A codependent relationship is an unhealthy dynamic in which someone frames their identity around the relationship to the detriment of their partner. Thus, this person experiences a loss of self as their self-esteem depends on the relationship.
Some codependent relationship red flags are a lack of boundaries and people-pleasing behaviors. You do not need to carry the label ‘codependent’ throughout life. Although those who break away from the cycle still struggle after leaving the relationship, you can develop self-compassion with a few strategies. The process may take time because you’ve abandoned yourself and remained silent concerning your needs for a long time. However, healing is possible if you’re trying to recover or help a loved one find themselves again. Reclaim your life by learning how to cope after a codependent relationship.
What Is a Codependent Relationship?
“Am I in a codependent relationship?” To know whether this relationship dynamic applies to your situation, you must understand what a codependent relationship is. Oftentimes, people in codependent relationships feel an imbalance. They may also feel powerless and obligated to remain in the relationship, despite sensing it is unhealthy.
Codependency is often used to encompass different categories of unhealthy relationship behaviors. The term originated in the 1940s to describe enabling behaviors of someone in substance use disorder situations. For instance, a person struggling with an addiction is enabled by their partner. The enabler often neglects their needs, and the relationship becomes their focus, which becomes a codependent situation. Although this is a common form of codependency, the concept of codependency has been explored with other dysfunctional dynamics, such as manipulative and controlling relationships.
Life After a Codependent Relationship
Leaving a codependent relationship allows you to start anew, but it can feel crippling in the beginning. Your sense of worth was tied to your relationship. Therefore, you need to learn to heal the emotional wounds left as a result. It is a new chapter of your life that requires you to address the issues that stripped away your autonomy.
Reject your self-abandonment ways
Codependency in relationships leads to an unhealthy need to serve others while abandoning your own needs. After leaving the relationship, self-abandonment may become more evident. Because your self-esteem was dependent on the relationship, you will need to learn to care for yourself again.
Self-abandonment is the reliance on external factors to feel inner fulfillment. This is what ultimately happens in codependent situations. Throughout the relationship, you’ve forgotten what giving value and attention to your needs means. To fully feel like yourself again, you must let go of self-abandonment. You do this by prioritizing yourself, establishing boundaries, and practicing self-awareness.
Redefine your values
You must learn to view yourself in high regard, and your values can guide you. They are necessary to your self-esteem as they are a compass to your way of life. The priorities you held while in the relationship will differ once it ends.
Living by your values is a strong indicator of authenticity. These things matter to you; thus, they promote more meaning in your life. You may not understand your core values while in a codependent relationship. After leaving, the concept may still be unclear, but redefining your values is key in determining the person you want to become.
First, take a moment to identify a list of values, approximately 5-10. Second, assess what these values personally mean to you. Third, highlight the values you prioritize the most. Your values will change as you grow; therefore, establishing a guiding principle system after a codependent relationship is necessary for your recovery process.
Focus on healing
Breakups are difficult, even when the situation was toxic. The unhappiness you felt in the relationship lingers after it ends. In addition, you also lack the source of fulfillment that you were excessively dependent on. Ultimately, it becomes difficult to face as you feel like you’re dealing with many things simultaneously.
Take care of your healing by addressing the root cause of codependency. This may have started in childhood and carried on into subsequent relationships. For instance, it can be a learned behavioral pattern that may stem from childhood because you felt that your parents’ happiness was your responsibility. As you become an adult, you adopt this mindset for other relationships. This is unsustainable and leads to a conditional system of contributing to other people’s happiness at the expense of yours. Start the healing process by seeking support through counseling and peer-support groups.
Reignite the connection to self
You must learn what it means to be you outside of your relationship. The first step is to acknowledge the situation you were in and how you are feeling about it. Take steps to love yourself again by building a relationship with yourself.
You have a flawed view of your sense of self; therefore, an inaccurate description of who you are as an individual. Connecting with yourself helps you develop a proper image of who you truly are, which helps promote a healthier self-concept. The way you achieve the happiness you are extremely worthy of is by being your own cheerleader. Start by telling yourself you are not responsible for other people’s feelings and thoughts. Instead, take responsibility for yourself and your needs.
Stop bypassing emotional self-care
Your self-care is essential, especially in these moments. Difficult emotions will arise after ending the relationship, and learning to cope with them efficiently is part of your emotional self-care. You may experience sadness, happiness, or both all at once. Taking your emotional self-care seriously helps you discover healthier management tools.
Ask yourself, “What makes me truly feel good?”. In a codependent relationship, your focus is meeting other people’s needs to meet your emotional needs. Instead of taking the passenger seat for your emotional self-care, you can now become the driver. Take charge of your own emotions by learning how to regulate them properly. Journal your emotions and consider mindfulness practices, such as meditation.
Develop a growth mindset
Learn what it means to be in a healthy relationship in the future by adopting a growth mindset. The focus of a growth mindset is that effort helps you achieve what you are pursuing. If you adopt a growth mindset about your journey, you won’t be deterred by the challenges you face while healing.
The term “growth mindset” was defined by Dr. Carol Dweck, and it establishes that your qualities can further be nurtured through self-belief and hard work. Although this concept is often used in the academic sense, it can be applied to life. You are learning to become a stronger version of yourself with abundant self-love and a deep understanding of self. One way to reach your best self is by believing in yourself, improving from your mistakes as you learn, and not giving up. For instance, you may say, “I’m not strong enough to heal,” if you don’t have a growth mindset. Instead, change the narrative and change those words by embracing a growth mindset.
Expand on self-love
You’ve sacrificed many aspects of yourself while in a codependent relationship. To unlearn these self-neglect behaviors, you need to rely on yourself more. One way to learn self-reliance is through self-love.
Take the time to appreciate yourself and embrace everything that makes you who you are. It can look different for various individuals, but honoring yourself remains the same. Be gentle with yourself and learn to cater to your needs. This way, you’ll learn to be compassionate with yourself and build a healthier form of empathy towards others.
Work on self-validation
For instance, in a codependent romantic relationship, your feelings may result from what your partner thinks about you. This is because you are seeking external validation. Therefore, your daily dose of happiness stems from doing things that will procure a specific response from your partner. You feed your self-worth through these external mediums, which is why it is important to self-validate.
It is time to validate your emotions and embrace your internal experiences. Self-validation is a healthy way to step away from negative criticisms and judgments of yourself. Be assertive about your personal beliefs and understand that you don’t need anyone else’s approval to be happy. You can work on self-validation by being mindful of your self-talk, addressing your needs, and surrounding yourself with supportive individuals.
The behaviors observed in codependent toxic relationship dynamics are the signs of deep-rooted unresolved issues. Without becoming aware of the patterns and addressing the root cause, people may continue codependent cycles in all their relationships.
In a codependent relationship, an individual may experience difficulties with their self-concept. They’ve given control of their individuality to their relationship, making it difficult for them to have a clear sense of self. After leaving a codependent relationship, you may still struggle to find contentment. As psychotherapist Ross Rosenburg describes it, codependency creates addiction withdrawal pain, which deepens feelings of worthlessness and loneliness. Although you may not feel it immediately, the end of the codependent relationship is your first step to recovery. The next few steps of your healing require self-rediscovery, which you can take with the steps in this article.