Codependence is the natural way we enter this world. As babies and very young children, we are highly dependent on those around us. But, that dependency should slowly shift into independence and partnership. Adults that stay in a mode of codependency will end up in unhealthy relationships that result in clinginess, jealousy, unhappiness, and even danger.
I have spent a lot of time in my own life working through issues with codependency that stemmed from my childhood. I was only able to access true affluence and well-being by changing my approach to loving myself, my understanding of reality, and my inner balance.
Is your wounded inner child holding onto others in an unhealthy way?
What is a Codependent Relationship?
One way a relationship can become toxic is when someone becomes reliant on the other person. A codependent relationship requires at least one person to have an unhealthy view of themselves and feel their value is determined by the relationship. There are a number of different forms this might take, including relationships of dating, marriage, parent bonds, friendships, working relationships, and more.
Inability to Hold Ground
Compromise and meeting in the middle are often how we would sensibly attempt to work through conflict with a family member, coworker, or friend. Codependency often pushes aside our own wants to meet the needs or desires of someone else. If you are constantly being pushed aside for someone else’s perspective, wants, or needs, then you are participating in a codependent relationship that you are afraid to lose if you stand your ground.
Value Set in the Relationship
You are valuable beyond any friends, family, partner, or position. If your worth is tied to another person, then you will start a codependency that is unhealthy. The truth is, you have intrinsic value. Nothing you can do will change your innate worth. You are not more valuable by how you act or who you know—you are not less valuable if connections are lost or opinions lost.
You might not realize you are assigning such high value to a relationship, so examine your feelings closely here. Codependent people do not believe they are worthy of being loved, which causes them to accept the poor conditions of the relationship. You have a relationship addiction! I want you to check out my book Remembering Wholeness. In chapter 10, I covered “10 Lies We Think are Love,” including:
“…I have to suffer to get love.”
“…I have to fix people to be loved.”
“…I have to control you to make it safe to make you love.”
“…I have to please others to be loved.”
Lack of Independence
Babies are codependent because they are unable to fend for themselves. Adults become codependent when they feel unable to fend for themselves and don’t want to take responsibility for their own behavior. But you are powerful and capable. You can make decisions that don’t align with other people in your life. You can disagree and still be friends, family, or lovers. No one should demand you align fully with their viewpoint. If they require that alignment, then it is not love—it is toxic behavior.
There are enablers who will allow you to rely on them in an unhealthy way. An enabler will allow you to become the “martyr,” killing yourself for their demands. If you are codependent, you will feel miserable working so hard to fulfill their every need and want, but you will also feel like it gives you value and purpose. Some enablers are unaware and some intentionally let those feelings continue.
Are You in a Codependent Relationship?
Healthy relationships aren’t perfect, but they typically require both parties to make sacrifices and compromises. A healthy relationship has disagreements, but one person doesn’t hold all of the power over reconciliation and growth. If an unhealthy value imbalance is impacting your relationship, you will experience these signs of codependency:
- Feeling manipulated to toe the line when it comes to the expectations of the other person
- Unsure if your perspective or well-being is as valid or important as the other person’s
- Uncomfortable making choices without the other person’s “blessing” or agreement
- Feeling worthy when making sacrifices for the other person (this should not impact your self-worth).
- Not comfortable with sharing your conflicting thoughts and always walking on eggshells around the other person.
- A draw towards people you can “fix” or rescue.
- Feeling responsible for the feelings or actions of others.
- Experiencing a fear of abandonment.
- Feelings and moods impacted by the thoughts of those around you.
- Believing a focus on your own needs is selfish when you are willing to focus on the needs of others.
How Does Codependence Develop?
We start in a mode of codependence!
But there are several common ways we revert back or fail to develop past codependent behaviors. Here are a few of the things I have seen most commonly with my clients that cause codependent tendencies:
- Abuse, trauma, and neglect can push us to a place where we don’t move past it correctly.
- We can also learn codependency from our parents if they are struggling with it themselves.
- Heavy responsibility at a young age (becoming a caregiver for a parent or siblings).
- Struggling with borderline personality disorder (BPD)—though this isn’t always a cause.
