A codependent relationship can manifest itself in a variety of ways, such as feeding your partner’s alcoholism or being a people pleaser who is afraid to say no. Codependency can be caused by drugs or alcohol, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, chronic pain, or a mental illness. Codependent relationships develop when one person expresses love by providing assistance and the other person expresses love by receiving the assistance. While this exchange may feel good for a while, it is not intended to last, and one person will eventually be unhappy. Ending a codependent relationship is often the best solution.
Part 1: Saying Goodbye to a Relationship
1. Recognize your options. You may feel as if you have no options in this relationship. You do, however, have the freedom to love someone because you want to, rather than because you are forced to. You have the option of ending a destructive or harmful relationship. Recognize your power to choose what you want and what is best for you.
The relationship may appear to serve the other person far more than it serves you. Is it your responsibility to look after this individual? Consider your options, as well as the fact that the other person is capable of making decisions.
2. Be firm in your decision to leave. Codependents frequently become so engrossed in the care of others that they neglect their own needs and lose touch with their own desires, wants, and needs. If you’re ready to end the relationship, be firm in your assertion, and know that this is the decision you want and need. Before engaging in a discussion, remind yourself that you are firm in your decision and are not willing to renegotiate the relationship or give it “another shot.”
Chances are, you’ve already given this person “just one more chance” with little change.
If you end a codependent relationship but the person remains in your life (for example, a parent or sibling), be firm in enforcing your boundaries.
Even if the person begs you to stay, maintain your resolve. “I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I’m confident in my decision,” you say. I’m not going to back down from my decision.”
3. Let’s talk about it. It may be difficult to simply walk away from a codependent relationship, and it may necessitate a discussion. If the dynamics of the relationship suddenly change and their needs are no longer met in the same way, the other person may become confused. Open the discussion at a time when there will be no interruptions.
“I’ve noticed that the way we interact isn’t healthy,” you can say. I’m becoming more aware of how little I care for myself. It is critical for me to maintain boundaries, which means ending this relationship with you.”
4. Maintain your cool. The other person may be offended by your decision. He or she may react in anger, rage, upset, hurt, or sadness. Even if the person threatens you, maintain your cool. Don’t yell, curse, or raise your voice. Respond with a soft and gentle voice if the person is yelling. The person will most likely mimic your actions.
If the accuser begins to accuse you, say, “I’m not willing to talk about the past or get into an argument with you.” I’m writing to let you know how I feel and that I’m leaving.”
More information can be found at How to Calm an Angry Person.
5. Feel free to express yourself. It is entirely up to you how much you wish to discuss with the individual. You may say, “I cannot continue with this relationship,” or you may elaborate and explain what isn’t working for you. When discussing your emotions, keep the focus on yourself and avoid blaming the other person. Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements.
For example, using the word “I” keeps the focus on you rather than blaming the other person. Instead of saying, “You take all of my attention and wear me out,” say, “I’ve put myself in this position and am constantly tired.” This isn’t healthy for me.”
6. Set boundaries. Ending some codependent relationships may imply walking away completely, whereas others may end a codependent relationship in favour of a healthy relationship, such as family relationships. You may believe you are solely responsible for the actions of others. Alternatively, you may feel obligated to go above and beyond your fair share of responsibilities. Begin to set boundaries for what you are willing and unwilling to do.
For example, if your brother is hungover and requests that you call his workplace with an excuse, tell him, “It was not my decision to drink last night.” This is a consequence you must bear on your own.”
If you need to study for a test and a friend calls to talk about her problems, tell her, “I care about you and want to support you, but I need to study for my exam tomorrow.” Why don’t we come back tomorrow?”
Let the person know if you want to set specific boundaries. “We may need to work some things out, but I’m not willing to meet with you face to face.” I’d like to keep our communication to texts.”
More information can be found at How to Stop Being a People Pleaser.
Part 2: Dealing with Codependent Behaviors
1. Consider what the relationship meant to you. While you may feel like you put in a lot of effort in this relationship, including caretaking roles, it’s likely that you’ve also benefited from it. You would have ended the relationship much sooner if you had not found some fulfilment in it. Consider how this relationship has benefited you and why it is no longer beneficial to you.
