8 Ways to Become Less Codependent in Your Relationship
We are hardwired for connection. Connection to others is a fundamental need we all have. It’s important to us to connect with others. This is especially true in romantic relationships. A relationship without connection makes it almost impossible to be intimate and have deep, meaningful conversations with one another. However, sometimes we might rely excessively in our partner and, in the process, lose ourselves in our relationship. This is often a sign of codependence in relationships. Today we will discuss what codependence is, the signs of codependency in relationships, and how to move from a place of codependency to healthy interdependency with your partner.
What is Codependency in Relationships?
Codependency is an excessive reliance on your partner. This entails putting the needs of your partner above your own; or taking the full attention and care from the other. In a codependent relationship, often, one partner provides all the support, while the other has all their needs taken care of. In such a situation, one likes to feel needed (and therefore gives) and the other likes to be taken care of (and therefore takes). This leads to a pattern that enables both behaviours. In reality, this is considered rather unhealthy because both partners are exercising their insecure sense of self.
The Dangers of Codependency
A codependent relationship can easily become unhealthy. Often, it leads to a low sense of autonomy and a loss of the self. Once we have lost a sense of independence, this makes personal growth unattainable. When we lose sight of who we are, we base our worth too much on others around us.
5 Signs of Codependent Relationships
While all relationships are different and unique, there are certain patterns that are often observed in codependent relationships. Some of the common signs of codependent relationships include:
1. There is an imbalance of power and control in your relationship
Codependent couples often struggle with one another for power and control because they are usually out-of-balance. Perhaps one partner has taken on responsibility for the other partner, or one partner holds more power in the relationship. Either way, this imbalance can leave a couple feeling unstable and therefore excessively reliant on one another.
2. You feel a sense of responsibility for the needs of your partner
In other words: you self-sacrifice. You put the needs, wants and experiences of your partner before your own. Perhaps you neglect your personal needs to please your partner. Perhaps you find your partner's wishes and needs to be more important than your own. Either way, you overlook your intrinsic needs to focus externally.
3. You don’t recognise yourself anymore
Maybe you spent so much time being involved in your relationship that you forgot who you are and what you want in life—you disconnected from yourself. Perhaps this is because you spend a lot of time with your partner; or you dropped things you used to enjoy for your partner’s sake. This can lead you to lose a sense of yourself at some point. Or maybe, you have lived in a state of not knowing who you are and what you need out of life. If you feel that you have lost yourself in your relationship, we recommend you check this article.
4. You need your partner to give you feelings of self-worth
When we are codependent, we depend on others for our needs. Especially our emotional ones. Someone in a codependent relationship often relies on their partner for a sense of self and a sense of fulfilment. This is someone who takes opinions, attitudes and expectations from others. Here, we need someone else for us to feel like it’s okay to be who we are.
5. You have difficulty doing things alone
This may show through you needing to receive permission before you do something, instead of just letting your partner know. This may also show through distressing and anxious feelings at the thought of going out alone, or without your partner.
Interdependence in Relationships
Put simply, interdepence is when two people are equally and collaboratively involved with one another; but value their own sense of self and their independence. They do not sacrifice their needs, morals or values. Each person can be who they are, without compromise. There is a healthy balance between time spent on personal interests and time spent together, pursuing mutual interests. Each partner recognises the importance of being autonomous, while simultaneously being sensitive to the needs of their partner.
In an interdependent relationship, there is a recognition for the other person. The connection between both individuals are kept separate to the bond that they share with one another. You keep your individuality, yet support the needs of your partner.
Is an interdependent relationship healthier than a codependent relationship?
First and foremost, an interdependent relationship is based on balance. Relationships require equal participation from both parties: where both individuals contribute and openly receive equal amounts of support and energy. This balance can be achieved with awareness and understanding. From understanding comes trust and respect. Understanding allows your partner to be who they are non-judgmentally. In addition, it helps you to broaden your views to other perspectives.
Secondly, there is a difference between the needs of each person in the relationship. In an interdependent relationship, both needs of the partners are listened to, respected and supported in a genuine manner. There is an effort to support one another, without a need to put the other first or demand more support and attention. However, you prioritise taking responsibility for your own behaviours and actions.
