Healthy Relationships 101: How To Stop Being Codependent | Discover How To Stop Being Codependent Today

By: Abigail Boyd

Updated October 09, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Christine Baker

Codependency is an unhealthy relationship pattern in which you rely on your partner to provide your happiness, approval, and sense of identity. You think and feel responsible for other people's feelings, actions, wants, choices, and well-being. If this sounds familiar and you're in a relationship like this, read on. This article will cover how to stop being codependent.

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What is Codependency?

Historically, codependency has been defined within the context of a relationship. Typically, one party (whether a romantic partner, parent, or family member) lives with some sort of complex issue such as:

  • Alcoholism
  • Drug addiction
  • Gambling addiction
  • Mental health condition
  • Poor physical health or disability
  • Irresponsibility

The codependent individual would then care for the partner and their condition, taking the responsibility as their own. Examples include a codependent wife purchasing beer for her alcoholic husband to keep him from getting upset, or a codependent parent rescuing their adult child from the financial consequences of their irresponsible decisions.

These relationships are, for the most part, one-sided. The codependent individuals give much more than they receive and the result is an unhealthy balance for both people. The partner with the complex issue is never forced to deal with the consequences of their behavior. Meanwhile, the codependent partner becomes emotionally exhausted by cleaning up all the messes made by the partner with the complex issue.

The concept of codependency has evolved to become more of a "personality type" rather than existing solely within a relationship. Being raised in a dysfunctional or emotionally unhealthy home can cause people to become codependent and seek out additional codependent relationships.

Characteristics of a codependent individual are:

  • Caregiver
  • People-pleaser
  • Trouble with emotional intimacy
  • Sense of responsibility for other's feelings
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of being alone
  • Taking any negative comments or criticism as a personal attack

Wondering How to Stop Being Codependent?

If you have been in a codependent relationship for a long time, you may find it hard to accept that you can't change another person. Someone who is in a codependent relationship with a person who has alcoholism or drug addiction, for example, typically believes that if they just say and do the right things, their partner will stop and get their life on track. Codependency arises from a need to regain control over an out-of-control situation. It's important to remember that you are the only person you can change. If you recognize yourself as codependent, here are some things you can do.

  1. Research: Learn more about codependency, what it is, and what it is not. There are lots of self-help books on the subject and the more you read, the more you may find yourself within the pages. As you learn more and acknowledge your codependency, it will be easier to identify when your thoughts and actions are codependent and need to be adjusted so you can think in a healthier way. A great book to start with is, Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie.
  2. Recognize: As you learn more about codependency, be on the lookout for words, feelings, thoughts, or behaviors that you engage in that are codependent. Identify and reframe them in your mind. "My husband is mad today, but his happiness is not my responsibility. I do not have to feel anxious because he is having a hard day." That's an example of a way you can reframe a previously codependent thought.
  3. Regroup: After you've identified a codependent thought or action, choose to replace it with a healthy one. It will be difficult at first - especially because your partner has come to rely on you for unhealthy support around their issue - but this will get easier as time goes on and you feel healthier and more empowered.

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Usually by the time a person realizes they are displaying traits of codependency, these patterns are deeply established. While you're the only one who can change your life, support can be an invaluable part of the process. A counselor knowledgeable in codependency can help you navigate your way through.

Wondering How To Stop Being Codependent? Remember You Can Only Change You

If you have been codependent or in a codependent relationship for a long time, you may have a hard time letting go of the idea that you can't change another person. A person who is codependent with an alcoholic typically believes if they say and do the right things, their partner will stop drinking and get their life on track. Someone who is codependent with a mentally ill person who isn't trying to manage their illness may feel that the other person won't be able to do better unless they push them or make sacrifices to keep them calm.

However, people who have these and other complex issues don't learn how to get better when they have someone catering to all their unhealthy desires and fostering their unhealthy behaviors. When the caretaker partner provides the partner with complex issues with everything that they need and sacrifices their own wellbeing in the process, this is called "enabling." When you enable someone who is codependent they don't have the opportunity to grow or get better. This person never has to face the consequences of their behavior, so they never have the chance to grow as a person. Whether they're your romantic partner, your friend, or a close relative, you can't change them by making allowances for them.

