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39 Ways to Stop Being Codependent & Relying on Others to Make You Happy

If you want to improve your relationship and stop the cycle of toxic behavior affecting your union, you need to learn how to stop being codependent.

How to Stop Being Codependent

Codependency is a weird state to be in. You rely on someone else for all of your happiness and emotional needs, and before you know it, you’re suffocating the other person with your clinginess and neediness! But if you want to learn how to stop being codependent, that’s a great start for now.

You’ve recognized a negative trait in yourself and are trying to fix it, and that’s the first step to a way better relationship and healthier life. [Read: What is a toxic relationship? 53 signs to recognize the love that hurts you]

What is codependent behavior?

Codependent behavior is a very complicated psychological term. In fact, there have been numerous books written about it. 

Some people lean towards codependent behavior in all their relationships, from romantic to platonic and even familial. Others only have these tendencies in romantic relationships.

What may seem like caring and devoted behavior is often codependency hidden behind a veil of love. Nearly every TV romance is built on the idea of codependent behavior. To many of us, it seems awfully romantic rather than brutally problematic. [Read: Toxic love – ways it can harm you permanently]

This is why being able to spot the signs of codependent behavior is so important.

There is a good chance you could be in a codependent relationship right now and not even realize it. Once you are able to identify codependent behavior, you’ll be surprised by how often you notice these traits in TV, movies, and your everyday life.

You need to remember that being overly dependent on anyone, be it a friend or a lover, is never a good thing. You lose sight of who you are and end up taking on an identity that’s solely tied to someone else.

Sometimes, your partner could even be enabling your codependent behavior because they enjoy being needed and having you cling to them.

It’s a subtle form of control and power play, and one where you’re left feeling helpless and weak when you don’t have your partner’s support. [Read: Why your codependent friendship is more unhealthy than you think]

What makes codependent behavior harmful?

Codependency isn’t just bad because you’re so reliant on your partner. It affects you negatively because it puts a lot of pressure on your partner as well.

For starters, if you never learn how to stop being codependent, you’ll keep sabotaging your relationships with your impossible expectations from your partner. Codependent behavior is and will always be toxic because you’re revolving your entire world around the other person.

Not only does your partner have to create their own happiness, but they also have to work twice as hard at keeping you happy as well. You’re always depending on one another to be happy, and that’s a dangerous way to live. [Read: 21 secret signs of a bad relationship that signal a bad future ahead]

Codependency could lead to a feeling of not being fulfilled in life and, ultimately, disappointment and resentment. You’ll go through life with only each other and pull away from everyone else who matters and as much as it can seem romantic, it’s toxic!

No matter how much you love someone or admire them, an essential aspect of healthy relationships is having a sense of individuality. There’s no scenario where you can have a healthy and thriving relationship if you never learn how to stop being codependent. [Read: 21 signs of a clingy girlfriend & how to avoid turning into one]

Signs of codependent behavior

Before you can start learning how to stop being codependent, you need to recognize whether it’s a problem for you or not. The fact you’re reading this should give you a clue.

While not every codependent person will have every sign on this list, these are the most common to look for. [Read: 16 silly bad habits that can hurt your relationship]

1. You let their mood change your mood

When you are around this person and they had a bad day, you feed off their energy. If they are in a bad mood, you let it define your day. Your day is now revolved around their mood. 

Do you walk on eggshells around them so you don’t further annoy them? Do you do everything you can to improve their mood?

Have you ever wondered why this is the case? You’re not an empath – you might just be codependent! The fact your mood relies on theirs speaks volumes about your codependent behavior. [Read: What is an empath? 17 ways you feel deeper and stronger than other people

2. You take responsibility for their feelings and even actions

This is very common. If your partner does something wrong, you take responsibility. You claim that if you hadn’t done A, they wouldn’t have done B. If they have a bad day, it’s your responsibility to improve it.

And if they did something wrong, it is because you didn’t do something right in the first place. You always take the blame, even when it isn’t your fault. [Read: The hidden signs of a one-sided relationship we all choose to ignore]

3. You place their struggles on yourself

A typical codependent relationship is a little like one between an addict and a sober person. The sober person takes on the addiction as a project yet ends up enabling their partner.

Whether the partner gets drunk or high, the codependent person will take care of them and give them what they want to make it better, but it only leads to more bad behavior.

By doing this, the addict’s sobriety begins to define the sober one’s sense of self. 

