How to End a Codependent Relationship

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A codependent relationship can manifest in many ways: you may feed into your partner’s alcoholism or be a people pleaser who’s afraid to say no. The codependency may revolve around drugs or substances, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, chronic pain, or a mental illness. Codependent relationships occur when one person gives love through giving assistance while the other person feels love by receiving the assistance. While this exchange may feel good for a time, it is not designed to last, and at some point, one person will be unhappy. Often, the best solution for a codependent relationship is to end it.


Part 1 Part 1 of 3:Ending the Relationship Download Article

How to End a Codependent Relationship

Recognize your choices. You may feel as if you do not have choices in this relationship. However, you do have the freedom to love someone because you choose to and not through dependency. You have the freedom to leave a destructive or harmful relationship. Recognize your ability to choose what you want and what serves you best.

  • The relationship may feel like it is serving the other person much more than it is serving you. Is it your responsibility to take care of this person? Think about what options you have, and that the other person is capable of making choices, too.

How to End a Codependent Relationship

Be firm in leaving. Often, codependent people may become so engrossed in someone else’s care that they neglect their own needs and become out of touch with their own desires, wants, and needs. If you’re ready to end the relationship, be firm in your assertion to end the relationship, and know that this decision is what you want and need. Before going into a discussion, remind yourself that you are firm in your decision and are not open to renegotiating the relationship or giving it “another shot.”

  • Chances are, you’ve probably already given this person “just one more chance” without much changing.
  • If you end the codependent relationship yet the person is still in your life (like a parent or sibling), be firm in enforcing your boundaries.
  • Be firm, even when the person pleads with you to stay. Say, “I’ve given this a lot of thought and I am sure of my decision. I am not willing to waver on my decision.”

How to End a Codependent Relationship

Have a talk. Ending a codependent relationship may be difficult just to walk away from and may require a discussion. The other person may feel confused if the dynamics of the relationship suddenly change and their needs are no longer being met in the same way without explanation. Choose a time when there are no interruptions, and open the discussion.

  • You can say, “I’ve noticed that the way we interact isn’t healthy. I’m realizing how little I take care of myself. It’s important for me to keep boundaries, and that means ending this relationship with you.”

How to End a Codependent Relationship

Act calmly. The other person may not take your decision well. He or she may react in anger, rage, upset, hurt, or sadness. Even if the person threatens you, remain calm in your demeanor. Don’t raise your voice, yell, or swear. If the person is yelling, respond with a soft and gentle voice. It’s likely the person will mirror your behaviors.

  • If the person starts to accuse you, say, “I’m not willing to talk about things from the past or get into an argument with you. I’m letting you know how I feel and that I am leaving.”
  • For more information, check out How to Calm an Angry Person.

How to End a Codependent Relationship

Express your feelings. It’s up to you how much you wish to discuss with the person. You may wish to say, “I cannot go on with this relationship” or you may wish to elaborate and say what is not working for you. When talking about your feelings, keep the focus on you and avoid blaming the other person. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements.

  • For example, “I” statement keep the focus on you and not on blaming the other person. Instead of saying, “You take all of my attention and you wear me out” say, “I’ve put myself in this position and find myself tired all the time. This isn’t good for me.”

How to End a Codependent Relationship

Set limits. Ending some codependent relationships may mean completely walking away, while others may end a codependent relationship in favor of a healthy relationship, such as family relationships. You may feel entirely responsible for the action of others. Or, you may feel like you have to go over and above your share of the responsibilities. Start to set limits on what you are willing and unwilling to do.

  • For example, If your brother is hungover and wants you to call his work with an excuse, say to him, “It was not my decision to drink last night. This is a consequence you have to deal with on your own.”
  • if you need to study for a test and a friend calls you to talk about her problems, say, “I care about you and want to support you, however, it’s important for me to study for my exam tomorrow. Why don’t we check in tomorrow?”
  • If you want to set specific boundaries, let the person know. Say, “We may have to work some things out, but I’m unwilling to meet with you face to face. I want to limit our communication to texts.”
  • For more information, check out How to Stop Being a People Pleaser.

Part 2 Part 2 of 3:Confronting the Codependent Behaviors Download Article

How to End a Codependent Relationship

Think about what the relationship fulfilled for you. While you may feel like you put in a lot of effort to this relationship– including caretaking roles– it’s likely you’ve also gained from this relationship. If you did not find some fulfillment in the relationship, you probably would have ended the relationship much sooner. Consider how this relationship has served you and why it no longer serves you.

