Article: Clinging On For Life (How To Avoid Becoming a Codependent Partner)

Codependency serves no one.

For the people who find themselves supporting a codependent individual there is usually a lot of emotional stress, decreasing self-esteem, and (perhaps in time) resentment.

For the person who become codependent they find themselves feeling frustrated at their lack of freedom, while also not knowing how to live an independent life (or perhaps even wanting to).

It’s a vicious cycle and one that, in every instance, should be broken.

What Is Codependency?

For those unfamiliar with the term, codependency is the excessive emotional or psychological reliance on others (typically a family member or partner). It usually involves illness or addiction in some capacity, but won’t always. This is, however, quite rare – as most co-dependents are at least somewhat struggling with mental health, if nothing else.

Codependents place a lot of pressure and responsibility on their care giving partner/family member/friend, but it’s also important to remember that some codependents may not mean to do this (or even think about it). Some people simply cannot see their own codependency.

How is this possible? Well, it could be that they’re oblivious because the topic simply hasn’t ever come up. For instance, the person they rely upon may have always facilitated their codependency and, thus, they have never had to confront it, or felt that it was an issue.

Chances are in such instances the person they rely on is like a duck – seemingly calm of the surface, but paddling like hell underneath – but this isn’t always the case. Some individuals like their partners to be codependent and encourage it. These people are to be avoided.

Equally, some codependents know what they are, like their position, and actively manipulate their ‘carer’ to maintain their lifestyle. They may lie, cheat, steal, or show a general lack of empathy. As long as, their needs are met that’s what matters. Don’t tolerate people like this in your life and don’t ever, ever become one.

Avoiding Codependency

Obviously, this article isn’t for the latter kind of codependent. But for those that are worried that they are either becoming codependent or already are here are some of the best ways to avoid becoming codependent and, instead, working to be a supportive partner while also being a confident and self-sufficient individual.

Recognize the Signs

To avoid codependency you first need to do some serious introspection and ask, ‘am I codependent?’ and to recognise some tell-tale signs.

Signs of codependency can include:

Low-self esteem

Feelings of inadequacy

Disrespecting or questioning other’s boundaries

Reactionary behaviour

Difficulty communicating effectively

Extreme fear of loneliness

Heavy reliance on outside validation

Difficulty controlling your own emotions

An obsessive personality

A fixation on the presence of the ‘carer’ individual

Low mood, frustration, anger or resentment at displays of independence from the ‘carer’

And, of course, a feeling of dependency or being incapable without the care and support of others.

We all need support from time-to-time, but if you find yourself ticking too many of these boxes too regularly – especially if you can see it taking a toll on those around you – then you may very well be codependent. Knowing this will enable you to make the changes needed. Especially if you can identify points that resonate with you.

Seek Help

Not from your friends/family/or partner, but from a professional. This may be a GP or it could be a mental health professional, each case is different.

The help that you’re trying to help here isn’t to facilitate your dependency, but to address the underlying concerns that may be causing (or encouraging) your codependent behaviours.

For example, if mental health and self-esteem issues are at the core of your dependency it’s important to get them treated. It might be worth engaging in some talking therapy with the goal of trying to build yourself up, or you may need medication (or perhaps a mixture of both).

Whatever the particulars, the problems you’re struggling with are likely something that require specialized training to fully handle, and it’s unfair to rely on those around you to try and supplement the role of trained professionals. Besides, you won’t get the help you need and trust me when I say that you deserve it.

Strive For Independence

Easier said than done, I know, but if you’re codependent then one of the best things you can do is to start trying to be more independent, even if it scares you, or you worry about your capabilities, or what others might think.

Independence is one of the key aspects of life. It brings a sense of self-affirmation and mental and emotional wellbeing that is unrivalled. It’s something that every loving parent tries to nurture in their children, and something that is (at the end of the day) near-essential to get through life.

You will meet many caring, loving, and supportive individuals in the world, but none of them are you: none of them are in your head and know exactly what your wants and desires are. Only you can defend and represent your boundaries with the clarity and care needed, so never be afraid to build yourself up to do so.

This will seem unbelievably daunting at first, especially if you have been codependent for a while, or have slipped in to a lot of habits where you’re relinquished your independence, but trust me when I say you’ll feel better for doing it.

Recognize the Codependent/Interdependent Boundary

Perhaps your biggest concern about giving up your codependency is that you will no longer be as close to your carer/partner/family member/friend.

In such instances, it’s important to recognize that you can have a wonderfully loving, fulfilling and enriching relationship with someone else while also being capable of independence. In fact, it’s preferred.

In interdependent relationships (especially romantic ones) two or more people may be financially, emotionally, or ecologically reliant upon each other, but they’re still autonomous individuals, who pursue their own projects, have their own ambitions, and feel like they are not ‘tied down’ by the relationship/s they nurture.

This allows each person involved to be able to feel like they can express themselves without worry, pressure, or emotional manipulation, which is such a crucial part of maintaining happy relationships.

I’m sure just by the definition you can see how this is better than codependency but the only way to really trust this is by trying to put it in to practice. Allow your caretaker to have their own interests, and to go off and do them if they wish. Equally, develop and maintain your own interests and don’t feel like every one of your interests and/or actions must involve your carer.

By growing a sense of freedom and creativity you will feel better on a daily basis and, as a result, be able to give more to each other from a place of mutual happiness and appreciation. So, don’t be afraid of getting out of your comfort zone and taking a risk every now and then.

To quote a tried and tested phrase ‘If you love someone, set them free’.

The Takeaway

None of these steps are easy, many of them are a work-in progress, and most are best discussed with your carer to get a feeling of their perspective too, but all of them are entirely doable and will help you in life.

Codependency royally sucks (I know this from experience) but there is a way out. Just don’t expect motivation to come before action, it rarely does.