While it is completely normal to want to care for and support a loved one, it is important that both people in the relationship are mutually capable of making their own decisions and communicating their emotions and needs.
Co-dependency can occur when one person, known as the ‘giver’ constantly sacrifices their wants and needs for the ‘taker’, leading to an unequal partnership. People with co-dependent traits usually have difficulties enforcing boundaries because they would rather please others, often leading to a loss in identity and self-worth. Typically the other partner will take advantage of this and the relationship cycles between one person needing the other, who in turn needs to be needed.
Co-dependent relationships will leave you feeling drained, frustrated and unfulfilled. People in these types of relationships are often completely unaware, therefore the first step to break free from this cycle is to recognise the signs:
- Constantly putting the needs of others above your own and seeking their approval
- Difficulties communicating your own wants and needs in a relationship
- Difficulties making your own decisions in your relationship
- Feeling like you are ‘walking on egg shells’ around the other person due to a fear you will do something that may upset them
- Making excuses for your partner’s poor decisions
- Lacking trust in yourself and having low self-esteem
If some of these signs resonate with you, rest assured you are not alone. Whilst we are unable to control how other people behave, there are many strategies we can implement to change our own thoughts and actions to escape this unhealthy dynamic:
Practice effective communication:
If you are struggling to enforce clear boundaries, it may be helpful to explore and practice assertive communication skills in order to communicate your wants and needs. Allowing yourself to practice making decisions will also help improve confidence in your ability to speak up for yourself.
Engage in activities you enjoy:
It is common in co-dependent relationships to feel guilty engaging in your own hobbies and interests. It is important to reframe this mindset and reconnect with some activities you enjoy in order to improve your mental health and rediscover your identity.
Schedule some alone time:
Constantly putting others first can often mean we become disconnected from ourselves. It is important to spend some time alone to reflect on your emotions and needs. Dedicating time alone without your partner will help you regain independence and build trust that you are fully capable of making decisions on your own.
Speak to a professional:
Co-dependent relationships can be quite complicated and often it can be beneficial to speak to a trained professional who has the skills and expertise to provide emotional support whilst you navigate through these changes. At Positive Mind Works, we have several psychologists with experience in co-dependency who would be happy to help.
To book an appointment please call 1800 327 477 (AU) / 0800 327 477 (NZ) today or find a suitable appointment through our online booking here.