  • For example, you may have felt like you had a sense of purpose by taking care of someone who was an alcoholic or that had a major medical condition. You may love the feeling of “being needed” or being in control.

How to End a Codependent Relationship

Work through feelings of abandonment. People in codependent relationships tend to have a fear of abandonment. This can be one reason they choose a helping role in a relationship: taking care of someone and having someone depend on them means this person won’t likely abandon them. If you have a fear of people leaving you, see a therapist. Therapy can help you work through feelings of abandonment, explore ways to care for yourself, and trust others.

  • Often, abandonment issues start in childhood or with a traumatic event. It’s beneficial to work through these issues in order to help you free yourself from the fear of abandonment.

How to End a Codependent Relationship

Validate your own self-worth. Chances are, you find at least part of your self-worth in caretaking. Instead of relying on helping others to validate you, learn to validate yourself without needing others to validate you. You may feel as if you need others to tell you how important you are, but you can do this on your own.

  • As you think about ending the codependent relationship, reflect on where you derive your sense of self-worth. How do you perceive yourself? What are your own thoughts about who you are and what you deserve? Do other people seem more able to attain success or happiness than you?

How to End a Codependent Relationship

Meet your own needs. You may be so caught up in meeting someone else’s needs that you neglect your own needs. While it may feel like the person depends on you, recognize what is within your own responsibility. It’s likely that by devoting your time, attention, and resources on this person, you’ve neglected taking care of yourself. You may feel like you have no idea who you are outside of taking care of this person, or that your full identity is taking care of someone.

  • Start to regain a sense of what your own needs are. For instance, do you need alone time to recharge after a stressful day? What do you do to cope with stress? Have you neglected your nutritional or exercise needs? What about sleep?

Part 3 Part 3 of 3:Handling the Aftermath Download Article

How to End a Codependent Relationship

Create physical distance. Spend less time with the person and don’t clear your schedule to take care of the person’s needs. If you live with the person you are in a codependent relationship with, move out. Living together may exacerbate the need to caretake for the person. Moving out can create physical distance between the two of you, which can help decrease the need to caretake. Help create emotional and physical space between the two of you by spending less time together.

  • You can also create emotional distance from this person. Gently let the person know that you are not willing to respond to texts, emails, or phone calls. Say, “I want this relationship to be complete. I don’t want this to be confusing and I think we both need time to process. For that reason, I don’t plan to respond to texts, phone calls, or emails.”

How to End a Codependent Relationship

Process your feelings. Don’t stuff your feelings down, or tell yourself that everyone is just fine. Instead, process how you feel and pay attention to your feelings. Reflect on the relationship and your sense of identity after it. Identify and process each emotion that comes up and don’t ignore how you feel.

  • You may choose to process your feelings through a journal, by talking to a friend, or by seeing a therapist.

How to End a Codependent Relationship

Accept your grief. Undoubtedly, it will be difficult to end the codependent relationship. Accept that it will be hard and may hurt. Don’t repress your grief, which may lead to depression. Instead, accept it and allow yourself to feel it. Grief can include feelings of disbelief, anger, fear, and sadness. Other symptoms of grief may include feeling tired, tense, empty, or having changes in sleep or eating habits.

  • Allow grief to run its course. Let go of what may have been and accept what is.
  • One way to work through grief is by observing your body. The more you think, the less connected you are to your emotional experience. When experiencing emotions, pay attention to how it feels in your body. Where do you feel it, and what kind of sensation do you feel? Let the bodily sensations and the emotions move through you.

How to End a Codependent Relationship

Seek social support. It can be difficult to separate yourself from a codependent relationship. Have someone to talk to about ending the relationship who will support you. Reach out for emotional support by talking to a friend or family member. A trusted friend can help guide you through making tough decisions, then support you as you follow through with difficult choices.

  • For more information, check out How to Build a Social Network.

How to End a Codependent Relationship

Go to therapy. If you find it difficult to process the end of the relationship on your own, a therapist may be helpful. Therapy can help you address your thoughts, attitudes, emotions, and behaviors and discover what is beneficial and what is hurting you. Therapy can help you increase your self-awareness and your coping skills.

  • A therapist’s role is to challenge and support you. Be prepared to grow and approach difficult aspects of yourself in therapy.
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