- Substance abuse (drug or alcohol addiction)
General Effects of Codependency
Break the cycle of codependency! This way of creating unhealthy relationships could easily pass on to the next generation. They are watching you to set their basis for what a relationship should look like. You aren’t going to be perfect, but you can be honest, hold self-worth, and have a realistic view.
Your codependency can hurt others around you. You may turn to criticism and resentment, which can be unleashed on others around you that are less demanding. This vicious cycle of codependency can push people away, leading to an even heavier dependence on anyone that stays.
And, these unhealthy relationships break us down and cause serious problems. You aren’t caring for yourself and you are placing a high value on how you meet the needs of someone else. Your physical and mental health is at stake here!
10 Tips for Ending Codependency
Codependency is a learned behavior that is hurting your relationship. The natural way of maturation is to move past our need to rely so heavily on another. By addressing your tendencies, you can naturally progress to a healthy state of independence and self-confidence.
1. Be Honest with Yourself and Others
You have to start speaking up for yourself and voicing your opinion. Staying silent to avoid conflict with a loved one builds resentment. The more you practice, the better you will get at honestly expressing your perspective.
2. Set Healthy Boundaries
Do not feel pressured to do anything for anyone (or one person in particular). If you feel pressured to do everything a certain person needs, then let go of that thinking. Boundaries shouldn’t stop you from caring for others, but they should stop you from killing yourself in an effort to meet every whim of those around you.
3. Stop Negative Thinking
You don’t deserve to be treated badly. You are valuable. You are worthy of love. Focus on the true, positive thoughts, and don’t let the negative ones that cause codependent tendencies control your mind.
4. Remove Your Emotion
The way people treat you says a lot more about them than you. They are struggling with their own issues and you can’t take their attacks or anger personally. Work on yourself and try to remove thoughts that take the actions of others personally.
5. Take Breaks
Part of setting boundaries should include taking regular breaks so you don’t reach a point of crisis. If your partner is a trigger (which is very common), you may need to take a break with them until you can better control your responses. Sometimes getting away from a triggering relationship for a bit of time will help you clear your thinking.
6. Take Care of Yourself
Practice self-care and explore who you are outside of all relationships. You are your own person with your own likes, dislikes, wants, needs, and perspectives. If you aren’t sure of who you are, you will slip right back into codependency in your relationships.
7. Work through Your Past
The past isn’t always the cause of codependency, but it commonly is. Look at your relationship with your parents and their relationships with others. If you know you have past trauma that impacts your relationships now, I highly recommend you join my Healing Center where we work through those deep causes of pain and insecurity.
8. Practice Independence
As you are discovering yourself, practice making choices without checking in. It is good to keep your partner in the loop, but practice letting go of the need to get input every step of the way.
9. Say “No” without Explanations
Part of setting boundaries is reducing your tendency to drop everything for another person. “No.” is a full sentence! And “No, I’m sorry I can’t.” is a tad longer, but just as effective. Work on giving the “no” answer without explanation.
10. Don’t Over-Channel Energy into Others
You will have a lot of pent up energy from avoiding those triggering relationships. It is important here not to just turn other relationships into points of codependency. You want to get to a place where you can help someone without “fixing” them and then relying on them. Watch out for this pitfall. Practice channeling that energy into all parts of your chakra centers, using meditation or Yoga.
Use EFT Tapping to Heal Codependency
One of the therapies I use most often with codependency is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Tapping. It will help release the pain and tension caused by emotional distress. You can watch more about it here:
This is a powerful healing technique that will help you align your thinking with reality and release the toxicity you bring to relationships. You can use this clearing session as often as you need it or feel yourself slipping back into old habits of negative thinking.
You are on a healing journey.
Don’t expect healing overnight. You are on a journey towards healing and it is ongoing for all of us. Record your progress to get it physically out in front of you. Forgive yourself for bringing toxicity to relationships and forgive anyone (like your parents) that may have caused you to turn to codependency behaviors. Work on ending the cycle of codependency with your kids and improving relationship patterns moving forward.
You do not need to be a wounded child any longer—you are a powerful adult now. Join my Healing Center and let’s work through that Childhood Wounding with my 4-Week Healing Plan.