A healthy relationship is based on mutual give-and-take. Though it is extremely unlikely for two people to invest exactly equal amounts of time and effort in a relationship, a certain degree of approximation is expected. A co-dependent relationship on the other hand is marked an excess of neediness which in turn can signify deep-rooted emotional and psychological issues. If you believe you are in a codependent relationship, here are a few things you can do to cope with the situation.
Recognize the signs
Like the addict lives in denial about his/her addiction, it is extremely difficult for a codependent person to recognize and acknowledge that he/she is in an unhealthy relationship. However to be able to do this you must first know what a codependent relationship is and what are its signs. To put it very simply, codependency refers to a relationship that is entirely one-sided. This is a condition when you are the only one trying to make the relationship work while your partner is never emotionally available. Even though there are different types of a codependent relationship, the trait usually most common to them all when a relationship becomes more important to you than you are to yourself. You are paying too high a cost – emotional, social and/or financial – in order to be with this person and in the process, your self-esteem and self-assurance gradually get eroded. Finally you are the only one putting energy into this relationship. Asking questions, making conversation, planning dates and even love-making is always initiated and executed by you without your partner making any move on his/her own. If more than one of these signs are present in your relationship, it is time you take a hard look at it as well as at yourself.
Let go of others’ lives
Very often a one-sided relationship can be traced to a sense of control that the codependent partner glories in. Since the uninterested partner plays the out-of-control person, the codependent partner gets to be the person who is in control and thus is respected. He/she feels satisfied in the illusion of being thought of as the better person, the smarter person, above all as the person who is holding it all together. But this feeling of being in control is actually a mirage. Instead allow those you care for to be responsible for their own words and actions – stop yourself from telling them what to do or how to live their lives anymore. Recognize the fact that it is not your job to feel responsible for your partner. Let go of this compulsion and let him/her take control of their own lives.
Bring the focus on yourself
If you are a codependent person of this sort, you probably take satisfaction in the false assumption that you are strong enough to deal with adverse circumstances and get things going whereas you need to realize that you should be taking care of yourself instead of proving your strength. You have already spent a lot of much time trying to manage the lives of those around you which is why you have not been able to deal with your own problems - now is the time to start focusing on your own issues and use all your energy in getting better. You can start this by addressing your needs. Ask yourself what you need and then go about fulfilling them – it can be something as simple as a new hairstyle or as long-term as going back to college in order to advance your education. It can even be pursuing a hobby that you had given up or taking off for a solo vacation to a place where you have always longed to go but have always been putting off because it clashed with your partner’s preferences. You have been meeting another person’s needs first for so long now that you have probably forgotten your own. This is the time to get out of this habit and fulfilling your own needs and desires. At first you may feel that you're being selfish, but think of it as this way - you'll be much better at helping others when you've taken care of yourself first. On the other hand if you are planning to leave the relationship, getting involved in activities of your choice will prevent you from regretting your choice. Once you get busy with things you like doing, you will be better able to prevent relationship-ending-related depression, which in fact could make you want to go back to your partner despite your knowledge that the relationship is an unhealthy one.
One of the most common signs of a codependent person is that he/she feels guilty when doing something purely for fun or personal satisfaction. Such a person is conditioned to believe that all his/her efforts should be to prop his/her partner and care for their needs. If you wish to stop this kind of thinking, you need to be more open to having fun. Do things that you enjoy, not always for their practical value or to meet someone else’s needs. Read a book, listen to music or get a pedicure. Once you do things that give you pure pleasure, you will be giving yourself the value and affirmation that is the hallmark of any healthy personality.
Take professional help
All the above tips are effective in usually the early stages of codependency in a relationship. However if you have been in a codependent relationship for an extended period of time, you may long ago have stopped thinking about your own wants altogether and don’t know how to begin. In such situations seeking the help of a counselor or therapist is often the best way to treat codependency in a relationship. This will not only help you to recognize why you felt compelled to go on with an unhealthy relationship for so long but in case your partner needs attention, like for alcohol abuse or personality disorder, therapy will guide him/her on how to get better.