How to Overcome a Co-dependent Relationship

by | May 6, 2015

How To Overcome A Co-Dependent Relationship Nancy'S Counseling CornerSince co-dependent relationships are not healthy for you, why is it so hard to extricate yourself? Why is it so difficult to get out of a situation that is harmful to you? Well, we all hate change, even if that change may be for the better. And if you’ve been in a co-dependent relationship your whole life, it is all you know. It’s what you’re comfortable with.

You might believe that you are not worthy of a better relationship, so you’ll stay with a partner who devalues you. And you might fear being alone. It’s hard to go through a breakup when the result is that you’ll be on your own. But those are fears you must conquer if you want to stop sabotaging yourself with co-dependent relationships.

Break the co-dependency cycle.

If you are in a co-dependent relationship, you may well have grown up in a household where one or more parent suffers from some kind of addiction or other disorder, such as narcissism. And your parents may have also grown up in a dysfunctional household. And on and on. Wouldn’t it be great if you could be the one to break this destructive chain?

The first step is to recognize you’re in a co-dependent relationship. Yes, it’s good to please people, but not to the extent that you completely sublimate yourself. Yes, it’s natural to care what people think about you, but not to the point that you define your worth by others’ opinions of you. Yes, it’s good to be giving, but not to the point where you give so much that you ignore your own needs. You have to be able to say no to a partner who takes advantage of you, who is emotionally distant, who is verbally abusive.

Make yourself your first priority.

Once you do, you can begin to ban negative thoughts and destructive behavior. You can challenge your self-defeating thoughts and begin to understand that you are worthy of a healthy, happy life. You can let go of self-judgment and start to think how nice it will be once you are in a good relationship. Here are some steps to take:

  1. Notice your negative thoughts. Do you beat yourself up emotionally for saying the wrong thing? Do you replay your mistakes of the day over and over? This kind of negative judgment is no doubt harsher than any judgment you’d have over someone else. Have some compassion for yourself. And pay attention to these negative thoughts so you can recognize them early and nip them in the bud.
  2. Face up to your fears. This is so much easier said than done. But once you articulate that you are afraid to end your toxic co-dependent relationship because you don’t want to be alone, you’ll understand the problem. It’s the first step to solving it.
  3. Practice positive thinking. You are the only person you need to satisfy. You don’t need to prove your worth to anyone but yourself. And you are worthy. While you notice your negative thoughts so you can ban them, also notice the positive aspects of your life so you can emphasize them. Appreciate yourself.
  4. Accept help from others. You are on a journey of recovery, and there are many resources out there to help you on your way. Supportive friends are a good start. So is counseling with a therapist you trust. It’s a strong, healthy person who recognizes when it’s time to lean on others for support.
  5. Risk finding a healthy relationship. That means you have to give up the comfort you’ve found in familiar dysfunction. You have to give up feeling bad and start healing. Focus on your personal growth. Let others into your life, even though you fear rejection. Imagine yourself in a happy relationship, and then open your heart to receive it.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here:



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