The good news is that you can save yourself. That's the job you need to focus on now. A counselor can teach you how to identify and change your behaviors that are keeping you locked in codependency. They can encourage you to put your needs first so you can become stronger, more self-confident, and more emotionally healthy. Always remember that taking care of yourself is the healthiest thing you can do. After all, when you don't take care of you, someone else has to, putting you on the other end of the codependent relationship.

What Will Happen to the Other Person?

If you stop playing the role of caregiver with the other person, you allow them to learn and grow. This can be very difficult for them as well as difficult for you to watch. However, this sort of "tough love" will help the both of you grow as people emotionally. During this process, their demands may get more vocal or even more aggressive. A drug user might try harder to be on drugs, a gambler might lose more money, and a mentally ill person might begin to lose their grip on reality.

Whatever happens, you need to remember it isn't your responsibility. You can care about them, but being their caregiver won't help them conquer their issues. Instead, once they realize that they are causing their own problems, they might take the actions needed to change themselves. If not, you'll have to decide whether to continue in your old unhealthy ways or free yourself from their issues.

Can the Relationship Be Saved?

You might indeed be able to salvage a codependent relationship without going back to being codependent. However, you can't do it alone. The other person must do their part as well. The goal is to have an interdependent relationship in which both people give something to the relationship and also benefit from the relationship.

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Changing a codependent relationship is no easy task. A counselor can guide you through the process as you both learn new ways of thinking and behaving. You can have some effect simply by acting in ways that aren't codependent. Yet, if the other person's actions show that they aren't interested in a healthy relationship, at some point you will need to decide if staying in that situation is beneficial for your mental health.

Changing Longstanding Codependent Patterns

After you research and understand more about codependency, you might come to the conclusion that your codependency didn't start with your current relationship. This may have been your pattern for as long as you can remember. If so, it's even more important to shift your focus onto yourself, to what you need, and what makes you happy.

Longstanding patterns take time and effort to change. You might have to reassess everything you thought about relationships in the past. You'll have to get to know yourself as an individual, perhaps for the first time in your life. The insights gained during this type of therapy can be quite surprising and sometimes distressing. You might come to some epiphanies about yourself and the other person. Regardless of the realizations you come to, a trained therapist will be there to support you as you rediscover and accept yourself for who you are. And that's one of the most important things to figure out after you break a codependent dynamic: who are you?

Building a Life You Deserve

Being in therapy for codependency teaches you to value yourself. With the assistance of a counselor, you can learn ways of identifying codependent thoughts, behaviors, and feelings and replace them with empowering alternatives. If you stay in counseling long enough, you eventually reach a time in your life when you understand that you deserve peace and happiness.

Once you learn to value your own happiness, you'll be ready to rebuild your life on solid ground. Your counselor can guide you as you build a network of support made up of healthy, independent people. You might decide to begin a new career, go on a vacation alone or with mentally healthy friends, move to a new neighborhood, take up a new hobby, or simply rest as you reintroduce yourself to a new, healthier version of what used to be your codependent life. Your therapist will help you adjust to your new life and encourage you to work towards what you want. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues.


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Counselor Reviews

"As a victim of trauma I was told to find a very compassionate counselor and I am so grateful to her for having that quality and in a healthy manner as to not increase my codependency issues. Having trust issues as well, she never makes me feel shamed when I tell her about really sensitive issues. She is a great counselor and extremely knowledgeable in different aspects of therapy."

"Stephanie is a gem! She's very thoughtful, thorough, honest, insightful but most of all helpful. This is coming from a person that never wanted to do counseling and just "knew" I didn't need it. She's been key in helping my wife and I find our better place. She made us grow as a couple and individually. Thanks Steph!"

Why Change Now?