Thirdly, each partner brings their own self to the relationship. They bring their own feelings, beliefs, values and thoughts to the relationship. In addition, they have a clear sense of worth as individuals. In doing so, there is more freedom and less dependence on one another to “survive”. Each individual is able to make their own choices and keep their independence, however they are able to rely on one another in times of stress and hardship.
Finally, an interdependent relationship is all about communication; setting and respecting boundaries; and listening actively and empathically. These characteristics are healthy for any relationship because it shows trust, respect and support.
8 Ways to Become Less Codependent and Build Interdependency
You may notice that moving towards an interdependent relationship- from a codependent one- will be scary at first. Perhaps you’re concerned that you will become distant with your partner and maybe even lose them. That’s okay. It may be scary at first, but by taking the initiative, taking a chance and making positive changes towards a healthier relationship: it will be worth it. Here are a few tips to move towards an interdependent relationship:
1. Put yourself first
Gain some self-awareness. Do some self-reflection. Find out: what matters to you most? What are your core beliefs? What are your core values? What do you like to do? Before you can enter a relationship with another person, you need to have a relationship with yourself. If not, you will be spending all your time dedicated to your partner.
2. Develop a healthy self-esteem
Sometimes, we get into relationships to avoid feeling alone or feeling like we are nothing. This lack of a sense of belonging and competence stems from having low self-esteem. Build a strong sense of self that does not depend on the reactions and affections of your partner. We cannot commit to someone else if we are not happy and committed to who we are.
3. Let go of your people-pleasing tendencies
While being kind and helpful is mostly a good quality to possess, going out of your way to please others can be stressful and energy consuming. Instead, start small. Start expressing your opinion on something small or asking for something small that you need. Over time, increase the size of your requests and vary the settings and situations. Also, keep an eye out for why you are helping your partner: is it because you want to? Or is it because of a fear of rejection or a need for approval?
4. Become assertive
It’s important to make your beliefs, values and opinions known to your partner and those around you. Speak up for what you want. Take responsibility for your own actions. Make your own decisions without requesting feedback from your partner or without getting permission. Also, don’t be afraid to say “No”. Know the difference between enjoying doing something for your partner and feeling like you have to do what they want.
5. Set some boundaries
Say “no” when necessary. Saying no also helps you to set boundaries that are important in healthy relationships. Boundaries help you to understand your needs and what you need from your partner. Establishing boundaries makes it clear what you are responsible for and what you are not responsible for. Only say yes to things you are okay with. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but practice one boundary at a time.
6. Find time for your personal interests
An important part of an interdependent relationship is having something of your own. Partake in your own hobbies. Set yourself some personal goals based on your values and needs. Make a list of things that make you happy and follow through with them. Also, take some time out of your relationship to spend with friends and family.
7. Allow your partner the opportunity to explore themselves
When each individual in a relationship has their own identity and can be themselves, this creates space for the couple to come together for support and gain more strength from one another. Therefore, not only do you need to work on gaining some self-awareness, encourage your partner to do the same.
8. Respect your partner's boundaries
In addition to knowing and setting your own boundaries, understand your partner's boundaries. This will show your partner that you understand them, respect them and care for them. Also, check in every once in a while to revisit your partner’s boundaries or their concerns so that you both can lean on one another for support.
Codependent relationships are those that take away our autonomy and ability to grow as individuals. Instead, in an interdependent relationship, both individuals work together to maintain balance, while keeping their needs and the needs of their partner in mind. Interdependent relationships allow you to exercise your independence, while also getting support from your loved one. Understanding and setting your boundaries; having clear communication; working on your self-esteem; and understanding your partner are some of the many ways you can work towards moving your codependent relationship to one of interdependence.
Remember: having an interdependent relationship does not mean distancing yourself from your partner. It’s a relationship where you and your partner keep your independence next to one another; moving towards a common goal at similar speeds.
Written by Vainui Nicole, Intern Psychologist at AntiLoneliness
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