If you want to avoid codependency in a relationship, start saying no to these 7 things

If you look at the word “codependency,” it sounds like the people in a relationship depend on one another.

What’s wrong with that?

The problem is that this word doesn’t mean exactly what it seems to. The “co-” here doesn’t indicate an equal partnership like it does in the words “co-author” or “cooperate.”

In a codependent relationship, one person needs the other, but the other person’s need is to be needed. 

An example of this is one partner who is a narcissist who needs attention and admiration, and the other partner is the codependent who is happy to be the one fulfilling this need.

Or we can think of a severe alcoholic who needs a partner who can constantly clean up after them and fix their messes. Their codependent partner stays in this negative relationship because they feel a strong urge to be needed. 

Now, you might find that you have codependent tendencies, which probably means you’ll do just about anything to be needed. You might stay in a terrible relationship or continuously put your partner’s needs first just so you can be seen as the one fulfilling them.

But the truth is, this codependent behavior is damaging to your psyche and your happiness.

If you want to avoid codependency in a relationship, start saying no to these 7 things today and change your situation for the better.

1) Never saying no

Codependent people have a lot in common with one another, and lacking the ability to say no is one of the biggest.

I know that in this article, I’m asking you to say no to yourself and your own behaviors, and this can be very difficult, but it’s the best place to start. From here, you can learn to build up the confidence to say no to others.

Actually, you’re already saying no to yourself every day without even realizing it. You deny your own happiness and your needs day in and day out, and what is that behavior if not saying no to yourself?

If you feel like you’re codependent, you’ll recognize that you can almost never say no to your partner. Or even if the word slips out of your mouth, your actions don’t back it up.

But this has to change for you to fundamentally change your relationship and your own life for the better.

Try not to say no to rewards or to treating yourself well.

Instead, say no to the things that you know deep down you need to stop doing. Say no to staying up late for no reason. Say no to overeating because you’re stressed. 

And there’s a whole lot else you need to learn to say no to.

2) Always putting your partner first

When you always put your partner’s needs first, you’re putting your own second (or lower than that if kids or other relatives are also in the mix).

I know you’ve told yourself your whole life that sacrificing your own wants and needs to fill someone else’s is such a selfless and beautiful thing to do. But as a recovering people-pleaser myself, I can tell you that it’s not as pretty as you think, but you’ll sure end up without a sense of self.

By denying your own needs over and over, you start to lose track of them. You’ll get out of touch with who you really are and what can bring you happiness in life.

Once you’re at that point, you’ll cease being your own person, and every day, you’ll simply live for others. You’ll be like a worker bee, slavishly working away every day to fulfill the needs of the hive while having no life or direction of your own.

This is behavior you need to stop before you lose all track of who you are in your relationship.

3) Fearing being alone

So many codependents are stuck in terrible relationships because they’re afraid to be alone.

Codependents have a deep need to be needed, to feel useful, like they can do things for others and solve their problems.

Without the needy person in their life, however, a codependent will feel lost, useless, and unfulfilled.

So even if they leave one bad relationship where they’re constantly used and even abused, they’ll have an incredibly strong tendency to quickly find themself in another very similar one.

But you don’t need to fear being alone, simply because you never are alone. 

So many people have happy, fulfilling lives without finding romantic partners or ever looking for them. 

They’re not hermits, though, by any means!

Instead, they form happier, healthier relationships with family and great friends who they really care about.

If fear of abandonment is holding you back, it’s likely because you’re afraid to not feel needed, not because you’ll miss the relationship.

So it’s really that core feeling of not being worth anything unless you’re needed that you have to address.

partner codependent If you want to avoid codependency in a relationship, start saying no to these 7 things

4) Accepting blame for things you didn’t do

Codependents are forever taking the blame for others.

They usually do this for their partners, but taking a bullet for their kids, friends, or family members is also pretty normal.

If you do this, though, you have to realize that you’re sacrificing something of yourself each and every time. Because each time you take the blame for others, you’re falsely associating yourself with their negative qualities.

Eventually, though, this negativity can become real, at least to you. And in many ways, that makes sense. 

Imagine if your partner has an issue with lying and starting rumors, but you always step in and say it was you. Not only will other people lose trust in you, but you’re also aiding and abetting this negative behavior, which amounts to supporting it.

So, while you’re not the one doing these negative things, by protecting someone who is, you are actually doing damage.

5) Making excuses for your partner

Not only do codependents take the blame for their partners’ negative behavior, they also constantly make excuses for them.

If an alcoholic partner misses an important wedding because they’re too hungover, their codependent partner is sure to say they’re sick or make some other excuse.

But making excuses for other people is actually lying, and not only are you lying to others, but you’re lying to yourself.

You’re constantly excusing their behavior, and by doing so, you tell yourself it’s not all that bad. But you know that it is.

Your partner could have serious problems that could actually be solved if they received proper help, but by excusing their behavior, you’re helping those problems to continue. 

You’re enabling their bad behavior and possibly denying them help to end it because you don’t need them to be happy; you need them to need you.

This is the root of codependent behavior.

6) Taking responsibility for your partner’s feelings

If you feel like you need to keep your partner happy or it’s always your fault when they get mad, your thinking is confused.

While we can all influence other people’s emotions, they are always ultimately responsible for them.

Them and them alone.

Now, you might be blamed for all their negative feelings, especially if you’re in a relationship with a manipulative person. But when that happens, they’re simply using you as a scapegoat.

Yes, you can make mistakes and disappoint your partner. All of us can and do.

But you should never feel like their entire emotional life depends on your actions. It simply doesn’t.

If they say it does, they’re manipulating you.

If you think it does, you’re overestimating your role because you want to feel important in their life.

What you need to do is be realistic and let your partner own their emotions. If they can’t, that doesn’t mean they’re yours by inheritance; it just means they’re in denial.

7) Seeking external validation

Ultimately, codependent people are all searching for something outside of themselves when they should be looking inward.

If you don’t feel good unless someone needs you, you’re letting your value as a person be dictated by others. 

So when they need you, and you can fulfill their needs, you’ll feel good about yourself. But when you can’t fulfill their needs, or when you don’t have a partner whose needs you can attend to, you’ll feel bad about yourself.

But have you actually changed?

The truth is that you’re looking for validation externally because you’re not getting it internally. Your self-worth is seriously low, so you don’t see a valuable person when you look at yourself.

You’re emotionally enslaving yourself and only feel good when you please your master.

This needs to change if you want to change your life.

Final thoughts

If you want to avoid codependency in a relationship, start saying no to these seven things that are keeping you down.

It’s going to be hard work, but if you take these actions one at a time, you’ll be able to do it and get out of the codependency trap for good.

Picture of Marcel Deer

Marcel Deer

Marcel is a journalist, gamer, and entrepreneur. When not obsessing over his man cave or the latest tech, he’s failing helplessly at training his obnoxious rescue dog ‘Boogies’.

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.