Codependency is not only mentally unhealthy; it can even be dangerous. The person who is dependent on you may sink deeper into their addictions or mental illness. This can sometimes lead to aggressive and hostile behaviors toward themselves and loved ones, including you.

You may say, "But that would never happen here!" You might be wrong about that but suppose you're right. Does that mean you want to continue in relationships that keep you bound in fear and sacrifice? Does it mean you don't want to be happy for yourself? Probably not, and the best way to make sure you have a life you can enjoy is to begin to make changes to get beyond your codependency.

Long-standing patterns take time and effort to change. You might have to reassess everything you thought about relationships in the past. You'll have to get to know yourself as an individual, perhaps for the first time in your life.

Only you can decide what you want your life to look like and only you can go out and claim it. Take the first step.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • What are the signs of a codependent person?

If a person is codependent, this means that they depend on another person for all their needs to be met. In many cases, these are physical needs and emotional needs. Signs of codependency include not feeling good about yourself, not being able to communicate well, and having a problem when faced with decisions of any sort. Oftentimes, codependency signifies unhealthy relationships, since it is usually tied to those affected by substance abuse issues or with other disorders, like bipolar disorder or eating disorders. If you are concerned that you are in a relationship like this, you may need to find a therapist, to help you with overcoming codependency and getting the support you need.

  • What causes codependency?

  • How to stop being codependent and How do you break the cycle of codependency? 

If you're wondering how to stop being codependent and you want to stop being so codependent as fast as possible, you will need to find a therapist that you would like to work with. They will be able to provide you the medical advice you need to start changing your codependent behavior. They will also be able to provide tests therapy to tell you if you have something else going on besides just codependency. For instance, you may have an underlying mental condition, like bipolar disorder, or you may have an issue with chronic pain, due to an injury. In fact, it is best to get checked out by a medical doctor and a therapist, when you are ready to change your life.

  • What are the 12 steps of codependency?

There are not 12 steps of codependency, but there are 12 steps associated with Co-Dependents Anonymous. You can read these steps on their site. These steps can be a help to you once you decide to stop being so codependent and reach out to find a therapist to work with, to get the treatment you need.

  • Are codependents controlling?

Most of the time codependents do not try to control a relationship. They have a hard time with control and usually give it all to their partner. 

  • What does a codependent relationship look like?

A codependent relationship can happen between any two people, whether the situation is romantic or not. The relationship is not a 50-50 partnership. One person is entrusting the other to make most of the decisions and rarely has opinions or anything to add to the equation. If you love people that seem like they are operating like this, you may want to read some of the latest health news to see how to approach the situation, before you suggest that they get the help they need.

  • What are examples of codependency?

One example of codependency is when two people are in a relationship, but one of them is making all the decisions. In this case, one will expect the other to be responsible for everything in the relationship. They are sometimes unable to do much of anything without their partner. This can place undue stress on the partner and change how a partner feels about the one with codependent tendencies. Another example is when someone doesn’t have self-confidence by themselves. They need to get it from other people or situations. A codependent person may feel like they won’t be able to survive without their partner and do whatever they can to make someone stay in a relationship with them.

  • Are codependents controlling?

It is thought that codependents are not controlling. They usually don’t feel secure enough to make decisions and will leave this to other people in the relationship. This can cause the other person to feel bad and you may feel like they are responsible for your partner’s condition. If you are in a codependent relationship, it is a good idea to find a therapist that can help them and also help you. You may be having a hard time as well as the other person in a codependent relationship, so don’t think that doesn’t matters.

Therapy Is Personal

Therapy is a personal experience, and not everyone will go into it seeking the same things. But, keeping these nine things in mind can ensure that you will get the most out of online therapy, regardless of what your specific goals are.

If you’re still wondering if therapy is right for you, and how much therapy costs, please contact us at contact@betterhelp.com. BetterHelp specializes in online therapy to help address all types of mental health concerns. If you’re interested in individual therapy, please reach out to contact@betterhelp.com. For more information about BetterHelp as a company, please find us on 
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