You like fixing them, changing them, or saving them. If there’s something broken about your partner, you make a point to encourage their betterment. [Read: Dependent personality disorder – what it is & how to read the signs]

4. You crave their approval

It’s standard codependent behavior when you crave their approval and validation, and you don’t feel at ease without it. You’re not just a words-of-affirmation person, but you’re codependent on them!

If they aren’t proud of something you did, you lose passion and excitement for it. You won’t cut your hair if they don’t want you to. Your self-worth depends solely on their vision of you.

If they say no, you won’t push through with something you wanted to do initially. In other words, their approval controls your decisions. [Read: How to be less codependent on someone else and enjoy your life as it could be]

5. You cover up for them

This is a challenging part of codependency as it can put you in a tough position. It can be in both big and small things. Say your partner drives drunk and runs over your neighbor’s mailbox. You will take the blame or come up with a lie to ensure your partner is safe.

You will essentially put their needs and safety above your own every time. 

There’s a massive difference between making them a priority and taking the fall for them. You provide everything for them in a heartbeat, even before they ask you, and all the cost of your own life and well-being. [Read: How to stop being codependent and have a healthy relationship]

6. You feel unworthy of something more

Deep down, you know you are unhappy. You may even feel stuck in this relationship or friendship. It’s even harder when it’s family, but you feel like this is just the way it is and there is no way out. 

Why do you feel that way? You’re stuck in this constant cycle of needing validation from them and making your entire life revolve around them.

You excessively need them to feel better about yourself. Someplace deep inside, you’ve lost your sense of self so much that you don’t believe you deserve something more than this. You don’t believe you deserve to focus on yourself and your happiness. [Read: The 15 signs of a taker in the relationship – are you a giver or taker?]

7. You “need” them

You probably think it’s romantic to be told you’re needed. While you can need someone, it should never be at the expense of revolving your life and the choices around them. Otherwise, that’s codependent behavior.

You feel like you won’t make it without them. You need them in your life. Even if they make you miserable, you cannot be apart from them. Just the idea of breaking up gives you anxiety.

You feel like you can’t breathe without them, and they’re your only sense of purpose in life. [Read: How to stop being needy – why people become clingy & how to fix it]

8. You try to change or fix them

You put all your effort into making them better. It could be their addiction, immaturity, lack of focus, or growth that you’ve assigned to yourself. This is your goal.

Remember what we said about making them your personal project? You’re obsessed with making them into a better version of themselves.

You desperately believe that they will see all you do for them and appreciate you and change if you just do one more thing for them. 

But, all the while, if they do change, you will lose your sense of self because that has become defined by their issue. Don’t you realize that their damage is also being inflicted upon you? [Read: Should you try and change your partner for the better?]

9. You don’t know who you are without them

If there’s anything more evident among the signs of codependent behavior, it’s this particular sign. You lose your sense of self when you’re codependent, one way or another.

If you want to join a workout class, you can’t do it without their approval. You want to try a new recipe, but you can’t because it isn’t their thing. If someone asks you what you want, you immediately respond with what your special person would want.

It’s as if you’re obsessed with them and have made your whole life revolve around them, not you. [Read: How to spot selfish people and stop them from hurting you]

10. You lack independence

You can’t be self-reliant, even if you try. So, if you constantly find the need to be with your partner 24/7 and do something related to your relationship, you’re being codependent.

You can’t handle being on your own two feet, and you constantly lack the independence to be an individual person with your own set of hobbies and interests.  

Independence is very crucial in a relationship because without it, there’s much more pressure on your partner to always attend to and cater to your needs. [Read: How to be independent even if you’re in a relationship]

11. Your entire happiness depends on them

If there’s a common sign of codependent behavior, it’s weighing your entire happiness on them. There’s nothing healthy about this when it comes to a relationship or even a friendship. 

When you date someone, it’s essential that your happiness doesn’t rely exclusively on them. They should just complement the happiness you already have on your own. When you can’t be happy without them by your side, that’s how you know that your happiness depends on them.

12. You people please

We all like pleasing people in one way or another. But if you tend to be a people pleaser all the time, you also have codependent behavior. You will go out of your way for someone, and while this can be a good thing, your intentions are driven by being a people-pleaser.

This is also why your mood and energy levels are highly connected to how your partner feels. If they’re in a bad mood, you’ll likely be affected by this. [Read: 20 signs you’re a people pleaser and don’t realize it]

13. You have no boundaries

It’s typical codependent behavior when you can’t set any boundaries in your relationship, nor can you stick with them. So if you lack boundaries, you already know you’re codependent. You want to be with your partner 24/7, which is why you don’t bother setting any boundaries with them.

