Breaking Free of Co-Dependency


Codependent relationships can be difficult to identify at first. The signs of a codependent relationship at first may be subtle, growing into something larger over time. In order to spot a codependent relationship, you will want to look over the following signs. A codependent relationship does not have to have all of these signs but it may have some of these that can clue you in at the start of a relationship whether or not it is unhealthy or not. The hallmark sign of a codependent relationship is one in which you focus almost entirely on the relationship without thinking about your other needs or the other person’s needs. A codependent relationship is one quite literally where you depend on the other person and they depend on you. While this can be normal in relationships to some extent, when you find yourself only caring for the person and not caring for others is when you may be in a codependent relationship.


Codependent relationships can also have some detrimental effects. When you are in a codependent relationship, it can have some negative effects as well as if a codependent relationship ends. During a codependent relationship, it can become very easy to lose all of your self-worth and self-esteem. This is because your worth has come to depend on someone else and someone else’s happiness. 

During the relationship, this may make it so that you lose your own value and do not think highly about yourself unless you are thinking about yourself in the context of the other person. Therefore, you may begin to feel that your entire worth depends on the other person and that if you do not have them, you are worth nothing. 

This can become problematic when you are with someone and you get into an argument. When you get into an argument with them, you may end up believing that your worth and needs do not matter.

We designed this 12-step journal challenge to help educate you on co-dependence. We help you to recognize the signs, but also lead you through ways to overcome it. Most importantly, we provide you with thought-provoking questions that allow you to uncover (through journaling) why you are in this situation. By self-inspecting through answering high-quality questions, you will uncover the truth about yourself and hopefully establish harmonious and healthy relationships going forward. 

Steps (12)

Step 1: Maintain a Healthy Level of Independence


The opposite of a codependent relationship is one in which a healthy level of independence is maintained. To maintain independence within a relationship can be challenging because you have to find a balance between devoting enough time and energy to someone in the relationship while also being your own person. One of the ways to maintain your independence is to set aside time for friends each week without your partner. Additionally, you should continue to engage in the activities you were in once you get into a relationship. If you let go of the activities you enjoyed, you will lose part of yourself in essence due to becoming in the relationship. 

Step 2: Use assertive communication


It is also essential that you focus on maintaining healthy communication between you and your partner. Healthy communication looks like both of you asserting your needs by using assertive communication that is not accusatory. This may include being open and honest about your needs while speaking to your partner in a positive tone.

Step 3: Being Self Aware of your Emotions


Building an awareness of your own emotions is incredibly important to beginning to heal from a relationship. If you are unsure of how you feel or are experiencing different emotions, it can be particularly helpful to start to acknowledge your emotions and process them. People have various ways of processing and acknowledging their emotions. One of the most helpful ways to process your emotions can be to write them down through journaling. For some people, writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal can help you make more sense of them than when they are all in your head. Additionally, this can be helpful to look back on your thoughts and emotions when you do process your emotions by journaling about them. There are a variety of ways that you can journal about your emotions including writing them down on paper or even by just using a digital note app as a way to journal about them.

Step 4: Be Compassionate with Yourself


When you are ready to heal from a codependent relationship, one of the biggest things that you can do is offer yourself self-compassion. Self-compassion is more than just being kind to yourself, it is also acknowledging your challenging emotions and letting yourself know that it is okay to feel this way. When you fight against your difficult emotions, it tends to make them more difficult and hard to recover from them. Instead of fighting against your emotions, it can be much more helpful to acknowledge when you are experiencing them and letting yourself know that this is a difficult time that you are going through. By acknowledging the hurt that you are experiencing, you will become more aware of your emotions around the experience you have had. 

Step 5: Lean on your real Human Social Network (not Virtual)


Reaching out to social support is a very important part of recovering from a codependent relationship. Within a codependent relationship, you may feel that you do not have any social support or a network to support you. This is because the person who you were in a relationship with is no longer there to support you. It can be scary to reach out to previous forms of social support if you fell out of touch with them when you were in a codependent relationship. You may have worries about if they will answer you or if they will be there to support you since you have not been in as close of contact with them. Even though it is scary, the first step is to reach out to some of the people who used to be a type of social support for you. This can be very helpful as a way to re-establish contact with them. Starting off with a text message or a call can be very simple and an easy way to reestablish contact. Additionally, after you have reestablished contact this way, you may wish to ask them to hang out in person again. After some time, you will be able to rebuild these relationships in a way where you feel you have more forms of support than just the person you had a codependent relationship with.

Step 6: Build Your Self-Esteem


Building up your self-esteem is another important way that you can recover from a codependent relationship. People do various things to feel better about themselves and be compassionate towards themselves. One thing that can be helpful to do is to use positive affirmations about yourself in a way that encourages you to remain positive. Affirmations are important just as acknowledging the challenges that you are experiencing. Some positive affirmations you may use include, “I know this is hard, and I’m doing my best to get through it” or “Even though today is a difficult day, I’m going to make the best of it.” These affirmations can help you to remain positive and increase your self-esteem when you are going through a difficult moment.

