Published on: 23 Jan 2023
Codependency is an imbalanced relationship dynamic that can cause you to become emotionally and physically reliant on another person. Over time, this pattern can interfere with relationships and contribute to depression or low self-esteem.
Many people struggle with codependency, making it difficult to build healthy and mutually satisfying relationships. It can be tough to change these habits, but with therapy, self-care, and the right coping strategies, codependent individuals can learn how to overcome codependency and establish healthy, rewarding relationships.
Read on to learn nine proven, effective steps you can take if you are trying to learn how not to be codependent in your relationships.
1. Work to improve your self-esteem
Research suggests that there’s a link between codependency and low self-esteem. When you have a negative perception of your self-worth, it can be difficult to set healthy boundaries and advocate for your own needs. Learning to value yourself can increase your confidence and let you become more self-reliant, so you don’t have to turn to someone else for the strength you have within.
Of course, it’s worth pointing out that you don’t always need to be strong, and often in life, we do need to lean on other trusted people, but when you’re in a codependent friendship or relationship, that need and codependency is unhealthy and can ultimately be crippling.
If you want to learn how to stop codependency, you can:
- Work to build self-respect
- Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations that’ll boost your confidence levels
- Stop being too afraid to recognize your strengths
- Set aside time for the things that matter to you
2. Set and Enforce Boundaries
Boundaries are a way to express how you want to be treated. Not only is setting boundaries an important part of learning how not to be codependent, but boundaries can help you reduce the amount of stress and anxiety in your life.
Think carefully about what you need to be healthy and happy in your life. Do you need to have some time to yourself each day? Take it! Would you like friends and family to call or text before they stop by? Ask them to! Do you feel like you’re not respected or valued in certain relationships? Let them know that!
Once you’ve determined the boundaries you’d like to set, communicate them in a firm but respectful way. To establish boundaries, you should:
- Think about situations and relationships that make you uncomfortable or unhappy
- Figure out where the line is being crossed
- Determine how you can feel better
- Communicate your needs with those who cross boundaries
- Establish and express consequences if someone doesn’t respect your boundary
- Trust in your decision, and follow through with repercussions
3. Discover Your Attachment Style
What causes codependency? Attachment styles are developed during childhood but can have a huge impact and influence on the ways we relate to others as adults.
Many codependent people have insecure attachment styles, which can cause them to feel clingy or develop a fear of abandonment. Identifying your attachment style can make you more aware of how you behave in relationships, allowing you to address unhealthy codependent patterns of behavior.
Part of determining how to stop codependency is recognizing these patterns in your life. When you’re more aware of how you behave, it will be easier for you to change. Finding your attachment style can also help you identify triggers for codependent behavior.
There are four types of attachment styles that have been researched:
- Secure (healthy)
- Anxious-insecure (unhealthy)
- Avoidant-insecure (unhealthy)
- Disorganized-insecure (unhealthy)
Anxious attachment styles, which are common for people who grew up in homes dealing with substance abuse and conflict, have frequently been linked to codependency.
4. Strengthen Your Communication Skills
Communication is key to any healthy relationship. Studies consistently show that couples who communicate with each other have a higher rate of relationship satisfaction. Communicating with others can help you express your needs and break codependent habits.
If you’re trying to figure out how to stop being codependent, try the following:
- Don’t assume that you know what your partner is thinking or feeling
- Ask open-ended questions that give them the chance to express their thoughts
- Set aside time to talk so that both you and your partner have the chance to say what’s on your mind
5. Spend Time on Your Own
Asking yourself questions like how do i stop being codependent can put an incredible amount of pressure on you. Rather, you can start overcoming codependency by taking some small steps towards independence. For example, you can:
- Find activities you enjoy doing alone
- Re-invest in friendships you’ve been neglecting
- Find ways to connect with new people
- Take time for yourself
Whether you sign up for a class, spend time at the gym, or start journaling for mental health, it’s important to have a life outside any relationship. Spending time on your own can also be a way to learn more about yourself and what you want out of life.