You don’t care about the invasion of your personal space nor do you feel disrespected when your partner snoops or keeps an eye on you without your notice. [Read: How to set personal boundaries & guide other people to respect it]

14. You feel claustrophobic

Since you’re codependent, you tend to feel like the weight of your relationship weighs down on every other part of your life. You may want to try something new or do something by yourself, but the web of codependency holds you back from any new experience. 

While you don’t generally dislike this feeling, there are times when you feel claustrophobic in the relationship. You feel stuck and burdened, and yet, you feel like you can’t get away from it. It’s a blessing and a curse that you secretly enjoy and detest at the same time.

This makes you carry an invisible burden, no matter how much you love or care about your partner. [Read: Smothered in a relationship – 37 signs and ways to stop feeling suffocated]

15. You find it hard to communicate

Communication will always be vital in any relationship, but it’s difficult for you to communicate when you have codependent behavior.

Being codependent often means you’re unaware of your own wants and needs, and you don’t know how to express them to your partner. You feel that by communicating or being assertive, you’ll upset the other person. [Read: How to communicate in a relationship – 16 steps to a better love]

How to stop being codependent and get to healthy place in your relationship

If you’re in a very codependent relationship, things need to change. It’s not healthy for either of you to continue like this. But the good thing is you recognized that codependency is a bad thing.

The next step is to fix it. Here’s how to do just that.

1. Identify whether you’re being codependent in the first place

First things first, you have to know what you’re working with, and that means being open and honest with yourself. Do you think you’re being codependent? Do you feel like you rely upon others for how you feel about yourself and the things you say and do?

Be honest. There’s no shame in admitting it, as long as you’re focused on learning how to be less codependent if the truth is that you need to. Do a spot of deep thinking and figure out your starting point. [Read: Am I codependent? Signs you’re way too clingy and overstepping boundaries]

2. Identify whether your needs and wants are being met

Codependent people often don’t get to do the things they really want to, and most of the time, their needs aren’t met. Of course, this is nobody else’s fault but their own. But to change the situation and learn how to be less codependent, you’ll have to know what you want and need in the first place.

More deep thinking is required here. Ask yourself what you want and what you need in life to be happy. Are you getting it? If not, how can you make a plan to ensure that you do?

3. Talk to your partner

As with any issue in any relationship, communication is vital. You can’t learn how to stop being codependent if you don’t talk to your partner first. They may not even recognize the codependency that’s happening, and that means it’s up to you to set things straight.

First, talk about what’s going on and then explain why it’s bad. You can use your own unhappiness and insecurity as a means of getting them to actually listen since many people will go on the defense or pretend codependency is not unhealthy. [Read: Am I toxic? How to tell if you’re the toxic one and not everyone else]

4. Agree to work together

You have to come to terms with things together. You can’t be the only one working to fix this. It’s going to take the both of you putting forth your total effort to make this happen.

You have become a team, so as frustrating as codependent behavior is, you can’t pit yourselves against one another. Try to see what both of you can do to improve the relationship.

5. Reach out to family and friends

You need to start building up those relationships again. If you’re codependent, you’ve probably lost touch with a lot of your old friends.

Make sure they know you’re sorry for ignoring them, and that you’re willing to spend time with them and rebuild your friendships. Of course, you need to know that they may harbor resentment towards you for ignoring them all this while. [Read: Am I a bad friend? The bad friendship skills that push people away]

6. Make more plans without each other

The whole idea behind learning how to stop being codependent is looking at your life as two people coming together, not two people forming a single unit. You need to spend time apart.

Start making plans without each other. It may be awkward to try something without your partner next to you, but really, what have you got to lose? Start small, a trip to the grocery store or a coffee shop by yourself is a great start.

Even if you’re convinced all of this would be a lot more fun with your partner around, resist the urge. At first, try something by yourself. And when you’re mentally prepared, try to take on more activities by yourself. [Read: What to do when you’re bored at home with nothing to do]

7. Get your own separate hobbies

Most codependent couples have the same hobbies. They do everything together, and while it may seem like a lot of fun, it’s not helping you get over your codependency.

So try some new hobbies and have them be just yours. It’s refreshing to have a unique, interesting hobby of your own that your partner doesn’t partake in. Maybe it’s hitting the gym, reading a book, or even watching your favorite show on Netflix.

Start small, and try to spend thirty minutes away from each other. Take pleasure in your alone time, and very soon, you’ll be able to enjoy your own favorite activities that define you as a person, not as a part of a couple. [Read: How to be more interesting and make everyone want to know you]

8. Find happiness without your significant other

Your partner should make you happy, that’s one of the requirements of a healthy relationship. But what’s not okay is if you’re now solely dependent on them to make you happy.

