What is a Codependent Relationship and How To Get Out of It?

The Easy Wisdom Media
10 min readAug 17, 2023

When one of the partners in a relationship or a family member puts everyone else’s needs, wants, and well-being above their own, it can be a sign of codependency. And it’s not healthy! So, are you in a codependent relationship? Let’s find out!

What is a Codependent Relationship and How To Get Out of It? The Easy Wisdom- www.TheEasyWisdom.com
What is a Codependent Relationship and How To Get Out of It? The Easy Wisdom- www.TheEasyWisdom.com

The Story of John and Lily

John had always been a caring and empathetic soul. His heart was full of compassion. However, when he met Lily, this virtuous quality was about to take a twisted turn into a codependent relationship.

Lily, a charming woman with a stormy past, became the center of John’s universe. Her vulnerability fascinated him and motivated him to protect and nurture her.

John’s uncompromising attention seemed like devotion and a sign of his caring nature. He attended to Lily’s every whim, sacrificing his own interests and aspirations to ensure her comfort- a subtle hint of an unhealthy imbalance in their relationship.

Lily began to control John, exploiting his insecurities and need for attention- a clear indication of manipulation and control. As the months passed, John became increasingly isolated from his friends and family- a classic outcome of codependency in a relationship.

Lily’s jealousy flared even at a single mention of other people in John’s life. He felt guilty for wanting to spend time away from her, fearing he would trigger her fragile emotions- again, a common trait of codependent relationships, where one partner limits the other’s social interactions.

His world narrowed to fit the confines of Lily’s demands. Lily’s emotional highs and lows grew more extreme. This is a hallmark of a codependent relationship, where one person’s emotions dominate the other. On days when she was cheerful, John felt a fleeting sense of relief, as if the sun had momentarily emerged from behind a cloud. But when Lily was gloomy, his own mood mirrored hers, indicating his emotional vulnerability.

He walked on eggshells, desperately trying to lift her spirits and avoid conflict. Gradually, John’s once-ambitious career aspirations faded into oblivion. He had abandoned his hobbies, dreams, and self-esteem- a common consequence of losing oneself in a codependent relationship.

Read Also: Sacrificing Too Much? 10 Things You Should Never Sacrifice For A Relationship!

Friends started to witness this change in John’s behavior and tried to intervene, urging him to reconsider his choices. But he brushed off their concerns, convinced that his devotion to Lily was a testament to his strength. He believed that his love could heal her wounds and mend her broken heart. This is a common misconception in codependent relationships- a classic denial of the unhealthy dynamics at play.

The breaking point arrived one stormy night.

Lily had erupted into a fit of rage over a trivial matter. John cowered in the corner of their apartment, paralyzed by the realization that his life had spiraled out of control.

It was at that moment that he finally saw the toxicity of their relationship.

Soon, he realized that he was in a codependent relationship. He brooded as he became aware of his desire to fix others, as he wanted to feel needed.

But why did he become codependent?

It is because pleasing others at the expense of his own well-being gave him a purpose!

So, with newfound clarity, John gathered the strength to confront Lily. He expressed his need for personal space, independence, and a healthier dynamic between them-a crucial step toward breaking free from codependency in a relationship.

But Lily was not ready to let go of the privileges she enjoyed. And her natural reaction was a storm of tears and anger.

But John stood his ground. He wanted to break out of this toxic codependency in the relationship and reclaim control of his happiness and life.

So John began rebuilding his life. He reconnected with friends, rediscovered his passions, and started therapy to understand the patterns that had led him down this dark path so that he could take a path of self-discovery and healing. Lily, on the other hand, struggled to cope with the loss of control over John- a typical response from the dependent partner.

In time, John realized that his initial intentions had always been pure but distorted by Lily’s manipulative tendencies. He understood that true love should empower both individuals, not diminish one’s sense of self-a vital lesson to learn from his codependent experience.

The scars of the codependent relationship will always be a part of his life and a reminder of the dangers of losing oneself in the name of love. But this experience transformed John into a wiser, more self-aware person equipped to recognize and avoid codependent relationship patterns. He vowed never to let his empathy blind him to the red flags of an unhealthy relationship again.

He is now committed to staying true to himself!

And as he moved forward, he carried with him the hard-earned lesson that true love should never demand the sacrifice of one’s identity. This became an insightful lesson that would guide him toward healthier relationships in the future.

