9 Ways to Reduce Codependence for a Healthier Relationship

Relationships are complicated! A healthy one is meant to have a balance of give and take, but sometimes that balance flies out the window… maybe because a friend is having a hard time and needs extra support, or maybe because there was never a real balance in the first place. When one person in a relationship gives way more energy than the other, that’s called codependency. A little bit of codependency happens in every relationship from time to time, but if it’s the norm, your relationship might be a toxic one. 

What to Know About Codependence

What Is Codependency in a Relationship?

How can you tell whether your relationships are healthy or whether you and your friend, family member, or romantic partner have developed a codependent dynamic? If you experience any of the following, you might be the giver in a codependent relationship:

The signs of codependency, according to an article on VeryWellMind.com:

  • Having a sense of “walking on eggshells” to avoid conflict with the other person
  • Feeling the need to check in with the other person and/or ask permission to do daily tasks
  • Often being the one who apologizes—even if you have done nothing wrong
  • Feeling sorry for the other person, even when they hurt you
  • Regularly trying to change or rescue troubled, addicted, or under-functioning people whose problems go beyond one person's ability to fix
  • Doing anything for the other person, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable
  • Putting the other person on a pedestal, despite the fact that they don’t merit this position
  • A need for other people to like you in order to feel good about yourself
  • Struggling to find any time for yourself, especially if your free time consistently goes to the other person
  • Feeling as if you’ve lost a sense of yourself within the relationship

—By Wendy Rose Gould, Reviewed by David Susman, PhD

How Does Codependency Show Up?

It’s useful to know general signs of codependency, but sometimes real-life examples are an even more helpful way to identify how certain behaviors and patterns might look in our everyday lives. We asked a few people to share their experiences with us to give you a better idea of how sneaky (or not-so-sneaky) codependency can be.


How have you experienced or witnessed codependency in a relationship?


  • “My partner was a person with epilepsy and would blame me for their seizures, to the point where I felt the need to protect them from themselves when they would neglect their own health. Sometimes, they even made me apologize when they had seizures.”
  • “My mom was in a marriage for sixteen years where the longest amount of time she spent away from her husband was four hours to go shopping with me. They had retired early and spent every moment in the same room.”
  • “I struggle to keep my own identity in relationships. The attachment chemicals are strong. I was in a relationship with an alcoholic for two years who didn't have a job and hid alcohol in the house. I worked two full-time jobs so he would stay with me."
  • “I was codependent with my own mom for my whole childhood. I wish I could be more specific, but I guess an example could be that I always felt like I was ‘on the clock’ to serve her needs only and had to ask permission to go use the bathroom, get a snack, read a book, etc.”
  • “The most codependent thing I have witnessed is the need to control the outcome to be constantly ok. No matter what would happen, no matter how many times Partner One would be late, not show up, show up high, and be super inconsistent, Partner Two would beg and plead to get back to the "good times" because being alone was so much harder. Feeling like you're supposed to endure for your partner when they don't do any actions that warrant that commitment and sacrifice… It's addiction. You get addicted to the happy time, and then when the bad time happens, you're so hooked on the good stuff that you don't care how much pain you go through. Healthy relationships seem boring to people who have a love addiction.”
  • “My mother held down a consistent job and was the primary wage earner for our family, while my dad held inconsistent, sporadic employment for 15-20 years despite being fully able-bodied.”
  • “My best friend and I lived together for six years and once had her former boss ask to speak with me about her returning to work because he knew she wouldn't do it if I wasn't OK with it. Other smaller things like being truly genuinely hurt that she ate dinner and didn't tell me because I was waiting on her, even though we hadn't communicated about it.”

Did any of these examples resonate with you? If so, you’re not alone. There are a lot of reasons codependency develops in relationships, and most of them aren’t our fault. If you’re recognizing a pattern, you’re on the right track! Keep reading to figure out how to overcome codependency.

9 Ways to Reduce Codependency

If you’re here to learn how to fix codependency, we have good news and bad news. The bad news is there’s no easy “fix” when it comes to breaking a behavioral pattern… It's going to take time and practice, practice, practice to establish healthier relationship dynamics. The good news? You can learn how to stop codependency in its tracks. The following list combines recommendations from the folks who shared their stories with us and tips from experts! 

1. Learn what a healthy relationship looks like, invest in people who exhibit those qualities, and practice them in yourself.

2. Talk to the people you feel like you have a codependent dynamic with about maintaining equality, independence, and open, honest, affectionate communication.

3. Prioritize self-care and time alone for personal pursuits. If you don’t tend to your own needs, you won’t be able to be a healthy member of any relationship. Take care of yourself by learning what your needs are, investing in your self-esteem, and showing up for yourself in ways that will make your life better.

4. Find healthy distractions rooted in self-care for when your brain just can't stop telling you you’re not doing enough or when your partner/friend/parent needs space. It can be as simple as something that requires you to pay attention, like video games or a puzzle app, as long as it keeps you from engaging in unhealthy thought patterns.

5. Consider going to therapy. Group therapy, family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and Internal Family Systems (IFS) can all help you realize when and why you're stuck in codependent habits.

6. Redirect yourself when you’re about to ask permission from your partner for something or ask them to do something you don’t need anyone’s permission or help to do (use the restroom, heat up food, buy a snack, etc.). Empower yourself to do those things on your own.

7. Remind yourself that others can communicate their needs, so you do not have to anticipate or get ahead of their feelings by constantly checking in on them. Let them tell you when they need something.

8. Remind yourself you’re allowed to have a range of interests, and they don’t need anyone’s approval to be valid. This can help when you’re worried people may judge you for whatever you’re doing, which is the codependent need for other people to like you in order to feel good about yourself.

9. Set boundaries in the relationships where you see codependent patterns… that could look like making some topics of conversation off-limits, setting a minimum requirement for how much time you spend apart in a given week, or even pursuing different living arrangements.

How to Heal from Codependency

If you’re learning to recognize codependency in your life, take a moment to be proud of yourself. Codependent patterns are often deeply rooted in trauma or have been going on in families for generations. It’s hard work to break that cycle, but it’s worth it! If you’re wondering how your faith can help you on this journey, look no further.

In a codependent relationship, the “giver” is often trying to carry everyone else’s loads, usually to their own detriment. If the “giver” drops the ball on something for themselves, that ball may never get picked back up. If the “giver” drops the ball on something for others, guilt, shame, and fear tell them they’re unworthy of love and connection. What if, instead of carrying everyone else’s burdens, you start taking responsibility for just one person? You and only you. Everyone else is responsible for carrying their own loads.

You might be familiar with the verse in the Bible, Matthew 22:39, which says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Doesn’t that mean we should do everything we possibly can for others? Not quite… giving can be a good thing, sure. But if you are not loving yourself, taking care of yourself, and taking responsibility for yourself… You’re missing half the point of Jesus’ commandment here. If you’re loving others without loving yourself, you’re in danger of slipping into the toxic cycle of constantly giving in hopes that others will fulfill your needs in return.

If you need to talk to someone about how codependency is showing up in your life, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our Hope Coaches! We’re always here to walk beside you, answer questions, and point you toward resources.

Codependency can develop in friendships, dysfunctional families, sexual relationships, and even workplace interactions. A Deep Dive Into Codependent Relationships provides additional information about codependent relationships.

TheHopeLine Team
For over 30 years, TheHopeLine has been helping students and young adults in crisis. Our team is made up of writers and mental health professionals who care deeply about helping others.
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