How to Heal Codependency in Your Relationship

“Codependency in relationships” is the psychological term; this help for codependent relationships is clear and easy. Learn what codependency is (including the signs of a codependent relationship), plus real examples from readers’ comments.

“I think our marriage is codependent but does that mean I should leave my husband,” says Sherry on 8 Signs He Doesn’t Love You. “How do I know if I should stay? 16 years together. As long as I don’t expect intimacy, physical hugs, kisses, etc I don’t think too much about it. I allow him to act this way, is that a sign of codependency in a relationship? It seems like everyday he is tired after work. Then on the weekends he plays golf for hours, watches tennis, golf, and football. I’m consider last on his list of priorities. I’m independent and do things on my own, so it’s not a problem, which is why I wonder if we are codependent. I feel like in many ways we are roommates with occasional benefits. Is this a marriage problem worth leaving my husband for?”

I have two immediate answers for Sherry’s question:

  1. Nobody can (or should) tell her if she should leave her husband. Only she can decide whether or not she should stay in her marriage.
  2. It doesn’t matter what you call it – “codependent marriage” or not. What matters is how emotionally and spiritually healthy you are independently and together as a couple.

Codependency occurs when you and your husband depend on each other in unhealthy ways. Below, I offer help for couples in codependent relationships, including signs of codependency and hope for the future! For without hope, what have we?

The biggest sign of codependency in a relationship is when two people depend on each other in unhealthy ways. Codependent partners feed each other’s sickness and support each other’s unhealthy patterns of relating and communicating.

Here’s what one reader says about ending codependency in a relationship – she tells us what she wishes she knew 40 years ago: “Our culture and the media often portray a woman needing a man to take care of her and/or her children,” says Dee. “We get sucked into that and it’s just not true. Every man is not a good man and even a good man can be a horrible husband. Be smart. Respect yourself and stay pure. I wish someone would have given me that advise when I was growing up. It’s never too late to start over. I’m almost 50. It’s time I give myself a great life! I hope you do the same.”

What Are Codependent Relationships?

Codependency is a relationship pattern. It’s a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. The tendency towards a codependent relationship is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have healthy, mutually satisfying relationships.

end codependent relationships help

How to Heal Codependency in Your Relationship

Codependency is also known as “relationship addiction” because people who tend to be codependent often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. The disorder was first identified about ten years ago as the result of years of studying interpersonal relationships in families of alcoholics.

How is this relationship pattern (or disorder) developed? Often, codependent behavior is learned by watching and imitating other family members who display this type of behavior. If your parents had a codependent marriage or parenting style, for example, you may be more likely to be lean towards codependency in your own relationships.

Signs of codependency in a relationship:

  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
  • A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
  • A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time
  • A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
  • An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment
  • An extreme need for approval and recognition
  • A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
  • A compelling need to control others
  • Lack of trust in self and/or others
  • Fear of being abandoned or alone
  • Difficulty identifying feelings
  • Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
  • Problems with intimacy/boundaries
  • Chronic anger
  • Lying/dishonesty
  • Poor communications
  • Difficulty making decisions

The above signs of codependency and description of a codependent relationship are from Codependency on the Mental Health America website.

If you’re in a codependent relationship, you may feel trapped by your own fear and insecurity. If you know you need to leave, read How to End a Relationship When You’re Scared to Be Alone.

5 Steps to Healing a Codependent Relationship

You don’t necessarily need to end a codependent relationship! Unless, of course, your husband is abusive or violent. But if he’s willing to see and accept his contribution to the codependency – and if he’s willing to try to make changes in his life – then you can rebuild your relationship. Sometimes couples go through unhealthy stages of love, but are able to identify unhealthy relationship patterns, join together, and build a better marriage.

This help for codependent relationships was originally inspired by Dee. She tried to rebuilf her marriage with her husband, but ended up leaving him.

“It’s been six weeks and one day of freedom for me and my kids,” says Dee on Emotional Disconnection in Marriage. “There is peace and love flowing through the house. We all have jobs and we work together as a team. The changes in the kids, especially my 15 yr old daughter are beautiful. I did the right thing.”

Is peace and love isn’t flow through your house? You won’t be able to feel it every minute, but I hope you experience an undercurrent of love, joy, and freedom in your home. It starts with you – for you are the only person you can change. Learn how to connect to a divine source of power, love, strength, and hope.