Step 7: Focus on Fun & Healthy Activities


Focus on activities that make you feel good and that can also build your self-esteem. Activities that you used to engage in such as hobbies, sports, and exercise can be helpful to reengage in after leaving a codependent relationship. They can help you build your self-esteem because they give you a sense of mastery over an activity. Additionally, they help you rebuild parts of your identity that are important to you and that are not attached to someone else. These can also be a great way to meet other people who have similar interests as you and to build up a social support network. You can find ways to reengage in these activities by joining a gym or exercise studio or even trying other ways of meeting people such as local meetup groups or clubs.

Step 8: Find a Coach, Therapist, or Counselor to Help


Another important step in healing from a codependent relationship may be participating in therapy. Anyone can benefit from therapy, particularly after being in a codependent relationship; however, therapy may be particularly important if you find that you are experiencing increase levels of stress, anxiety, or depression that are impacting your day to day life. If you notice that you are no longer able to keep up with your work, social life, or have just been feeling greater functional impairments in general, it may be time to start therapy. Finding a therapist near you can help you work through the challenging emotions you are experiencing, and also help you identify new coping skills to address those challenges.

Luckily, there are now many more options for therapy than there were in the past. With advances in technology, it is much easier to see a therapist online or to find a therapist near you in your city or state. In order to find a therapist, we have written a guide for how to find a good therapist near you. 

One of the first steps is deciding if you would prefer to see a therapist online or in-person, as this will change the approach to how you find a therapist. Seeing a therapist online has many advantages including that you often have a wider variety of therapists to choose from as you can see any therapist within your state. Additionally, you can also see a therapist from the comfort of your own home and with a more flexible schedule without worrying as much about how long it will take you to travel to see your therapist. At the same time, many people prefer in-person therapy as it can be very nice to interact with someone in person. Some people prefer often the in-person interactions because they feel it is better and easier to build a relationship with someone this way.

When you have decided what type of therapist you would like to see, you can start off by searching for a therapist in your area. If you are choosing to use your health insurance, you will often have to check with their online portal or directory of therapists who are paneled with your insurance. Although you can use your insurance to see a therapist, you can also choose a therapist that is private pay where you do not have to use your insurance. 

Either way, it is important that you find a therapist that specializes in working with people who have left codependent relationships. To find a therapist that specializes in codependent relationships is difficult, and you may want to start your search by looking for couples therapists or therapists that specialize in relationships. Typically, you can get a sense of how experienced a therapist is with codependent relationships based upon their website and the types of information they have about their training and the types of clients they see.

When you have made the decision to start therapy and are fully invested in it, it will be important to be open and honest in order to get the most benefit out of therapy. Having appropriate expectations for therapy is also very important when it comes to the experience you will have in therapy. In order for therapy to be effective, you have to be willing to put in work outside of therapy sessions to see changes. While it can be helpful to attend weekly therapy sessions, it is not the only thing that will make a difference. Most of your time and the work that you do will be spent outside during your therapy sessions and it will be necessary to implement the advice from your therapist to truly see changes in your life. Finally, therapy and the changes you see from it can take some time and are not typically linear. What you expect is that there will be some ups and downs in the therapy process. Although it may take some time until you see changes, it will be worth it in the end.

Step 9: Be Honest with the Other Person


If you would like to change the dynamics within your relationship, the first thing you should do is have an honest conversation with your partner about how your current dynamic is. When doing so, it’s important that you do so in a way that is not accusatory but one that comes from a place of love and support. You want to share with your partner that you have been considering how both of you may benefit from spending more time developing your independent activities. It’s important to stress that this does not mean that you feel any differently about them or change your relationship in any way. 

Step 10: Wash, Rinse, Repeat the Previous Steps


After having this conversation with you partner, you should follow the steps above under creating a healthy relationship to find ways to regain control within the relationship in a way that is very healthy. One of the best places to start with is to get involved in different activities in which your partner is not involved so that you can maintain a level of independence. It’s important to maintain healthy communication with your partner throughout this so that they understand and know how you are feeling and whether these changes are working.

Step 11: Build other Friendships


Engage in relationships with other people outside of those with your partner. Doing so will help you so that you can rely on other people than just your partner for emotional support. To do this, you will want to start spending more time with other people and disclosing with them some level of vulnerability so that it can help you feel more comfortable with them. This will ultimately lead to a healthier and stronger relationship with your partner because you are not placing so much stress on your partner.

Step 12: Consider Ending the Relationship if All Else Fails


If you and your partner have tried all of these steps above and still are not happy with how things are, it may be time to discuss whether or not breaking up would be beneficial. Although nobody wants to breakup or for a relationship to end, ultimately, it can be the best case scenario for a lot of people. When this happens, the best way to end the relationship would be on amicable terms. This can be much easier said than done. It should be a decision that you have thought of and have come to the conclusion that in the end, this is the best choice possible. To have the conversation with your partner about if you are ready to break up, you will want to do so in a calm way during which both of you can clearly think if this is the best possible solution.

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