was meant to last, it would have.
Look at this experience as something that you learned instead of something that you messed up. I believe that all relationships are learning experiences, whether they last or not because they help you learn more about yourself.
Sometimes, the thing you need to forgive yourself for is buying into the belief that you didn’t deserve better than the relationship you had. If you were in an abusive or unhealthy relationship, this is a big one for you to forgive yourself for.
GETTING OVER A BREAKUP WITHOUT CLOSURE
Sometimes it’s not possible to have the closure that you want with your ex. In fact, it’s often not a healthy and self-honoring choice to “seek closure” with someone who is likely to hurt you again by attempting to reach out to them. Luckily, you can still get the closure that you need without ever having to speak to your ex again.
HOW TO GET OVER YOUR EX
Write A Letter That You Don’t Send
Light a candle and set an intention for the deepest level of healing to come forward. Ask for grace and be open to feeling freedom and forgiveness in your heart.
Here’s a sample format that you could use. Write as much as you can after each prompt until you feel complete:
I’m saying goodbye because… or I’m letting go because…
I forgive you for…
I forgive myself for…
Thank you for…
Perform A Ritual
- Burn a letter that your ex sent you.
- Give away or give back any of their possessions you still have.
- Write down all the dreams you thought would be fulfilled with your ex, burn the paper, and as you do, say something like “I’m letting this go to make room for something better. Please allow whatever comes forward to be for the highest and best good for all involved.”
- Take a cleansing bath with candles, Epsom salt, and your favorite essential oils. Visualize or speak out loud all the positive and negative memories you can recall from your relationship. Let out any pain or mourning. Then let the water drain while you are still sitting in the bath and watch it go down the drain, imagining all of your pain and sadness going with it.
- Go on a solo trip somewhere you have always wanted to go or go with friends or a group travel company if you don’t want to travel solo. This is less of a ritual and more of an adventure, but hey, it helps.
BEST WAY TO GET OVER A BREAKUP
The single best tool I can offer for getting over your breakup is to remind you that some relationships were never meant to last. Most relationships have an expiration date after the relationship has served its purpose in your life. Your ex showed up exactly when he or she needed to in order to help you learn something, to help you grow spiritually, or to help you get in touch with a part of yourself that had been dormant for too long. He or she was necessary for your soul’s evolution, but now you don’t need him or her anymore. Believe it or not, you unconsciously drew in this experience so that you could heal deep wounds that you’ve been carrying around with you ever since your childhood.
THERAPY TO GET OVER A BREAKUP
Realizing that you unconsciously drew in this experience helps you to see why this had to happen. But sometimes that can be really hard to accept and it can be even harder to heal the wounds the breakup uncovered without the help of a counselor. Your wounds were uncovered so that you could see them and learn how to heal them. It wasn’t a punishment, but rather, an opportunity to learn how to do things differently this time. Sometimes we need a little help with this and if that is the case for you, I’m here to support you. This is such brave work, and I am SO proud of you for diving into it. You are a spiritual warrior and there is a valuable lesson buried underneath all this pain. If I can help you in this journey of growth, change, and evolution, I’d be honored to stand by your side.