Do you find yourself doing so much for women yet getting so little in return? If you answered “Yes” then you might exhibit codependent behaviors. In this article, I am going to show you how to stop being codependent. Because codependency will eventually disconnect you from your own needs and wants, affect your self-worth and create a toxic dynamic to your relationship.
Below, we’ll define what it means to be codependent as well as what it’s like to be in a codependent relationship. If you find yourself to be in a codependent relationship, we’ve also outlined some ways to get out of the relationship and avoid falling into the same trap in the future.
What is a Codependent Relationship?
Before we define what a codependent relationship is, let’s first talk about the traits of a codependent person:
Am I codependent?
If you find yourself asking this question, then you’re on the right track.
When you consistently elevate the needs of others above your own, you may be behaving in codependent ways. If your mood, happiness, and identity are dependent on pleasing another person, then it’s likely you’re in a codependent relationship.
For example, maybe you have trouble making decisions about where to live, whether to pursue a new career, when and how much time to spend with family and friends because you worry your choices might conflict with your partner's needs. Or maybe you give up an entire weekend to do what your partner wants when you really need a day to yourself.
All the sacrifices you make to please another person will eventually add up and take their toll on you. This can leave you feeling drained, overwhelmed and exhausted. You don’t even have time to relieve your stress before you feel like your partner “needs” you again. Maybe even having feelings of resentment towards the person you did so much for and received so little in return.
A codependent man typically grows up believing that his own needs don’t matter. As a result, he learns to ignore what he wants and give to others what they want to keep them from leaving.
His life strategies include avoiding difficult things, hiding, fixing, caretaking, problem-solving, approval-seeking, and giving to get. Their worldview is “you have what I want and I will try to get you to give it to me without you knowing what I am trying to do”.
Some level of dependency is obviously healthy in relationships. Most people thrive with companionship and support from other people. You can allow people to depend on you while also maintaining your own identity and sense of self.
What is a codependent relationship?
This is a kind of dysfunctional relationship where one person is a caretaker, and the other person takes advantage. In her book, Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Being Yourself, Melody Beattie states:
“A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior”
Codependency often has you funneling your energy into supporting the people in your life without making space for — or even considering — what you need for yourself.
It’s completely different from co-operative or interdependent relationships where there is open communication, appropriate boundaries, mutual sharing of resources with both parties having a strong sense of self.
Let’s take a look at some common signs that you are in a codependent relationship:
Habitual people pleasing
People who struggle with codependent behaviors have a hard time saying “no”. So they often put other people's needs first to maintain a sense of peace. This “people-pleasing” activity isn’t done for the goodness of your soul but more so because you feel like you don’t have a choice. The problem? The pattern tends to lead to resentment over time.
A lack of boundaries
Having boundaries simply means respecting the other person’s right to their own feelings and autonomy. It also means that you are not responsible for your partner's happiness. In a codependent relationship, one partner doesn’t recognize the other's boundaries and the other partner doesn’t insist on boundaries.
In other words, one person is controlling and manipulative and the other person is compliant and doesn’t assert their own will.
One person needs to be in service to the other person to feel a sense of purpose while the other person is dependent on someone else to meet their needs. So both partners tend to have low self-esteem.
You feel incomplete without the other person. Even if the relationship is toxic, you still have a fear of abandonment, possibly due to your attachment style. So you sacrifice yourself to keep the other person around.
A lack of identity
You don’t know who you are. Instead of pursuing your own passions and dreams, you go along with whatever your partner is doing. This can leave you feeling a profound sense of emptiness.
Codependency might often come from a good place. You see a loved one struggling and you desperately want to help them. You might even take responsibility to rescue them from their pain. But codependency tends to cause more harm than good.
Let’s look at some strategies on how to stop being codependent…
How to Stop Being Codependent
Standing up for yourself and stopping codependent behaviors is likely to be met with resistance from your partner. It’s likely you will feel pressure from them to go back to the way things were before.
This is known as “poison dripping”. It’s a strategy to keep their partner in their place so they don’t seek a better option. So, if you mention that you are going to the gym, starting a new hobby or hanging out with friends, your partner might try to stop you for fear of being abandoned.
It’s only when you ask yourself what you want to do and do it anyway despite internal anxiety or external pressure from your partner that you mature and grow. Instead of caving in to your partner's demands, encourage them to level up with you and turn your relationship into a “people growing machine” as recommended by Dr. David Schnach.
We are all separate and unique individuals. When people view each other as extensions of themselves (like they do in codependent relationships), it’s called fusion.
Fused relationships are filled with agendas and expectations. For example “You're my girlfriend, so you should want to have sex with me whenever I want” or “You're my boyfriend, so you should want to go to my family’s event”.
Undifferentiated, fused people often resort to manipulation as they project their expectations onto others. But you can only be differentiated when you listen to what you want to do and you do it anyway despite emotional pressure from your partner.
A differentiated person asks himself:
- What do I want?
- What feels right to me?
- What makes me happy?
It is relatively easy for a single man who lives alone to do whatever feels right to him. It is a totally different achievement, on the other hand, for a man in a committed relationship to make his needs a priority and communicate these needs clearly while facing pressure to give in. These are your personal values and you shouldn’t let anyone push back against them.
These questions separate you from your partner as a unique individual. Gaining the ability to ask yourself what you want and to then hold on to yourself when there is pressure to fuse – i.e., to give into other’s wants due to your own anxiety or guilt – is one example of how to stop being codependent.
Work on your great cake of a life
Codependent people have no life of their own and try desperately to fit into their partner's expectations of them.
The antidote to codependency is building a great cake of a life and inviting your girlfriend to be the icing on your cake. When you have no life of your own and you build your life around a woman, what does that give her to be attracted to?
Women are attracted to men who live interesting and passionate lives.
For me, a great life involves:
- Creating online sources of income (so I am location independent)
- Spending time with positive male friends
- Engaging in strenuous exercise
- Pursuing my passions
- Leaning into challenges
When I find myself struggling in my relationship, I ask myself, how am I doing with my cake? Usually, I will find that I’ve left out a key ingredient in my great cake of a life. With that, I’ve lost my mojo and zest for life. And that has a knock-on effect in my relationship.
Most people with codependent behavior have a core belief that they are not okay as they are. That they have to become something other than who they are to be liked, loved and get laid.
When you like yourself and you’re not seeking approval or validation, not holding back and not censoring; you are stopping codependent behavior. And paradoxically, the less you care what your partner thinks of you, the more drawn to you she will be.
Being authentically yourself doesn’t always come naturally in adulthood. Here are some ideas that helped me embrace more of who I am - I went to a therapist to work on my issues, I stopped chasing approval, I practiced being congruent (saying exactly what is on my mind), I walked away from people who didn’t treat me well, I stopped trying to do everything perfectly, and I started doing more new activities and giving myself permission to have more fun.
Learning how to stop being codependent isn’t only going to save you from a toxic, dysfunctional relationship but it gives you a sense of natural confidence and your partner will find you more attractive, maybe even irresistible.