When you love someone, you want to make them happy. You do things that you know will make them happy. You cook their favorite meals, participate in activities they enjoy, and hang around their friends. Whatever their need, you try to meet it.
Eventually, you may realize your life is so intertwined with your partner’s that you cannot remember your own independence. Every decision you make is based on whether it will benefit your partner and what reaction you will get from them.
Your partner determines everything from your moods to your desires and goals.
You have slowly moved from a healthy relationship to an unhealthy relationship, from independence to co-dependence.
Who is Co-Dependent?
When you are excessively supportive of a person’s dysfunctional behaviors, you are engaging in co-dependent behavior. If you go out of your way to excuse or hide your partner’s bad behaviors, you are behaving in a co-dependent manner. It is almost as if the person you love is more important than anything else in your life, including yourself.
A co-dependent relationship does not have to exist only between you and a spouse or partner. You can become co-dependent with a friend, parent, or sibling. The symptoms appear the same in each relationship.
Signs of Co-Dependency
Some very common signs among co-dependent behavior include the following:
· You stay with this person despite them making your life difficult and unenjoyable.
· You have missed work or meetings with friends for your partner
· You do not really care about what happens to you if your partner is okay
· You will do whatever your partner asks you to do
· You are worried about pleasing your partner most or all the time
· You spend a lot of time thinking about your partner and how they may react to you
· You fear being judged
· You are afraid of being truthful due to the possibility they may not agree with you
· Your self-esteem is very low
· You feel angry when all your efforts to make your partner’s life better is not recognized
· You feel like a victim many times, or like other people are out to get you
· You neglect your own needs to take care of the needs of others
· You find it hard to make decisions
· You push your own feelings and thoughts aside to avoid conflict
If you find yourself struggling with any of these symptoms, it is important to know this does not have to be a permanent way of living. You can find a way to love yourself and become independent without having to lose your relationship.
There are three specific steps you can take to start your journey towards overcoming co-dependency. You first need to determine if you are engaging in co-dependent behavior and take the initiative to change.
To change, you will have to focus on you. This is not going to be comfortable for you because you are used to focusing on helping others. This step is the most important, however, in your journey. You are valuable and you must begin learning just how much.
The last step is getting help from mental health professionals who are educated in co-dependency. They can offer you tools to assist you through all stages of your journey.
Identify You Have a Problem
You have heard it before, the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one. This is a cliché for a good reason, because it is true. Sometimes admitting you have a problem can be the hardest part.
Once you do this, though, you can experience freedom and excitement for change.
Denial is the term typically used when describing someone who needs to admit they have a problem. It is often associated with people who deny abusing drugs or alcohol. Denial among co-dependents can be just as dangerous.
Not only may you deny you have a problem, you may also deny your partner, or a loved one, has a problem.
Denial can be based out of fear and a feeling that your needs do not matter. Overcoming your fears starts with owning your problems and asking for help. Once you take this step, your healing can truly begin.
Focus on You
Learning to love yourself when you are in the habit of only loving other people will be a hurdle. But like all hurdles, it can be conquered.
Loving yourself involves a self-assessment first. Once you assess your needs, then you can begin learning new solutions, practicing new behaviors. You will need to practice recognizing your own needs. Listen to your body and follow through with what it is telling you. If your body is telling you to rest, stop and rest.
Loving yourself means allowing yourself to have fun. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Discovering the things in life you enjoy can be an exciting time. From music, books, foods and more, you have a lot to learn about what you like and don’t like.
You can find your passions and pursue them. Learn how to like who you see in the mirror.
During this exploration, it is important you get support, especially from a professional in the field of co-dependency. A good therapist can help you begin to work on self-dependence and individuation.
Find a Therapist
Occasionally people choose to receive inpatient treatment to start their journey of overcoming co-dependency. However, this is not necessary for many who can find a great therapist. Finding a licensed marriage and family therapist is a suitable place to start.
Marriage and family therapists are experienced in working with co-dependency recovery patterns. In fact, they are trained in coping and changing all dysfunctions within family relationships.
Without the help of a therapist, it can be very difficult to create change. A therapist can offer you proven tools and techniques to help you cope when problems arise.
A therapist can also help you walk through the twelve steps of co-dependency and connect you with a support group. Here you will find others recovering from the same issues. Peer feedback and support is crucial to successful recovery.
You are not alone. You can overcome your fears and begin to focus on your own needs and put yourself first. By taking care of yourself and becoming free of co-dependency, you will truly be able to love others, in a more appropriate, balanced way.