“Put certain time frames on how long you associate with one particular person, create space to include a diversified rotation of people, embark on new passions, hobbies, and interests to distract, and seek professional help if the hurdle feels too great.”
– Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC
6. Focus on Personal Growth
In order to learn how to stop being codependent, you’ll need to grow as a person. Self-improvement can help you see your own value and become more aware of your personal strengths. Setting aside time for personal growth can be a way to practice self-care and create a satisfying life outside your relationships.
Evaluate your life and think about your goals for the future.
- Are you satisfied with your career?
- Is there something you’d like to accomplish in life?
- Are your relationships supportive and nurturing?
Once you’ve thought about where you want to be, find ways to work towards those goals gradually.
7. Learn more about codependency
It’s hard to change when you don’t know what to work on. Deepening your understanding of codependency can help you recognize codependent behaviors and patterns in your own relationships. It can also make you more aware of the harm that codependency patterns cause.
- Seek out resources that will teach you how to overcome codependency
- Read books on codependent relationships
- Listen to experts and learn from what they have to say
- Attend a Codependents Anonymous meeting
- Find a therapist with experience in breaking codependent pattern cycles
Once you’re more familiar with codependency, you’ll be able to focus on addressing and changing damaging habits in your relationships.
8. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is a way of thinking that teaches you to be present and in the moment. Instead of ruminating on the past or worrying about the future, you can focus on what’s happening now. Studies have shown that mindfulness can significantly reduce anxiety levels and improve well-being, both of which are common struggles for people with codependent tendencies.
Many codependent people aren’t in touch with their own wants and needs. Mindfulness can help you:
- Connect with your feelings
- Stay in the moment
- Trust your needs
- Let go of negative thoughts and stop seeking approval from others
Mindfulness is a powerful technique that can help you learn how not to be codependent.
9. Work with a Therapist
Codependent behaviors are often associated with past trauma. If you’ve been asking yourself how do i stop being codependent and you haven’t been able to find an answer on your own, don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional for help.
A therapist can help you process your feelings and identify unhealthy relationship patterns. Over time, either in-person or online therapy can help you:
- Improve your mental health and awareness
- Boost your self-confidence
- Express your needs and desires in the healthiest ways
- Trust that you know what you need and can achieve success on your own
Break Free from Codependent Cycles
Ending codependent relationship patterns might leave you feeling uneasy or uncertain at first, but in the long run, these changes can be incredibly empowering.
Learning how to stop being codependent means you can start to build mutually satisfying, healthy relationships, take control of your life, and, ultimately, find happiness.
Happy people challenge their attachment to other people. When we start to feel anxious about an attachment, that feels like a good time to invest in our physical health and wellness, the activities that motivate us, and finding some peace with being alone.”
– Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC
Change isn’t always going to be easy, but it is possible. To break free from codependent cycles, you’ll need to work on yourself and learn to nurture your own needs. You’ll need to be honest with yourself and those in your life who contribute to your codependent behavior.
Thankfully, this truly isn’t something you have to do alone. A therapist can provide you with guidance and support throughout the difficult process of breaking free from destructive habits that are holding you back.
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3. Johnson M, Lavner J, Mund M et al. Within-Couple Associations Between Communication and Relationship Satisfaction Over Time. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2021;48(4):534-549. doi:10.1177/01461672211016920. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/01461672211016920. Accessed September 20, 2022.
4. Crego A, Yela J, Gómez-Martínez M, Riesco-Matías P, Petisco-Rodríguez C. Relationships between Mindfulness, Purpose in Life, Happiness, Anxiety, and Depression: Testing a Mediation Model in a Sample of Women. Int J Environmental Res Public Health. 2021;18(3):925. doi:10.3390/ijerph18030925. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7908241/. Accessed September 20, 2022.
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