They may be your soulmate, but you still need to be able to define happiness on your own terms as well. Happiness isn’t being stuck at the hips with your partner. Happiness is enjoying your couple time AND having your own happy times as well!

Stop over-romanticizing your relationship and learn to be okay with the idea of being happy without them. Now, that’s what a healthy relationship is. [Read: 15 signs of a healthy relationship that keep couples happy and in love]

9. Learn what healthy relationships look like

Your definition of a healthy relationship may have changed over time, as you slipped deeper into your relationship. But if you want to know how to stop being codependent, you need to redefine the role of love in your life. Yes, it’s important, but not at the cost of you losing your individuality.

As much as you might think being with your partner 24/7 is a good thing, it’s not. Sometimes, what you think is healthy could just be toxic.

10. Get professional help when needed

This is probably the hardest one on this list of learning how to stop being codependent. Sometimes you can’t get rid of that codependency on your own. You may need professional help in the form of counseling, and that’s perfectly fine.

Seeking help means you really want to become a better person and partner. It’s better to get the help you really need than to let your relationship suffer. [Read: Relationship therapy and 25 clues to know if it can help you]

11. Confront your issues

Codependent behavior is never healthy in any relationship, and is often caused by your own issues. You may not want to admit this, but codependent behavior all comes down to baggage you may be refusing to face. Maybe you lacked love from your parents or weren’t shown love in the right way.

It’s easy to apply bad behavior even in our relationships unintentionally, but you have a choice in the matter. If you really want to be a better partner and stop codependent behavior, fixing your internal issues is the key.

12. Work on your attachment style

We all relate to a particular attachment style, whether it’s anxious, avoidant, anxious-avoidant, or secure. These are the four attachment styles and working on your attachment can help you unlearn some of your codependent behavior.

Just because you tend to cling to your partner when you get anxious doesn’t mean that behavior is okay. You’re going to have to work on unlearning this type of behavior. [Read: The attachment styles and how they impact your relationship]

13. Know that your partner still loves you

If your partner makes plans without you or goes out with their own friends occasionally, it’s not a form of attack.

Even in a relationship, maintaining a healthy balance of me-time, social-time and couple-time is important to avoid becoming codependent. Your partner won’t love you less just because they do something without you around. [Read: How to stop being so sensitive about everything all the time]

14. Create boundaries

Boundaries are important in any healthy relationship. It teaches people how to love you and it teaches you how to value yourself more.

Without boundaries, codependency will keep slipping into your relationship, and there will come a point where you both won’t have any other choice but to call it quits. So if you don’t want that to happen, create healthy boundaries and learn to stick to them. [Read: How to set boundaries in a relationship – 15 rules for healthy love]

15. Understand that being yourself is the only thing you can genuinely be

We’re all different, but that’s what makes us special. Being unique is part of who you are. There is nobody else like you, and you’re not like anyone else, no matter how hard you might try.

Would you rather be a unique person or a fake version of somebody different?

Write a list of all your best points and focus on them every single day. Yes, we all have flaws, but don’t think about those! Think about your good points and feel good about them.

By doing that, you’re going to have pride in being the wonderful person you are. [Read: Here are the steps to unfake your life and love being you!]

16. Learn to overcome, minimize, or avoid your triggers

Once you’ve identified your triggers, a big step in learning how to be less codependent is either overcoming them, avoiding them, or minimizing your exposure to them.

Maybe one of your triggers is about a particular person. In that case, question why this person makes you feel that way and work out what you can do to overcome it, minimize it, or avoid it. 

Do you need to spend some time away from them? Do you need to focus on yourself for a while? What do you need in order to make this trigger less troublesome in your life? [Read: How to stop being so sensitive about everything all the time]

17. Understand that you control your happiness, moods, and actions

The only person who can make you feel bad is yourself. The only person who can make you do something is yourself. And, the only person who can make you happy is yourself.

You cannot rely upon other people for happiness or allow your moods to be affected by others to a huge degree either.

When you learn this and really commit it to memory, life will become easier. You’ll learn how to become less codependent because you know that other people can’t bring you the comfort and ease that you can bring to yourself.

Sure, other people can make you feel happy, but you’re the only person who can really bring joy to your own life. [Read: How to live a happy life – 15 things you HAVE to know]

18. Learn to value yourself

You’re wonderful, you know that? Focus on your strengths. Learn to do the things you want to do without feeling the need for someone else to tell you it’s okay, and celebrate every success that you have.

