Codependency is an often-misunderstood experience that is at the heart of many dysfunctional relationships. When you learn how to overcome codependency, you can significantly improve both the substance and the quality of your life.
What is Codependency?
To learn how to overcome codependency, you first need to have a clear understanding of what it is.
When clinicians or other treatment professionals refer to codependency, they are often trying to describe an unbalanced relationship in which one person’s actions enable the other person’s maladaptive behaviors.
Here are two brief examples of what a codependent relationship might look like:
- One person has developed an addiction to alcohol. When their compulsive alcohol abuse causes problems such as missing work, acting inappropriately in a social setting, or being cited for driving under the influence, their partner consistently comes to their “rescue” by either trying to hide the damage or making excuses for their behavior.
- One person has bipolar disorder. During manic episodes, they engage in destructive behaviors. These can include gambling away large amounts of money or going on lavish spending sprees for unneeded items. Their partner takes on a second job to ensure they can pay the rent and buy necessities, but they deny to friends and family that they are having any financial problems.
Although these examples imply that the two individuals are in a romantic relationship, this is not required for codependency. Parents and children can have codependent relationships, as can siblings and close friends.
Negative Effects of Codependency
Learning how to overcome codependency can help you protect yourself and your partner from myriad negative outcomes.
In addition to delaying treatment, here are some other potential effects of codependency:
- If your partner has a substance use disorder (addiction) or another mental health concern, their symptoms may become more severe. Delaying addiction treatment can put them at risk for increasingly severe harm.
- Codependency can fuel resentment between you and your partner, which can destroy your relationship.
- When you make it your responsibility to “save” your partner, you can lose sight of your own wants and needs. This can lead to diminished self-esteem and poor sense of self.
- By definition, codependency is unhealthy. As you devote more and more time and effort toward what you believe is necessary to save your partner and your relationship, you may find your own physical and mental health beginning to suffer.
How to Overcome Codependency
Now that we have a better understanding of what codependency is, and we’re aware of some of the many negative effects that can result from a codependent relationship, let’s focus on how to overcome codependency. Here are seven suggestions that can help:
- Acknowledge the problem: You can’t get help for addiction or a mental health concern until you admit that you have a problem. It’s the same with codependency. Recognizing that you are in a codependent relationship can be an essential step toward a healthier future.
- Abandon the illusion of control: The belief that you can somehow fix someone else or protect them from themselves through your own efforts is both misguided and dangerous. You are not responsible for the thoughts, decisions, and actions of anyone else. When you fully grasp this concept, you will take an important step away from codependency.
- Establish (and maintain) healthy boundaries: This isn’t a simple task, but it is an essential one. Codependent partners can quickly become consumed – and then subsumed — by their relationship. In the process, they can lose their sense of who they are as a separate, independent person. Establishing healthy boundaries is a way of protecting yourself from becoming overwhelmed by the needs and demands of others.
- Practice self-care: Pay attention to your own wants and needs, and make time to care for yourself. Focus on your physical, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. Do your best to eat nutritious foods (that you enjoy). Be sure to get an appropriate amount of sleep every day. Finally, find time for activities that nourish your body and soul. Go for a daily walk, spend time in your garden, take an art class – the options are virtually endless. Just make sure you’re treating yourself with the compassion and respect that you deserve.
- Learn how to advocate for yourself: Always putting someone else’s wants and needs ahead of your own is a toxic trait. You need to be able to say “no” when someone else places yet another demand on your time and energy. You also need to be able to stand up for yourself. In addition, express your own wants and needs, and don’t feel like you are being selfish for doing so.
- Get professional help: Overcoming codependency on your own can be a daunting task – and you should never be ashamed to ask for help. A counselor, therapist, or other professional can help you identify what contributed to your codependent relationship. They can also help you develop vital skills for ending the self-defeating patterns that have undermined your ability to live a healthier and more satisfying life.
- Try to convince your partner to get help: You can’t cure your partner, nor can you help them by continuing to excuse, enable, or cover up their actions. Your loved one needs professional help to improve their own health and for the good of your relationship. While your loved one is in treatment, you may be able to participate in family therapy, which can be extremely beneficial to you both. If your loved one refuses to get help, you need to rely on the boundaries you set and take the action that’s best for you.
Contact Renewal Health Group in Los Angeles, California
Professional treatment can be a valuable part of learning how to overcome codependency. If you are in a codependent relationship with someone who has been struggling with addiction or mental illness, Renewal Health Group is here to help. To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, visit our Contact page or call us today.