When your life revolves around someone else, it’s easy to lose touch with who you are
Centring your life around another person gives you a false sense of purpose. There must be more to life than weathering someone else’s emotional storms, right?
If you feel trapped in a co-dependent relationship, I’m here to tell you that you can get out. I broke free from a co-dependent relationship, and you can, too.
What is co-dependency?
‘Co-dependency’ refers to a relationship in which one person is dependent upon another to an unhealthy degree. The doesn’t describe mere clinginess, though. It also doesn’t necessarily apply if you rely on your partner to pay their fair share of the bills or perform household chores. Typically, in almost every relationship one partner will do more than the other at times.
Co-dependency refers to an unhealthy reliance on another person, to the point where you experience significant anxiety when you’re apart. The same dynamic also applies when you do all the work in your relationship. While you may make the money and handle most chores, that doesn’t mean that you don’t depend on your partner to meet your emotional needs. Instead, you climb aboard their emotional roller coaster and let them dictate the highs and lows of your life.
Over time, co-dependent relationships can destroy your life and self-esteem. According to one study, co-dependency leads to poor health, self-neglect and additional responsibilities for your family and friends. If your partner suffers from any type of addiction, you may also find yourself struggling not to follow their lead.
How to break free
I used the following steps on my journey to freedom. You may or may not choose to end the relationship, but remember that only you can determine if leaving is the best decision for you.
Here’s what you can do:
1. Take an honest moral inventory
Ask yourself what you gain from your relationship. When you ask yourself this question, avoid the knee-jerk impulse to respond with “love”. Does your partner feel like an achievement because someone once told you that you’d never find a mate? Do they offer security against loneliness? Do they support you in your future goals?
When my relationship deteriorated from co-dependency to borderline abuse, I had to decide whether I was willing to risk my safety for the ‘love’ I believed that my ex gave me. Once I faced the brutal truth of our co-dependent relationship, I realised that leaving was the right decision.
2. Dig deep inside yourself
Even if you remove yourself from one co-dependent relationship, you risk falling into another unless you unearth why you fell into co-dependency in the first place. Why do you feel the need to lose yourself in another person’s life?
Learn why you’ve accepted poor treatment in current or previous relationships, too. Meditation helped me understand my attraction to a co-dependent relationship and helped me become aware of my internal dialogue.
I was raised in a family who embraced the marriage-is-for-life ideal. I eventually realised how much I had told myself “You could make this relationship work if you try harder.” But I did the work. My partner, on the other hand, wasn’t willing to put in any effort. I began countering my childhood conditioning with thoughts like, “I deserve a partner who does their fair share.”
3. Learn to embrace being alone
For the first few days after a break-up, you may feel lost. Where do you go and what do you do next?
Learn to cultivate hobbies that give your life meaning. For instance, I spent considerable time hiking after my split. You may find meaning in volunteer activities, a recreational sports league, or a new, interesting class.
Keep yourself busy in the first few weeks after you end the relationship. Learn how to combat loneliness without a partner. You’ll develop a stronger sense of who you are and realise what you will and won’t accept in a relationship going forward.
I broke the cycle of co-dependency, and you can, too! Start by taking a long look in the mirror. Then, square your shoulders and confront your demons. You’ve got this.