I Used To Be Codependent. Here's How I Stay True To Myself In Relationships

mbg Contributor By Cynthia Kane
mbg Contributor
Cynthia Kane is a certified meditation and mindfulness instructor dedicated to helping men and women change their communication routines so they feel in control of their words and understood at home and at work. She received her B.A. from Bard College and her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College.

You and your partner have met, fallen in love and everything seems to be going well. Sure, you’ve stopped going to your weekly yoga class, meeting your friends for coffee, talking on the phone, and maybe let some relationship issues slide for fear of blowing something out of proportion. But all that’s part of being in a relationship, right?

Turns out, the answer may be a bit more complicated.

Of course, just as there is no one way to be in a healthy relationship, there is also no general rule for when you’re losing yourself within one. All that said, there are some general habits to look out for.

I know because I used to be a codependent junkie in relationships (not the best thing to admit, I know). But once I figured my way out of the emotion that kept me in a state of constant need for validation, I learned that I wanted to be available to empower myself. I never wanted to be in that codependent place again.

These four questions form an essential starting place for beginning to look at how you're acting in your relationships, and whether or not you're being emotionally available to yourself.

If you're worried about whether or not you're being your authentic self in your relationships, or simply want to check in with yourself, start here ...

1. Am I being honest?

The hardest part when we’re in relationships is seeing things about the dynamic with our partner clearly. It's rare that we choose to take off the blinders of desire, fantasy and judgment — what we want our relationship to be like, feel like, sound like, and the fears and assumptions we may be holding onto under the surface.

Let's face it: who wants to admit that their partner isn’t treating them so well or that they embarrass them sometimes or that there’s this nagging feeling that they see us as someone we don’t believe ourselves to be? Or maybe we admit the problems we see, but make excuses for them and pretend they aren’t as bad as they may sound.

Are you seeing the situation for what it is? Are you honoring your emotions? If you’re feeling unheard or invisible, are you speaking up? Being honest with your partner and yourself about how you feel is the only foundation upon which to build a healthy relationship.

The truth isn’t always what we want to acknowledge, but to keep ourselves present in a relationship we have to make sure we’re seeing the raw footage.


2. Am I hiding or exaggerating?

In my past relationships, I lived according to extremes. Most of the hiding I was doing was around tough emotions: rather than confront and address potential conflicts, I ran away, simply because I wanted to seem like the kind of girl who could go with the flow. Exaggeration kicked in, as I wanted to show myself off.

But by hiding, I ended up going along with open relationships and activities I wasn’t so keen on. And all this inauthenticity and "acting" created a power play of my constantly feeling like I was trying to assert I’m better than you are.

Have you noticed yourself doing things you wouldn’t normally say yes to doing? Or what about trying to fit your partner into a right and wrong category? If either one of these elements are showing up in your relationship, you may want to consider not only if you are enjoying the relationship you’re in, but if you’re really playing a part within it.

3. Am I one way in the relationship and another way outside of it?

In past relationships, I also always felt more like myself when I was with my friends. I could talk freely without feeling judged and I could even express my concerns about the relationship I was in. These concerns of course would then spark my friends to wonder if my then-partner was the right person for me.

Of course, I’d get defensive, and make excuse after excuse affirming that I thought he was. Then at home I’d forget everything that had happened with my friends and go back to living in some strange cloud of delusion.

So consider these follow up questions: are you different when you’re with your partner than when you are with your family or friends? Do you feel tight lipped with your partner, maybe like you can’t relax fully, that you’re always on guard, but with your friends you feel free?

If you are changing based on who you’re around, that could be a sign that you’ve turned from yourself in the relationship.

4. Am I using harsh language?

Negative self-talk is pretty common. We say mean things to ourselves every day from “I can’t believe I did that,” to “I’m so stupid,” or “I look so fat today.”

But negative partner-talk in a relationship looks a bit different. We put our partner’s down in front of other people to make them look stupid, we point out what they’re doing that’s not right, we make them feel badly because we aren’t feeling very cared for, seen, heard, or loved.

Are you noticing that you’re saying harsh words to your partner? Harsh language is how our frustration over a loss of self can be released. Resentment manifests in tricky ways, and it's important to tune into these patterns in order to nip these feelings in the bud.

These four questions help me to keep myself in check while in relationships, constantly. The more I pay attention and notice how I’m interacting within the relationship and outside of it the easier it is to see if I’m actually a part of the relationship or not.

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