John was clearly in a codependent relationship, and he was overly reliant on his partner for emotional support. John put Lily’s needs before his own and would do anything to keep their relationship afloat. This led to dysfunctional relationship dynamics and unhealthy behavior. John struggled to set boundaries, overlooked his feelings, desires, and emotions, and failed to take responsibility for his own actions. And it all led him to feel miserable about himself.

Ultimately, it destroyed his relationship with his partner, Lily, and both partners suffered.

A codependent relationship can do more harm than good and soon become toxic. So, it is advisable to find out if you’re in a codependent relationship and what you can do to overcome it!

But before we proceed ahead, let’s understand:

  1. What is a codependent relationship?
  2. What are typical signs of a codependent relationship?
  3. What are the outcomes of a codependent relationship?
  4. How to fix a codependent relationship?

What is a codependent relationship?

In a codependent relationship, one of the partners puts everyone else’s needs, wants, and well-being above their own. When a person is in a codependent relationship, they overtly rely on another person for emotional support, validation, and a sense of identity. In contrast, the other person may enable or even thrive on the feeling of being needed. It often leads to an unhealthy and imbalanced relationship pattern that can hinder both partners’ personal growth and well-being.

In a codependent relationship, the two people become so emotionally dependent on each other that they can’t even function without each other.

Typical signs of a codependent relationship?

Signs of Codependency in a relationship- The Easy Wisdom- www.TheEasyWisdom.com
Signs of Codependency in a Relationship- The Easy Wisdom- www.TheEasyWisdom.com

The following signs and behaviors may characterize a codependent relationship:

  • Feeling responsible for other people’s emotions, feelings, choices, and behaviors.
  • Relying excessively and caring for others in anticipation of receiving the same in return. Also, one person relies heavily on others to fulfill their emotional needs, decision-making, and even day-to-day functioning.
  • Fear of abandonment in a relationship and getting hurt.
  • Finding it difficult to understand and identify one’s own feelings, wants, and needs.
  • There is a lack of healthy boundaries in relationships where one person’s emotions and actions are heavily influenced by the other.
  • A codependent person often has low self-esteem and seeks validation and affirmation from their partner. They have codependent feelings, such as “I am no one without her.”
  • Choosing to be in a relationship with someone who needs constant pampering and care and is emotionally weak or immature.
  • Making decisions in favor of other people’s wishes and not based on what is best for oneself.
  • Neglecting one’s own goals and aspirations to please others.
  • Fear of abandonment leads to an intense fear of rejection by their partner, leading to overcompensation to keep the relationship intact. This ultimately leads to clingy behavior.
  • Difficulty in making independent decisions, as the codependent individual might struggle to make decisions on their own without seeking approval or input from their partner.
  • Control issues arise in relationships as the enabling partner might exert control over the codependent person’s actions, decisions, and even interactions with others.
  • Not trusting oneself leading to higher levels of stress and anxiety.

Outcomes of codependent relationships

Codependent relationships can have various adverse outcomes for the parties involved. Codependency is characterized by an unhealthy and often one-sided reliance on another person for emotional, psychological, and even physical well-being. Here are some potential outcomes of codependent relationships:

Lack of personal identity

In codependent relationships, individuals often become so enmeshed with their partner that they lose their sense of self and personal identity. They may prioritize their partner’s needs and desires over their own, leading to a loss of autonomy.

Low self-esteem

Codependent individuals may derive their self-worth from their ability to please their partner. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, as their self-worth becomes contingent on their partner’s approval.

Emotional exhaustion

The emotional labor required to constantly attend to the needs and emotions of a codependent partner can be draining. This can lead to emotional exhaustion, burnout, and a lack of energy for other aspects of life.

Enabling destructive behavior

Codependent individuals often enable their partner’s negative behaviors, such as addiction, irresponsibility, or dependency. They may shield their partner from facing the consequences, which can perpetuate harmful patterns.

Loss of boundaries

Boundaries are essential for healthy relationships, but codependent individuals tend to have blurred or nonexistent boundaries. This can result in emotional manipulation, control, and a sense of being overwhelmed by their partner’s emotions and actions.

