Marriage is a beautiful thing – it’s such a comforting feeling to know you’ve got someone to have and to hold and to share life’s ups and downs with.
But sometimes, it can become toxic when one or both partners become codependent.
Codependency happens when one partner relies on the other to meet their emotional or physical needs, to the point of sacrificing their own happiness and well-being.
Both partners enable each other – one likes being taken care of, while the other likes feeling needed.
Of course, in marriage, we’re supposed to provide support for our spouses. But how much is too much? Is the support we give still healthy, or has it crossed the line into enabling?
If you’re in a codependent relationship, I have good news for you. There are things you can do to break free and save your marriage.
In this article, I’ll share 10 tips to help you and your partner overcome codependency issues and stay healthy and happy.
1) Develop healthy communication
Codependency can get in the way of establishing healthy communication in a relationship. For example, a codependent person may struggle with being honest and open because they are too scared to upset their partner.
The result? Bottled-up feelings.
And we know that’s never good for any relationship. In a codependent marriage, it can even lead to further codependency.
You see, communication is essential to any healthy relationship. It’s important that your marriage has a safe space for each partner to express their needs and feelings without fear of judgment.
2) Establish boundaries
Aside from maintaining an open and honest communication style, it’s also essential to set boundaries.
In a codependent relationship, boundaries tend to be blurred. As partners become more intertwined on every level, they can lose their sense of self.
The lack of boundaries is also draining, especially for the “giver,” the partner on whom the “taker” leans excessively.
Going forward, make sure you and your partner know what’s acceptable and unacceptable in your relationship. Learn how to say no to the other person’s demands and practice asserting yourself when necessary.
This will help you avoid situations where one of you is relying on the other to meet their needs.
3) Encourage individuality
Codependency often arises when one partner’s identity is consumed by the other.
As I mentioned earlier, the lack of boundaries contributes to the loss of a sense of self.
For a marriage to thrive, both partners need to be whole.
So, encourage your spouse to pursue their own interests and maintain their own identity.
Practice spending time alone and having your own hobbies. Meet up with your own circle of friends without your partner.
You can still support each other without losing your individuality. Plus, doing your own thing gives you something new to talk about with your partner when you reconnect.
4) Practice self-care
In my book, “Breaking the Attachment: Overcome Codependency and Create Healthy, Fulfilling Relationships,” I often emphasize the need for better self-care.
You see, I’m a big believer in the saying, “You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.”
Unfortunately, in a codependent relationship, self-care is one of the first things to go.
In this type of relationship, the focus is on pleasing the other person and maintaining the relationship at any cost, rather than prioritizing one’s own well-being. One partner might even feel guilty or selfish for putting their own needs first.
Break free of this pattern by prioritizing your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
Again, this boils down to establishing healthy boundaries. You’ve got to be able to say what you want out of a relationship and take time off for yourself whenever you need it.
5) Look at your relationship objectively
As a relationship expert, one of the tips I like sharing with people who come to me for advice is this: think of your relationship as a separate aspect from yourself.
In other words, don’t let it define you. Your relationship is important, yes, but it’s just one aspect of your life.
By viewing your relationship as a separate entity, you can create some emotional distance and objectivity. This can help you examine it with a more objective eye, identify areas of improvement, and work on strengthening it.
That said, it’s important not to create too much distance that you fail to give it the attention and care it deserves.
The key is to strike a balance – make your relationship a priority, but not at the expense of your own well-being.
6) Learn to recognize your “triggers” and step back
Just like other kinds of habits, codependency habits have a trigger.
For example, a codependent person might jump in to help their partner even if they haven’t asked for help.
In such a case, it might be helpful to identify what makes you react that way. Is it a need to control the situation? Do you like feeling needed?
This can help you challenge the way you react in the future.
You can then take a step back and wait for the situation to resolve itself without your involvement. You can temper your responses and step in only when your partner comes to you and asks for your help.
7) Foster interdependence
Research shows that it’s better to break a bad habit by replacing it with a new, good one instead of stopping the bad behavior alone.
In this light, aim to replace codependent behavior with interdependence.
What does this look like?
I’ll give you an example: instead of relying on one partner to do everything, share responsibilities for a change.
Support each other while maintaining boundaries and your own individuality.
With both partners sharing the load, the dynamic changes from being one-sided to equal.
8) Establish goals together
Speaking of interdependence, here’s one thing that can help you move towards a healthier dynamic – decide on what you want to achieve together.
Setting and working towards common goals can help to strengthen your relationship and promote interdependence.
This will give you both a sense of purpose and help you work together towards a shared vision.
9) Celebrate small wins
When you meet those goals you’ve set for your relationship, make sure you celebrate them!
Remember to celebrate each other’s successes as well, whether big or small.
A healthy marriage means creating a positive environment where you both acknowledge each other’s individuality and abilities outside of the relationship.
10) Seek professional help
Sometimes breaking the thought patterns you’ve developed over the years may be more than you can handle on your own.
If your codependency is severe, consider seeking the help of a professional therapist.
A trained therapist can help you figure out the root of your codependency and guide you through the healing process. They can give you better strategies for building a healthier relationship.
You might wonder, what’s so bad about being in a codependent marriage? Aren’t we supposed to depend on and support one another?
Well, yes, but only to a certain extent. In a codependent relationship, the balance is tilted. The partner who gives can feel drained, while the partner who takes can feel guilty or ashamed.
With such an unhealthy dynamic, it sure doesn’t make for a vibrant, thriving relationship.
Hopefully, with the tips I’ve shared in this article, you can start to establish healthy boundaries, build resilience, and promote interdependence in your relationship.
Can a relationship coach help you too?
If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.
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