1. Think about who you are outside your marriage

“I started a new job last week that is very demanding,” says Dee. “There is possibility of becoming the manager in three months. It’s an exciting, challenging and demanding job. One I couldn’t have taken or succeeded in if I were still living with my husband.”

In a codependent relationship, your husband tends to hold you back, keep you down, and not see you blossom. He may not be doing it on purpose – he may not even be aware of codependent relationship patterns! But you are. Something is telling you to search for and learn about codependency, which means you’re aware and awake. You can take positive steps forward to changing how you think, feel, and act in your marriage and life.

2. Learn how anger contributes to a codependent relationship

Dee suspected her husband was deeply angry and jealous of her, which is why he couldn’t enjoy anything with her. “I brought out in him the places where he wasn’t successful,” she said. “I believe that now. It’s a very sad thought. It means he was extremely insecure. His rights, rules, time and schedule always came first. People rarely mattered, especially his family. That is very unhealthy.”

help for codependent relationshipsIn Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, Lundy Bancroft says that one of the most common features of life with an angry or controlling husband is that he frequently tells you what you should think and tries to get you to doubt or devalue your own perceptions and beliefs.

In this book, Bancroft encourages women to think for themselves – always! Trust your inner wisdom and guidance. Listen carefully to what he says about angry husbands and controlling marriages, but consult your own intuition when you’re getting help for a codependent relationship. Bancroft describes how abusive men manipulate their families and the legal system, and shares his thoughts on whether they can ever be cured. This book is a beacon of calm and sanity for many storm-tossed families. It can help you learn how and why men become violent, and how anger affects your relationship patterns.

3. Take breaks from each other

“Get out for walks with the kids, go to the beach, the park,” advises Dee, who learned how to heal her codependent patterns of relating. “If your husband wants to go with you sometimes, let him! Get out together, but make sure you spend time apart. Enjoy the beauty around you; the laughter of others. Play with your kids. Think of five things you can appreciate everyday.”

She also encourages women not to let their partners inside their heads. “That space is one you do have control of,” she says. “Take nothing he says personally, then it won’t hurt so much. See it for what it is…HIS issue.”

Often, getting help for codependent relationships includes learning about addictive relationships.

You need to figure out where you start, where he ends, and whether you can stop being co dependent with him. And if you start to believe the lies he tells you, call the 1-800 number of a shelter, get a counselor and find a way to get out of the house. Even if you volunteer once a week or join an exercise group, you need to take a break from the codependency in your relationship.

4. Learn why you’re in a codependent relationship

Dee encourages women to get counseling or read books about codependency. Learn what makes you fall for this relationship pattern, and how you can stop the cycle from happening over and over. She also encourages women to keep their minds, hearts and thoughts pure. Don’t be mean, hurtful or vengeful. Just detach lovingly! This, she says, is one of the tips on ending codependency from the book Codependent No More by Melody Beattie (which I link to at the end of this article).

“I am in stage 4 of the cycle of leaving an abusive relationship,” says Dee. “When I was out of the house for two weeks, I really hoped to hear from him for a few days. I had to explore what it was in me that kept being drawn back to him. It turns out I have an approval addiction….but I can’t afford to care about what he thinks, says or believes about me. That will suck me back in.”

5. Find unconditional support and love

“My girlfriends love and accept me unconditionally, and that’s more than I have ever gotten from a man,” she says. “I can even get a hug from one of them when I need it. This has changed my life radically.”

Dee says she still wants to be part of a couple; she always wanted to be married. “But I didn’t marry for love. I’m still trying to figure out why I married my husband.” She was married three times, and is fine with spending the rest of her life alone. She wants to enjoy her life and her kids – without being trapped in codependent relationships. “I mourned my dream of a happy and exciting relationship with a husband,” she says. “I think it’s better to stay alone until your kids and his are out of the house, because second marriages and step families are hard.”

Learn more about codependent relationships

codependent no more help for codependency relationshipsIf you don’t know much about codependent relationships, read Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie. I love her books – they’re both practical and inspirational.

“Is someone else’s problem your problem?” asks Beattie. “If, like so many others, you’ve lost sight of your own life in the drama of tending to someone else’s, you may be in a codependent relationship.”