Resentment and frustration

Over time, the codependent partner may feel resentful and frustrated due to the imbalance in the relationship. They might feel unappreciated and taken for granted, leading to conflicts and emotional distress.

Little personal growth

Codependency can hamper personal growth and development. Individuals may refrain from pursuing their own goals, hobbies, and interests in favor of catering to their partner’s needs.

Isolation from others

Codependent relationships can isolate individuals from friends and family, as they prioritize their partner’s needs above all else. This can lead to a lack of social support and loneliness.

Difficulty ending the relationship

Ending a codependent relationship can be incredibly challenging. The fear of being alone and a deep emotional attachment can make it difficult to break free from the cycle of codependency.

A cycle of unhealthy relationships

Codependency often stems from unresolved issues from the past. Individuals may repeatedly enter similar codependent dynamics in future relationships without addressing these underlying issues.

How to fix a codependent relationship?

How To Fix a Codependent Relationship- The Easy Wisdom- www.TheEasyWisdom.com
How To Fix a Codependent Relationship- The Easy Wisdom- www.TheEasyWisdom.com

Codependent relationships are neither healthy nor sustainable in the long run. If you suspect you are in a codependent relationship or know someone who is, you can fix it and become less codependent.

And the good news is that codependency is a learned behavior that can be unlearned. So, if you love your partner and want to preserve the relationship, you must heal yourself first. Putting yourself first is not selfish.

So, how can you fix a codependent relationship?

Here are things you can do:

Be honest

Be honest with yourself first and your partner. Do not do or say things you don’t mean or want to say yes to. Instead, be honest in your communication and freely express your inner feelings, wants, desires, and goals in life.

Learn to put your needs first

This may sound selfish, but it isn’t. Ask yourself, What is important to me? What are you doing to do things that are important to you? And then find time to do things that matter to you and honor your needs and wants. This will break your codependent patterns and make you less emotionally needy.

When you start to put yourself first and attend to your needs, you are less likely to suffer negative consequences. It might be challenging to put yourself before others, but this is a critical first step.

Practice self-care

Self-care can be anything that nourishes you emotionally and physically. This could also mean indulging in smaller things such as spas, workouts, meditation, and socializing. This means learning how to value and honor your needs and prioritize your well-being. Doing this teaches you to become less codependent, making you less resentful of your partner.

Learn to say no

We all dread saying no in relationships. Saying no is blasphemous. But asserting healthy boundaries is one of the first steps to becoming less codependent. So, learn to say no and do yourself a favor.

Become self-aware

Become more aware of yourself, and spend some time alone contemplating your likes, dislikes, goals, and aspirations. Learn more about codependency and how it can cause more harm than good. Also, make yourself aware of attachment styles and trauma. As you become more knowledgeable and self-aware, you prepare to fix the codependent patterns in your relationships.

Set boundaries

Establish clear boundaries between each other. Boundaries help define what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. This can help prevent overreliance on each other and foster individual growth.

Encourage support networks

Encourage each other to have their own support networks outside of the relationship. Friendships, family, and other social connections can provide emotional support and reduce the need for reliance solely on one another.

Seek individual therapy and professional counseling

Both partners should consider seeking therapy or counseling individually. This can help them work through their own personal issues and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

If both individuals are willing, couples therapy can help address codependency as a team. A trained therapist can guide conversations and provide strategies for building healthier relationships.

A trained professional can help you in ways you can’t even imagine.

Celebrate Progress

Celebrate small successes along the way. Acknowledging the positive changes can motivate both individuals to continue working on the relationship.

Apart from seeking therapy, it’s vital to allocate time for your own well-being and involve yourself in self-nurturing activities. These could encompass practices like yoga, journal writing, meditation, and immersing yourself in natural surroundings.

Reconnect with past hobbies and rediscover your personal preferences, as you might have become so entwined in someone else’s life that your own interests have faded. Take the opportunity to get to know yourself and fulfill your own needs.

To heal, prioritize your own needs, wants, and feelings. Put yourself first and honor your own well-being. Self-care also means showing yourself love and self-compassion. Embrace your self-worth, conquer negative self-talk and low self-esteem, and actively practice positive affirmations.

Understanding codependency can lead you to discover clarity and tranquility within your relationships, paving the way for less codependency.

Change is always possible!

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Originally published at https://theeasywisdom.com on August 17, 2023.

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