For example, you may have felt a sense of purpose while caring for someone who was an alcoholic or had a serious medical condition. You may enjoy the sensation of “being needed” or “having control.”
2. Deal with feelings of abandonment. People in codependent relationships are often afraid of being abandoned. This may be one of the reasons they choose a helping role in a relationship: taking care of someone and having someone rely on them ensures that person will not abandon them. Consult a therapist if you are afraid of people leaving you. Therapy can assist you in working through feelings of abandonment, exploring ways to care for yourself, and learning to trust others.
Abandonment issues frequently begin in childhood or with a traumatic event. It is beneficial to work through these issues to help you overcome your fear of abandonment.
3. Validate your own sense of self-worth. You probably find at least some of your self-worth in caring for others. Instead of relying on others to validate you, learn to validate yourself without relying on others. You may believe that you require others to tell you how important you are, but you can do it on your own.
Consider where you get your sense of self-worth as you consider ending the codependent relationship. How do you see yourself? What do you believe about yourself and what you deserve? Do other people appear to be more capable of achieving success or happiness than you?
4. Meet your own requirements. You may be so preoccupied with meeting the needs of others that you neglect your own. While it may appear that the person is reliant on you, recognise what is within your control. You’ve probably neglected taking care of yourself by devoting your time, attention, and resources to this person. You may feel as if you have no idea who you are apart from caring for this person, or that caring for someone is your entire identity.
Begin to regain a sense of your own needs. Do you, for example, require alone time to recharge after a stressful day? What methods do you use to deal with stress? Have you neglected your nutritional or physical requirements? What about rest?
Part 3: Dealing with the Fallout
1. Make a physical separation. Spend less time with the person and don’t make time in your schedule to attend to the person’s needs. Move out if you live with the person with whom you are in a codependent relationship. Living together may exacerbate the need to care for the individual. Moving out can help create physical distance between the two of you, reducing the need to caretake. Spending less time together will help you create emotional and physical space between the two of you.
You can also distance yourself emotionally from this person. Inform the person that you will not be responding to texts, emails, or phone calls. “I want this relationship to be complete,” you say. I don’t want this to be confusing, and I believe we both need some time to think about it. As a result, I will not be responding to texts, phone calls, or emails.”
2. Feelings should be processed. Don’t stuff your feelings or tell yourself that everything is fine. Instead, process your emotions and pay attention to them. After the relationship, think about it and your sense of identity. Identify and process each emotion that arises, and don’t ignore your feelings.
You can process your emotions by keeping a journal, talking to a friend, or seeing a therapist.
3. Accept your loss. It will undoubtedly be difficult to end the codependent relationship. Accept that it will be difficult and possibly painful. Repressing your grief may lead to depression. Accept it and allow yourself to feel it instead. Grief can be characterised by feelings of disbelief, anger, fear, and sadness. Other signs of grief include feeling tired, tense, or empty, as well as changes in sleep or eating habits.
Allow grief to take its natural course. Accept what is and let go of what could have been.
Observing your body is one way to work through grief. The more you think, the less you are connected to your emotional experience. Pay attention to how you feel in your body when you are experiencing emotions. What kind of sensation do you have, and where do you feel it? Allow your bodily sensations and emotions to flow through you.
4. Seek social assistance. It can be difficult to break away from a codependent relationship. Have someone to talk to about ending the relationship who will be supportive of your decision. Speak with a friend or family member for emotional support. A trusted friend can help you make difficult decisions and then support you as you follow through on those decisions.
Check out How to Build a Social Network for more information.
5. Attend therapy. If you are having difficulty processing the end of the relationship on your own, a therapist may be of assistance. Therapy can assist you in addressing your thoughts, attitudes, emotions, and behaviours and determining what is beneficial and what is harmful to you. Therapy can assist you in increasing your self-awareness and coping skills.
The role of a therapist is to both challenge and support you. In therapy, be prepared to grow and confront difficult aspects of yourself.
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