It’s time to fix codependent relationships when they stop you from living the life you always wanted. If you’re worried about your life after the breakup, read How to Let Go of Someone You Love.

If you need help with codependency in a relationship, it’s important to talk to someone in person. I welcome your comments below, but I can’t offer advice – or any type of relationship help or counseling. You may find it helpful to share your experience, though. Writing can help you process your thoughts and deal with your emotions. Writing is therapeutic and healing – and writing in a comments section can help other women feel not so alone. Your experience can help other women cope with a codependent relationship.


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17 thoughts on “How to Heal Codependency in Your Relationship”

  1. Hi, I came about this article when I searched online. My question was literally “What can I expect when separating from your partner of 20 yrs when you’ve been involved in a codependent relationship”
    My partner left me in a horrible way. She suddenly told me one Friday that she was going to see her mom out of state for a few days. What she didn’t tell me was that she was going to a friend’s house that’s in a completely different state and more importantly that she wasn’t sure she’d be coming back! I FELT when she left that she was lying so I started to dig. Long story short… I knew in my gut that she was lying to me the moment she made her announcement. Yet, I still fell into a state of shock and depression. And that’s without getting into the constant crying jags….
    I’m still reeling and crying. It’s been a little over 2 weeks now. I find that I can’t seem to get past the pain & hurt.
    I feel like I can’t breathe if I even think about what’s happening. I feel physically, emotionally and mentally
    paralyzed. I can mentally process what’s going on, I can even understand why she did things the way she did.
    (There I go again validating her actions). But really there is a part of me that does see how us separating may be a good thing for us. But I must admit that in my mind this is still all “temporary”. It doesn’t help that we still communicate every day mostly by text. But it’s the only thing that soothes me right now. I’m 48 yrs old, she was supposed to be it for me. I still feel do much love for her. I don’t know how to move forward. Just having typed this has started the flow of tears. I wish I could give you the background of all we have gone through… Addiction, mental health issues, my mother’s death last November and a few years of homelessness to a name a few. But through all of that we had each other.
    She was my best friend. The only person that I felt really knew me and still loved me. To finish, I’d like to say that even though my brain can rationalize everything that’s happening, the rest of me will not listen. How do I get past that? I hope my venting helps even one person, can let them know that, No you’re not going crazy.

  2. This is a mirror image of my life and I’m desperately trying to cut it out. I feel pathetic. If you get answers please forward them.

  3. My husband is a serial cheater, narcissist and most likely has bipolar disorder. I enable him and live a fake life and pretend we are happy. I do it for the financial support he gives me and the social status. I’m shallow and weak I know and he doesn’t really love me (I was once the person he cheated with and a home wrecker) but I don’t know how to be authentic. I am so weak and needy. Please help me out of this desperate situation. I’m tired of living a lie.

  4. I literally just needed this today. This is something very eye opening. I feel stuck Ive left him and went back and im still not happy with the negative energy.

  5. Dear Gbii,

    It sounds like you’re starting to understand yourself better, which is awesome news for you and your relationships! That is the first step in healing codependency in your relationship, for sure.

    There’s always a possibility of turning your relationship around – but I would give it alot of time. Allow your ex several months to heal and be rehabilitated — because his health and addiction issues are huge things for him to overcome.

    When I worked with men in recovery from drug and alcohol addictions, we encouraged them to focus on healing from the addiction for a year. Then, they would be in a better place to deal with their relationship issues. If your ex is in a similar rehab program, his people may be telling him something similar.

    So, I encourage you to get as emotionally and spiritually healthy as you can. Focus on healing yourself and working on your tendency towards codependency. Give your ex time and space to work through his own issues.

    What do you think? How are you working towards healing your codependent issues in relationships?

  6. Yes, Orlando, I agree that fear of abandonment plays a role in codependent relationships. So healing codependency would involve dealing with that fear of abandonment — and rejection.

    Thank you for pointing this out!

