Imagine you’re lost in the desert, crawling across the dunes, dying of thirst and starvation. A stranger approaches, kneels down, and offers you a drink. Without knowing anything about that stranger, you’d be inclined to love them, wouldn’t you? Many people with codependency find themselves caught in just that situation—unsure how to love themselves, they desperately hold on to love when it comes from someone else.
Sometimes I ask people to think of codependency as an addiction. That need for love can turn our relationships into prisons. It isolates not just from friends and family, but from ourselves. In today’s article, we’ll explore five things that will help you overcome codependency.
1. Reclaim Yourself
Many people struggling with codependency pour themselves into their relationships. Whether their partner asks them to or not, they sacrifice their own identity. They’re so busy worrying about their relationships that they don’t have time for themselves.
To overcome codependency, you need to develop an independent identity. Consider revisiting old hobbies and interests or look for opportunities to pursue new ones. Instead of being defined by your relationship, learn to see that relationship as one part of the fabric of your life.
2. Express Your Needs
People with codependency often struggle to express their needs. When you’re afraid of upsetting the delicate balance of a stormy relationship, it can be scary communicating with your partner. Sometimes the challenge isn’t just communicating our needs, but understanding them as well. Start small. Keep a journal where you explore your feelings and hopes. Find a safe place to talk about issues in your relationship.
Take time to express your own needs—even if it’s just to yourself.
The people I’ve worked with who are struggling with codependency are among the sweetest I’ve ever met—but I often marvel at how expertly they deny themselves the compassion and love they’d show others. Those who wouldn’t dream of shaming others about their bodies are cruel to themselves. They tolerate abuse they would never dish out.
Codependency at its core is a crisis of identity and ability to love oneself. Loving oneself is a skill some of us didn’t learn as children. Practice showing yourself compassion and love. Be as kind to yourself as you’d be to someone else.
4. Start Saying No
Another skill we don’t all pick up along the way is setting boundaries. Codependency is rooted in fear, which can lead us to abandon boundaries altogether—and sometimes ignore the ones that others set for us. Practice saying no as a way of reclaiming time to spend on yourself.
Boundaries are one of the ways we love ourselves. A good playground needs a fence so there’s a safe place to play, and relationships are much the same. What do you need to feel safe in your relationship? What principles have you compromised to keep the peace?
5. Practice Self-Care
Codependency and self-neglect go hand-in-hand. Accordingly, overcoming codependency requires building healthy habits. Think of these habits as a way to show yourself love. Be kind to your body with how you care for it and talk about it. Don’t feel guilty when you’re tired; listen to those aches and pains and rest.
Self-care means being kind to our bodies with what fuel we give them and what words we use to describe them. Treat yourself to a present: a day out at the movies or a book you’ve been wanting to read. We all deserve to be loved and taking care of ourselves is one of the ways we affirm that.
Schedule a Consultation
Kicking an addiction is never easy—and it’s important for people with codependency to find a safe space to explore their feelings. Relationships don’t have to feel so intense, they can be a source of calm in our lives. Overcoming codependency starts with a journey inward. Schedule a consultation today if you’d like some help with getting started with either relationship counseling or couples therapy.