This article will explore how to leave a codependent relationship or how to end a codependent dynamic within a relationship. To see a definition of codependency, please read my first article:
Steps to Ending a Codependent Relationship
To start the process of leaving either the style of relating or the relationship altogether:
- Start being honest with yourself and your partner.
- Stop negative thinking.
- Don’t take things personally.
- Take breaks.
- Consider counseling.
- Rely on peer support.
- Establish boundaries.
The first step in leaving a codependent style of relating with a significant other, or even leaving the relationship altogether, is to be honest with yourself. What are your true, uncensored feelings?
It can become second nature to filter your feelings through the other when you are in a codependent relationship, so give yourself some time and space to reflect inward. This can feel painful — even intolerable, at times — but let yourself feel what you feel, even when it makes no sense. Have a journal handy, or a trusted friend available, to write down the surprising thoughts and emotions that arise. A counselor is a good resource during this part of the process.As you observe your thoughts, notice the negative thinking that is present. Those thoughts have become toxic and have suffocated the life out of your true self. Remember your once hoped-for dreams. Recall moments in life when you felt free and alive. Reflect on what took you out of those times.
Write down a negative thought, then write down what you thought during those times when you dreamed and felt alive. Even though it doesn’t feel true anymore, honor it by writing it down. For example, a client recently lamented that she felt no hope for her future now that her relationship was over. I encouraged her to remember a moment, perhaps before the relationship, when she sensed hope and a future. She remembered and explored the feelings and the freedom she used to have.
During this process, remember that this is not all about you. The other’s style of relating has existed long before you knew him or her. You as well learned how to be codependent during your own upbringing or perhaps during the course of a significant prior relationship. The way the person treated you was about his or her needs being met. This does not define you or have to mean anything about you for your future or for your character. It takes work to leave, to untangle yourself, and to understand why and how you got to that place. But you are still here. Still alive. Still a child of God. Still able to thrive.
Though it might feel wrong, take breaks. Schedule them into your week. Though you may get a negative reaction from your significant other, stick to the break. This may be a few hours on a hike or a night away with a trusted family member or friend.
Getting space and being able to breathe freely without other voices and opinions suffocating that breath is a key in understanding why and how you got here. Also, space can help you think and determine what your next steps will be.
Rely on Peers
Rely on peers. Maybe people who have known you for a while will be able to remind you how you used to be. Or, perhaps people who have met you since being in the relationship can tell you how they experience you with them and when you are around your partner. Be open to hear that feedback, as painful as it can be. Good friends will be honest with you.
Set BoundariesSet boundaries. If you are still in the relationship, consider what you are willing to do and not do. Write these down. Tell them to a trusted person. Whatever you have to do, tell yourself first where you end and where the other begins. Where the other ends and you begin. There is a you and a there is a him or her. You are two different people. Then begin to act from this place.
Your partner will have a reaction to your boundaries. Validate that you hear and see the reaction, and then keep standing with your boundary. This can start the process of differentiation.
Counseling for Codependent Relationships
Feel free to contact me or one of the other counselors in our counselor directory if you’d like some help and support in eliminating codependent experiences from your life.
“Couple’s PDA,” courtesy of Pedro Ribeiro Simões, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Alone,” by Pierre Guinoiseau, Flickr Creative Commons, 2.0, (CC by 2.0); “Bench,” courtesy of Elvert Barnes, Flickr Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0); “Reflection,” courtesy of H. Michael Miley FCC (CC BY-SA 2.0)