  7. I just recently understood that I am in a codependent relationship, and looking back I realize it is a tendency of mine to try to take care of the person I have next to me to the extent that I let go of my own needs. I have not been with my partner for a long time, only two years, but my codependency to him has just gotten worse over the last couple of months. He has a drug and alcohol addiction which has also worsened at the same time and I am starting to believe that my actions have played a big part in his reactions. I believe sometimes we let situations guide us and we end up doing things for all the wrong reasons. I have been victimizing myself for a while and trying to make him the bad guy, I am not saying this is my fault but I do think there is a lot I have to learn to deal with to be able to maintain a good relationship (wether with him or the next person). He just decided to get rehabilitated in an inpatient treatment center which will give us both some time apart to get our lives back together.
    Am I wrong at thinking there is a possibility of turning this around if we both work on our issues?

  8. I’m concerned my friend experiences codependency in his relationship. His whole life revolves around his girlfriend, but then complains about how he feels lost in his own life. He’s always giving to her in some way. When they have a serious fight he falls apart and asks me to intervene (she’s my friend too so I can talk to her).

    Do you think fear of abandonment plays a role in codependency?

  9. I am dealing with codependency in my relationship, so the attempt of this exercise is to let it go after writing it. And not have to be in my mind again. Then had a fearful thought that he will always be like this – leaving me in a desperate and clingy state.
    And not being able to fulfill my needs. But that gives me rise to another thought: that I need to fulfill my own needs. And not wait for him to do it.

    When I was feeling so so good just half an hour before – why did he bring my energy levels down?
    Why did I let him?

    There was a time a few months ago – when I told myself that I will not let anyone suck my energy. And that if they are upset – then its their journey to not feel upset anymore. And its their effort. And that I will not get involved with that and get my energy mixed up. So I was starting to get very very detached from my boyfriend even on the days he sounded upset – So I would casually say on the phone that I will go and not get stuck on the phone trying to figure out whether something I said has upset him.

    Signs that I need to work on:
    1. Not getting upset when I assume something I said has upset him. That’s blaming myself.
    2. Not getting insulted when he says anything. Choosing to be detached and cool.

    Remembering that I only get upset or insulted when my ego is involved too much and that I am LETTTING myself get upset. So I can choose to not get upset and choose the higher vibration at any moment.

    So, this also I need to let it go and stop analyzing at this very moment. Stop overanalyzing and be in the moment.

    I accept that I got these feelings. And I transmute them and convert them into thought clouds to let them go.
    They are not helpful to me at any point.

  10. At first i thought it was a normal thing then i realized codependency is a condition and it’s not normal
    I am just shock for all this time i have been believing co-dependent is how humans survive
    This has been a great insight and i want to be more assertive and not let narcissistic people to control me anymore.

  11. I’m not afraid of being alone as much as I feel badly for not trying hard enough/leaving him/him being alone…
    That’s just how codependent I am….seriously wonder if I can actually recober at all….we’re going on 11 years…never married, no kids

  12. Omg, i just had a massive wake up call reading these steps to ending codependency in a relationship, after 17 yr’s i’ve managed to read something that opened my eyes in the 5 mins it’s taken me to read this item. He has major issues which i was totally aware of & because i’m 11 yr’s older i mothered him through all his problems & shocking childhood troubles, now i see exactely where this has led & why i’m so miserable, i’ve become a comfort eater & have gone from a healthy 102 lbs to a shocking 190 lbs in a short space of time. It’s time for me to get myself & my life back…thank you for this amazing, life saving article, can’t thank you enough

  13. “I think it’s better to stay alone until your kids and his are out of the house, because second marriages and step families are hard.”

    That sounds like replacing one codependent relationship with another – one to one’s kids.

  14. 23 years of marriage…yes I have learned I am a raging codependent.i am in the early stages of recovery…I can honestly own all I have done to this marriage….it has exploded within the last month….I cannot convince myself that I am the sole problem to our dis functional relationship.he will even admit that he has not been the model husband…it hurts me that I am being held responsible for everything….I know denial,fear of rejection and conflict holds a huge place in our problems…..I have every intention of working for the good of myself..I’m so confused I want to run away but have nowhere to go.

  15. It is sad to me that most articles are a cut and run solution. It seems there is never a true fix it solution. Both my wife and I suffer from codependent problems. Hers were over caring, mine were addictions and anxiety from.PTSD

  16. I’m glad this information on codependent relationships was helpful for you! The next step is to put what you learned into action, and find ways to prevent codependency from ruining your relationship.

  17. thankyou for this codependent relationship advice im 24 and been with partner for nearly 6 years I see alot of similarities and worried, thank you once again.