For a relationship to be healthy it needs to be interdependent, that means both people have a balance of self and other. They believe in their individual worth and independent ability and also give lovingly towards the relationship and working as a couple.
Getting this balance right is tricky, because for most people it doesn’t come naturally, and for most people, the conflict of being drowned out in a relationship doesn’t start with their current or even former partner, it starts long before that when they were children and this idea of giving yourself away in a relationship was probably learned from a parent or a grandparent at a very young age, and that parent probably learned it from their parents. So we have this vicious cycle that just keeps repeating itself where people feel obligated to dedicate themselves to a relationship to the point where they forget who they are and what they want.
The real issue though is that they probably don’t even realise this is happening to them.
The way to get out of co-dependent thinking is to be yourself.
Being yourself means knowing what you like, knowing how to go after what you want and look after yourself before helping others. So many in this situation turn to me and say, ‘but that’s so selfish’. What’s really selfish is ignoring your own needs time and time again and refusing to support yourself, that’s the most selfish thing a person can do because it limits your ability to give and receive. You can’t be the best version of yourself if you shut out your personal desires, passions and goals.
The unhealthy relationship, the co-dependent relationship, will have a person turn themselves inside out to please the other person, they will adopt their passions and dedicate themselves to the other person getting ahead, and completely forget about themselves.
This self-sacrifice may seem noble but it’s also very damaging.
You will never be able to satisfy the other person’s needs (only they can do that), so that empty feeling you are constantly running away from will always be at your back, reminding you that you are worthless. So you will try harder and harder to be ‘the relationship’, getting more burned out and disillusioned, which will go on to create a cycle of self-hatred and blame.
The thing is, it’s only true if you believe it. If you believe that you are not worth anything unless you are in a relationship no one will be able to convince you differently, not even the partner you are dedicated to. If you tell yourself the relationship is worth everything then you will live your whole life like that, giving yourself away. The way to get back to a healthy relationship is for you to change your mind, and you can do this instantly, you just have to believe that you are good enough, you are worthwhile and you are worth investing in.
And for a lot of people this will trigger an old wound, a wound that comes from childhood of feeling not good enough or not deserving of love.
And co-dependent relationships are not just about romantic relationships, it’s the relationship with your family, with your boss, with your friends as well, and often people in co-dependent romantic relationships will have a history of co-dependent relationships with their mother or father, with their high school friends.
A healthy relationship is about support when it is needed, both giving and receiving. You also work on yourself, for yourself, you have dreams and goals that are bigger than your relationship and important to you.
The thing you need to remember is to be autonomous, to see yourself as an individual with individual needs.
How to be yourself in a relationship
- Be patient
While changing your mind can be instant, healing your past wounds takes repeated effort. You need to practice getting back to where you want to be every time you are tested (and you will be tested). True change is when you face your conflicts instead of taking the exit every time things get challenging. Stick with it and be patient, there are many levels of learning and understanding you need to go through to become an expert in self-love. Keep stepping up and rising to the challenge. When your wounds are healed they become your superpower.
- Put boundaries in place
It’s true that you need to treat others the way you want to be treated but often when it comes to issues of co-dependency the lesson is to treat yourself the way you want others to treat you. In co-dependent relationships a person will give themselves away and not keep anything aside for me time, they then feel devastated when the other person isn’t able to do the same. Shower yourself with love, affection and care and others will follow suit, even if they don’t you will feel satisfied and content.
Self-care is an important element in gaining self-esteem. You might bend over backwards to get a healthy meal on the table for your loved ones, but will you take the time to stop and enjoy that meal yourself? Grooming, exercise, healthy eating, your own finances and time out to relax, are essentials for a happy and healthy life. When you take care of yourself and be kind to yourself you have more ability to help others.
- Receive help
Co-dependant people have an all or nothing approach, either they are doing everything for someone, or they quit and let someone else take over. To find a healthy in between balance you need to remember to receive help when it is offered and also ask for help when it is needed. Asking for help also includes expressing what you need, rather than subtle hints. Feel confident about speaking up when you want or need something. If you are always giving and never receiving then, in no time at all, your tank will be empty and you will have nothing left to give away or to keep you going. Getting help doesn’t make you helpless. Practice saying, ‘yes, thank you’ when someone offers to do something for you and feel good about how much you can achieve when you have a second, or third, pair of hands.
- See yourself as valuable and worthy
Set your sights on a place where you acknowledge your own worth go and do things you love and are passionate about. Accept compliments gracefully. Praise yourself when you do well and take the time to stand back and see your accomplishments outside the relationship. That might mean you need to actively do more outside the relationship so you have something to be proud of, join a group, take a class, better yet, start a group, run a course and lead others. You have unique and amazing things to offer, go and find them.
- Use NLP
Change is instant, and it can also be really quick to come by. With Neuro-linguistic Programing (NLP) techniques you can instantly turn a negative thought around or abolish bad habits and create new choices. Take an NLP course or get an NLP practitioner to bust though your beliefs with you so you are ready to take on the 5 steps to rapid change that include, continued education and surrounding yourself with positive likeminded people. Learn about NLP and the five steps to rapid change through a hands-on weekend workshop, Live It Now, running free every month in Sydney.
- Be flexible
There is no copy and paste approach when it comes to interdependent relationships. You have to be able to adjust your level of support, your level of give and your level of receive to suit the current circumstances in your relationship. If you partner is going through a tough time and you need to do more to support them, know it won’t be like that forever, soon they will be capable again and it’s time to let them have their responsibilities back.
- Get a Life Coach
A life coach can help you uncover the root cause of problems and make healthy new decisions. A life coach can also help you see elements that you are missing or point out when you laps back into old habits. Reach your goals and rise to your full potential with an expert who can hold you accountable to the person you want to be.
At Live It Now we teach you how to be the best version of yourself and become your own best friend. It’s great for transforming relationships and letting go of past hurts. It runs free every month in Sydney.