Most of us can relate to the feeling when you first start seeing somebody new – it can be exciting and all-encompassing when you meet someone you FINALLY click with (let’s admit, Tinder’s offerings are getting direr by the week). The thrill of a new relationship, and all that comes with it such as getting to know a new voice, a new laugh, a new body, a new person’s energy is quite exhilarating, right?

Amongst all this excitement, you can see how it could become easy for some people to become ‘obsessed‘ with their new flame. Such intense emotions can make courtship an utterly terrifying and overwhelming experience for those of us with co-dependent tendencies, often sending those on the receiving end running for the hills, no matter how pure your intentions are.

To clarify, co-dependency is a behavioral condition in which an individual forms unhealthy attachment styles to others (most commonly in romantic relationships), relying solely on them for validation and happiness. This kind of behavior is often rooted in significant childhood events, such as an abusive or emotionally distant parent, becoming a caregiver at a young age, or living in a generally dysfunctional household. In adult life, such traumatic events can manifest in unsavory ways when a co-dependent person begins dating; manipulation, obsession, suffocation, lack of boundaries, and an inability to be alone are just some examples of this when such a person is in a relationship.

How to Overcome Codependency

If you are reading this now, chances are you recognize some of these qualities in yourself, which is, fortunately, the first step to dismantling these destructive patterns! Here are some pointers to help you avoid co-dependence early on in your relationship.

Recognize Their Flaws

Without sounding too pessimistic, it is very important not to idolize a new partner. There is not a single human being on Earth who is without flaws, so no matter how perfect someone may seem to you, try not to get too wrapped up in the fantasy. Yes, the honeymoon phase is wonderful and should be enjoyed for as long as possible, but recognize that it is just that – a phase. This links to the ‘obsession’ part of co-dependence, where you may find yourself putting your new lover on a pedestal to an unhealthy degree. While you should absolutely admire the best aspects of a person, don’t ignore the not-so-great things either (especially potential red flags!).

Dedicate Time To Yourself

Keep taking time for yourself until you're you again. - Lalah Delia

It’s normal to want to live in each other’s pockets when a relationship is budding, and it’s to be expected that you’ll spend a lot of time together during this stage. However, do not lose sight of your own hobbies, interests, and life goals for the sake of a new partner. One of the biggest mistakes people make is sacrificing their identities when getting into a relationship, whether this is to create an idealized image of yourself to the other person, or simply because you feel it is best to dedicate your whole life to them straight away. Either way, do not lose sight of who you are to become a part of someone else. Is your significant other also doing their own thing? Probably. So, you do you!

Question Your Choices

If you suffer from co-dependent tendencies, it is likely that you overlook your own needs and well-being in favor of your significant other’s. It would be in your best interests to ask yourself why you are planning to do something before you do it, and considering the mental and/or physical effects, it will have on you. Questions like, ‘Who am I doing this for?’, ‘How does this make me feel?’, ‘Will this drain me of my resources?’, and most importantly, ‘Do I really want to do this?’, can be beneficial to ask yourself to ensure you are also considering your own thoughts and feelings. Of course, selfless acts are wonderful from time to time, but avoid burning out trying to appease someone else.

Practice Self-Care

A woman practicing self-care by reading a book in the bath
Practicing self-care is a great and important way of overcoming codependency in a relationship

‘Self-care’ is a phrase that is tossed around a lot these days, and its meaning varies from person to person. Simply put, self-care is taking charge of your own wellbeing and happiness by doing things that make you feel good. This could be anything from going for a walk, listening to your favorite playlists at home, working out, having a pamper day, hell, even just sitting and staring into the void (or, ahem, meditation) – the possibilities really are endless. It’s advisable to do some self-care activities alone, as it is important to spend time with yourself. Learning to enjoy your own company is a vital step on the road to recovery.

Self-Reflect

Identifying past patterns of co-dependent behavior will aid your recovery, in the sense that it will allow to you look out for key behaviors within yourself. Think of any past relationships you have had – romantic or otherwise – in which you placed your self-worth on the other person. Then pinpoint what was going on in your life at the time – any triggers or events leading up to those behaviors. Making notes of any correlations can help you to make sense of why co-dependence is a recurring theme for you, thus giving any new relationships a better chance at thriving. The aim of self-reflection is not to dwell on the issue, but to give yourself the opportunity to see what you can do differently in the future.

Hopefully, these tips have provided some encouragement as you embark on your recovery journey. Remember that the basis for a healthy relationship starts with you as an individual; if you’re no good to yourself, you’re no good to anybody else!