Over time, you’ll understand that your self-worth comes from you and no one else. [Read: How to respect yourself: Secrets to self-worth and self-belief]

19. Reconnect with your partner on a different level 

Changing things around a little might help. It could be that your relationship has fallen into a rut of the same thing day in, day out. So, shake things up a little! Plan a mini-break, have a regular date night, do things you wouldn’t normally do.

By incorporating this with time alone, you’re boosting your own confidence, improving your relationship, and you’ll have a lot more to talk about as a result! [Read: Emotional roller coaster – are you stuck in an unhealthy ride?]

20. Dedicate a full day to self care

Have you heard of self-care Sundays? Well, if not, you need to start trying it! It doesn’t have to be a Sunday, but it needs to be one day that you dedicate to yourself completely. 

This isn’t just doing a few more things that you enjoy, it’s having one full day per week or every couple of weeks when you pamper yourself, say “no” to any demands anyone is placing upon you. You only do what you want.

You’ll feel wonderful for it and it will make you realize your power once more. [Read: How to take care of yourself emotionally and avoid falling apart]

21. Start writing a journal 

Sometimes, we don’t realize the things we do until we see them written down. Journaling is a fantastic way to bring self-awareness into your life. 

It can also help you to recognize patterns of behaviors and triggers too. 

So, grab a notebook and scribble a few things down every day. It doesn’t have to be a full story of the day and how it went, just a few keywords or sentences about anything of note and how you felt about it.

After a couple of weeks, sit down and read through your journal and identify any patterns or points that you weren’t aware of at the time.

Make this a regular review session and you’ll have more awareness of your potential codependency issues. Then, you can start incorporating more ways to learn how not to be codependent. [Read: How to improve yourself – 16 powerful secrets of self-improvement]

22. Push yourself out of your comfort zone

Sometimes we just get a little comfortable. When you try to push out of it, it can be scary, but it’s necessary. 

If you feel like you’ve fallen into a codependency pattern, try to find the bravery to do things you wouldn’t normally do. If you’re terrified of going to the cinema alone, do it. You’ll soon see how unscary the whole thing is.

Perhaps you’re not keen on making strong decisions alone, without asking your partner – just do it and see what happens. 

Much of the time, we’re just scared of the unknown. Once it’s not unknown anymore, it loses its power. [Read: Powerful steps to break out of your comfort zone]

23. Set yourself small goals

It’s much easier to learn how not to be codependent if you have something to focus on. Set yourself small goals that you can work towards. Make sure they’re not wildly unattainable, otherwise you’re just setting yourself up for failure.

Perhaps you could set yourself a goal to go to the gym on your own four nights per week. Do it and see how you feel. Then, set yourself a goal to not call your partner the next time they go out with their friends.

The more you do these things and the more goals you achieve, the stronger you’ll feel. [Read: 18 ways to have high self-esteem and start winning at life]

24. Learn to challenge your thoughts

Sometimes, codependency can occur because of overthinking. Negative thoughts can easily take hold and once that happens, it’s easy to believe them over the positives. Over time, this erodes your self-confidence and makes the whole picture ten times worse.

The next time you notice yourself having a thought that could lead to codependent behavior, stop and challenge it. 

For example, if your partner has gone out for an evening with friends and you start to worry that they’re going to cheat on you, stop and challenge it. Ask yourself what evidence you have that that’s going to be the case.

Once you find that you have zero evidence to base your thoughts on, you’ll find it easier to push it away. [Read: How to stop overthinking in a relationship and calm your mind down]

Of course, you still need your partner to a degree

Learning how to stop being codependent doesn’t mean you’ll never rely upon your partner for anything again. Part of being in a relationship is being vulnerable enough to need your partner too. What you need to achieve is an equal balance between your independence and your relationship.

It’s normal to miss your partner when they go away for a short while, and even when you’ve been away from each other for a few hours. It’s normal to wonder what they’re up to and where they are. 

This is part of being connected to another human being on an emotional level. What isn’t healthy is needing your partner to feel happy and grounded. That needs to come from within you, not from another person, partner, or otherwise. [Read: What does a healthy relationship look like? Your guide to rebuilding the perfect one]

By learning to be more independent, you’re not moving away from your relationships. You’re simply enhancing your life, regaining your identity, and also improving your relationship. 

You’ll have much more to talk about, you’ll be stronger and happier, and your partner will notice these differences as a huge positive too.

[Read: Healthy relationship boundaries – how to talk about them and set them with your loved ones]

Use these steps to learn how to stop being codependent and change now. The faster you fix it, the better it is for you, your partner, and your relationship too.

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Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...