How to Stop a Co-Dependent Relationship from Continuing

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This article describes the process of how to end an unhealthy co-dependent relationship and rebuild a new and healthier relationship from the old one.

Things You'll Need

  • A strong desire and will to change the co-dependent situation you are in.
  • Co-dependency is when a person acts against their own personal beliefs, wants, needs, and desires to please someone else. The first step is realizing this is happening and when exactly it is occurring. If you've ever done something for someone and really didn't want to do it because you didn't want to upset the other person, you were acting in a co-dependent manner.

  • The second step of overcoming a co-dependent relationship after understanding that one is taking place, is to begin taking action. Stop care taking, or taking care of other people. Your friends or significant others are fully capable of taking care of themselves. There is a huge difference between caring about someone (healthy) and caring for someone (unhealthy). Children are an exception when they are very small, but even they have the ability to make their own choices and care for themselves to a large degree at a rather young age. Caring for someone actually lowers the other person's self-esteem as they can come to believe they are incapable of taking care of themselves.

  • When you begin taking action, the other person(s) in the co-dependent relationship will notice. You now must learn to become assertive and stand up for yourself. This is not about being selfish and it is not about being aggressive about standing up for yourself. It is about expressing your feelings openly and letting others know how you feel about having to "take care of" others. You do this by stating your boundaries of what you feel is acceptable and what is not. You can only take care of yourself and your own personal happiness must come first. If you are not happy and healthy, how are you supposed to function in everyday life and all of your relationships? The short answer is you can't.

  • Once you begin being assertive about changing the unhealthy relationship and others take notice and begin to cooperate, show your appreciation for their efforts. Doing so is a positive reinforcement and will encourage the other person to continue to change for the better.

  • If the other person continues to violate your personal boundaries, restate what you feel is right and that you will not allow it to continue. This does NOT necessarily mean ending the relationship, it means that you will not be a full participant in everything while it continues to go on. For example, if a fight ensues, you would state you are not going to be a part of it and you would remove yourself from the situation by going for a walk, drive, or even going out to catch a movie or cup of coffee. You can substitute any negative behavior that violates your boundaries with the fight in the example above. Let the other person know there are consequences to their actions and that you will not tolerate the behavior any longer.

Tips & Warnings

  • Changing a co-dependent relationship takes time. Be patient through the process and take notice of all the small positive changes along the way.
  • Remember to always state how you feel by using "I" statements. Do not blame or criticize others for their actions. You cannot control others, but telling others how their actions make you feel gives them an opportunity to realize what they are doing may be hurting others.
  • Find things to do on your own or with other friends. Taking up a new hobby or sport helps to reestablish your sense of self-worth after a lengthy co-dependent relationship. Get out and be your own person.
  • Constantly doing things for someone else that they are fully capable of doing for their self is not a healthy relationship.
  • Feeling like you are "walking on eggshells" with someone in a relationship is one sign of a co-dependent relationship. A healthy relationship involves open and honest communication.
  • Other feelings that are warning signs of a co-dependent relationship include: low self-esteem, no boundaries, little or no real communication of feelings, wants or needs, anger, and little or no intimacy.
  • A person in a healthy relationship will never expect another person to act or react a certain way to something they do. This is a form of control and the feelings of being let down or dissappointed in someone else is a real sign of a co-dependent relationship.
  • Freely offering advice when it is not asked for is also a sign you are a co-dependent person. You are not responsible for others actions or the outcome of a situation. Learn to be supportive in rough times instead of trying to be a problem solver. Everyone must learn to stand on their own two feet.
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