When you experience a need to care for another person above yourself to an unhealthy degree, you may be codependent. Codependency is a common issue that rarely occurs alone. It can form due to developmental trauma, substance abuse, and many other treatable issues. To get to the root of your codependency, you need to understand how it forms and why.
What Is a Codependent Relationship?
Codependency is a dysfunctional relationship dynamic where those involved have an excessive dependence or emotional attachment to the other. It is characterized by the enabling of self-destructive behavior of one person by the other. A codependent relationship occurs when one person, often referred to as the “giver,” is burdened with caring for the needs of the “taker” at a detriment to themselves. Typically, codependency develops unintentionally over a long period.
Codependent relationships can involve multiple people, not exclusive to one-on-one interactions. For example, a family member experiencing substance abuse being enabled to continue the maladaptive behavior by the other family members is in a codependent family dynamic.
All of the attention and energy goes toward the individual who is abusive, ill, or addicted. The codependent individual usually sacrifices all of their needs to care for the struggling family member. They usually experience social, emotional, and physical consequences as they disregard their health, welfare, and safety.
This same principle can be applied to romantic, platonic, and even professional relationships. No matter the kind of relationship, codependency harms everyone involved.
What Causes Codependent Relationships?
Understanding how codependent relationships form can help us develop the life skills to prevent them, reverse them, and foster healthy relationship dynamics. Underlying issues that can add to the imbalanced relationship may involve the following:
- Substance use disorder (SUD)
- Chronic physical or mental illnesses
- Growing up in a dysfunctional family dynamic
- Low self-worth and fear of rejection
- Fear of being alone or fear of not being needed
An insecure attachment style characterizes codependency. The codependent individual feels obligated to the person struggling. Problems within these dynamics are never confronted. Codependent individuals don’t bring up the fact that issues exist. Often people in these dynamics repress their emotions and disregard their needs to care for the struggling individual.
Five Tips for Breaking Codependent Habits
If you relate to what we described above, you might need to work on yourself and your relationship. Now that you understand the potential causes of codependency, we can go over ways to heal your unhealthy patterns. As you work through these five suggestions, you’ll feel stronger and more confident in your independence.
#1. Having Healthy Boundaries
Good relationships involve boundaries. Setting healthy boundaries can be difficult if you haven’t done it before. A boundary dictates the limits of what you are willing or unwilling to accept in your interpersonal relationships. It is essential to spend a moment deciding what you want and do not want in your relationships. A boundary should focus on your needs. Setting boundaries is just one part; enforcing them is the other. When you set a boundary, practice enforcing them with yourself and the people in your life. It can seem scary. However, when your loved ones respect you, they will also respect your boundaries.
#2. Building Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem often leads us to accept less than we deserve. Building yourself up and unlearning low self-worth can change your outlook on life. You should consider yourself and the things you enjoy as valuable as those around you. This lets you break the feelings of shame caused by prioritizing yourself.
#3. Re-Think Your Priorities
Putting your goals and emotional needs on the back burner at the expense of another person is detrimental to everybody involved. When you cannot prioritize the important things to you, you’re vulnerable to being taken advantage of. It may feel that the person you help is benefitting from your devotion. In reality, there is more harm than good being done. Lay out what is important to you, and re-prioritize what you have neglected.
#4. Practice Self-Care
Self-care can mean many different things. When things become stressful, taking even a few minutes to ground yourself can help balance the world around you. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Trying to help everyone while neglecting yourself might seem like a selfless thing, but the ability to empower others begins with empowering yourself. Self-care can be in the form of physical activity, spiritual healing, or going to therapy. Take the time to define what self-care means to you.
#5. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help
While the tips listed can help you break codependent relationship patterns, unlearning the behaviors that lead you to these relationships might require professional assistance. For example, having your emotions invalidated or ignored can lead you to feel like you are unworthy of getting help for your issues, but that is not true. Everyone deserves to be heard. Talk therapies with a licensed professional can help you get to the root of these codependent habits and help you understand yourself better.
If you are in a codependent relationship, it could be salvaged. Evaluating and changing toxic habits is a process, and it can be overwhelming when you think about all the changes you want to make. Always remember that baby steps are still steps. You can progress in your mental health journey by practicing healthy boundary-setting and learning better communication methods. Our empathetic team of professionals at Sober Life prioritizes you and your needs. We create a safe space to talk about any built-up frustrations. Our outpatient and virtual outpatient programs offer flexible options for receiving treatment. You deserve a happy, healthy life. For more information on our programs, call us today at (619) 542-9542.