Codependency is defined as “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction”. It can mean a lot of things to a lot of people and it’s essentially when there is little to no emotional space between two people. You see the other person as an extension of yourself, as opposed to two separate beings.
Some of the signs of codependency include the following:
- Having a difficult time making decisions without the other person
- Being overly involved in the decision making of your spouse
- Not wanting to spend time without the other person
- Taking of their feelings, such as when they are sad, you automatically become sad too
- Needing approval and validation from the other person
- Wanting to be controlled or in control in a relationship
In the beginning, codependency can seem cute and sweet but in the long-run it can wreck havoc on relationships. Our team of experts this week has their recommendations on ways to break codependency.
Codependency is one of the main issues I see in my practice but it’s very rarely the reason people come to therapy. People often complain about their spouse’s behavior. They talk about how they want their spouse, parent, child or someone to be different. They share about how they want things in their relationship to be different. When those desires are pieced apart, there is usually a level of codependency underneath.
When people come into my office and we address codependency, there are some very specific recommendations that I make. My top five strategies for breaking codependency are listed here:
This is my number #1 book recommendation for codependency. It’s a must-read for people struggling with codependency. It’s also a must-read for helping professionals and sponsors. It will provide answers to questions you didn’t even realize you had.
2. Create an identity
Having a strong sense of self will help reduce the symptoms of codependency. You will know what you like and don’t like. What you want and what you don’t want. And you’ll stop basing those things on other people.
3. Start trusting your intuition and connecting with your true self
Through the process of journaling and meditating, you can learn to connect with your true self and start making decisions from that place. Meditating on topics such as codependency and identity can help this process. Journaling your new awareness about your behavior can bring clarity and direction.
4. Explore patterns of codependency throughout your life
It’s important to look back into your relationships and find patterns of codependency and address it. Look for how you showed up in the relationship. What you got out of it and what is cost you. Take a look at your relationship with your parents and identify if there were codependency traits there. The more awareness you make about your codependency, the greater the chance for change.
5. Commit to healing
When you commit to doing your life differently, the tools will show up. You can attend CODA meetings, find a sponsor and work the program. You can link up with a therapist that specializes in codependency. You can take a personal development course to address your concerns. Making the commitment is the first step and doing the work will lead to healing.
Codependency is not a death sentence. Working on it personally and with the help of a sponsor or therapist can lead to an improvement in relationships with yourself and others.
Amanda Landry, LMHC, CAP decided to become a therapist while attending Nova Southeastern University. She saw the need to help people achieve the life they wanted to live, while creating a life of her own. She completed her master’s in Mental Health Counseling and started a career in the juvenile justice arena. Since then, she has started a private practice in Pembroke Pines, Florida, specializing in depression, anxiety relationship issues, and substance abuse. Amanda is a believer in holistic treatment and she practices veganism, meditation and yoga in her life. Find out more about her practice here. For a free 15-minute consultation, call or text Amanda at 954-378-5381 or email her at email@example.com.
Codependency… it’s one of those words that often get thrown around to label ourselves or others without truly understanding what it means. In order to break codependency, let’s first discuss the definition. Merriam Webster defines Codependency as follows:
“A psychological condition or a relationship in which a person manifesting low self-esteem and a strong desire for approval has an unhealthy attachment to another person and places the needs of that person before his or her own. In codependency, a person tries to satisfy the needs of another who is often controlling or manipulative and who may have an addictive or emotionally unstable personality”
Simply put, people who are codependent may fail take care of themselves, try too hard to please others, make excuses for others’ behaviors, and ignore negative traits. Doesn’t sound too healthy or pleasant a relationship to be in, does it? So how do you break out of codependent patterns?
1. Be honest with yourself and others: It really sucks to admit that something isn’t perfect or that something isn’t working out for us. But in order to start truly breaking codependency, you have to do just that. Allow yourself to recognize a relationship that contains too many excuses made for others, too much control exerted, or actions that are not reciprocated. Think about WHY you stay in these relationships. Also, allow yourself to be more assertive and voice your own needs, feelings, and wants.
2. Find and develop your self-worth: Part of the reason many people enter codependent relationships is because they feel like something is lacking in their lives, or that they are not good enough without the other person. This often causes someone to overlook red flags or other negative aspects of the relationship. Work on determining what it is you want out of life, and what will make you happy, no matter who you are with. Also, focus on positive aspects about yourself and practice positive affirmations daily.
3. Learn to be Okay with being alone: Many people who are codependent find themselves in relationships (whether friendly or romantic) with someone constantly, jumping to the next one when the current one goes sour. Part of being IN-dependent and not CO-dependent means making peace with the fact that you can, and will, be alone at times in your life, and that this is an acceptable thing. Little by little, start taking an inventory of what you would like to do if you had more time for yourself, whether it be a hobby, class, exercise, etc. Once you’ve determined some of these, start to act on them.
4. Talk to a therapist: When you find yourself struggling to identify or break codependent patterns, or need guidance in some of the steps above, sometimes it is best to talk to someone. A therapist can be a great outside party to help you identify codependent traits and behaviors, and also guide and encourage you as you work toward breaking out of codependency.
Anthony is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and Master’s Certified Addictions Professional (MCAP) in the state of Florida. He is also a Qualified Supervisor for Registered Mental Health Counselor Interns and is currently in private practice in Boca Raton, FL.
He helps teens and adults to stop worrying & reduce panic, have better control over self-harming and strong emotions, feel less depressed, have better relationships with others, and cope with life without abusing substances for those in recovery. As an LGBT Affirmative therapist, he also works with people who identify as LGBT, and their families if appropriate.
His approach to therapy is brief, positively focused, and solution-oriented. Anthony utilizes Dialectical (DBT) and Cognitive-Behavioral (CBT) skills to help clients improve their ability to regulate emotions, as well as manage stress and crises.
Anthony is a Board Member of the FL Southeast Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).
People often think that co-dependency only refers to relationships with people who have an addiction to alcohol or drugs. The reality is that most people are co-dependent and may not even realize it. As a therapist the biggest trait I see with people who are co-dependent is that the person lives their life around others (parents, partners, friends, etc). There is nothing that distinguishes the individual’s identity from other people. Here are some suggestions for breaking free of co-dependent behavior:
Learning to love yourself is the ultimate goal. When one can learn to be alone with themselves, love themselves through their imperfections and learn to meet their own emotional needs they are no longer dependent on others to do it for them. Some ways to practice self-love is to utilize positive self-talk, set loving boundaries, meditation, and setting aside time for yourself to be with yourself.
2. Learn who you are
Who are you away from your relationships? What are your biggest dreams and desires? Create a vision board to help bring clarity to who you are and what you want. Journaling is another great tool for gaining clarity about what your purpose is and regaining your identity.
3. Seek help
When in doubt seek help from a professional. A therapist can help you learn the tools for self-love, setting boundaries, and figuring out who you are. There are also 12-step meetings for co-dependents (CODA – Co-Dependent Anonymous) that you can look up in your area for additional support.
Stephanie Savo is a licensed mental health counselor who has been practicing therapy since 2008. She graduated with her Master’s in Mental Health Counseling from Nova Southeastern University. Stephanie has experience working with adolescents and young adults. She has been working with adolescents and young adults who experience depression, anxiety, trauma, low self-esteem and worth, lack of identity and individuality, and who want to be empowered.
Stephanie utilizes a variety of therapeutic techniques when working with her clients. She treats the person and the symptoms they are experiences rather than the label. She focuses on taking a collaborative and eclectic approach with her clients to help them get to their desired goals. Stephanie models for and assists her clients with consistent growth and personal development as she does in her own life.