The people I loved used to be my first priority, even when helping them hurt me. I put all my needs on the back burner. Growing up, I watched my mom put everyone before herself so I thought that was how love was supposed to be. Unfortunately, my co-dependent tendencies only led to heartbreak and low self-esteem and it took years to undo this damaging cycle.
- I took a step back to reflect on my history. The first step to overcoming my tendency towards codependency was taking a step back to evaluate the relationships I had with my exes. I had to search myself and analyze the trauma from my past that led me to leaning on my boyfriends. Rejection and loneliness terrified me to the bone. Being alone was all I ever knew growing up, so having someone by my side was a euphoric experience, even beyond the normal love chemicals that take over your brain when you’re in love. Once I came to terms with my patterns of being a pushover and becoming overly attached to my partners, I realized these bad habits led to choosing men who took me for granted.
- I took steps to build my confidence and self-esteem. Once I was finally out of an emotionally abusive relationship that lasted years, I had the courage to open up and improve my self-esteem. Part of this journey meant I had to surround myself only with people who were genuine and loved me as much as I loved them. I had to cut toxic people out of my life, even if those people were members of my own family. I faked confidence until everything I said to myself became truth. I’m still working on my self-esteem and forgiving myself for my past.
- I accepted that some people don’t want to be saved. I have a tendency to see only the best in the people I love. My feelings blinded me from negative behavior for way too long. Whether my partners were emotionally abusive or addicted to drugs or alcohol, I thought my love could save them, fix them. It took me a long time to figure out that I couldn’t save someone who didn’t want to be saved. Most of all, I had to stop carrying all the weight of everyone else’s problems. I’m not built to carry someone else’s burdens. I have enough of my own issues to deal with and there’s nothing wrong with making myself a priority.
- I refused to allow abusive behavior. The more my self-esteem and confidence in myself rose, the stronger I became. This inner strength made it easier to refuse abusive behavior inflicted on me. I deserve just as much love as I give others, so when my ex started DMing me for the 100th time, begging to be with me, I was able to stand up for myself. I didn’t deserve for him to leave me broken and broke. Saving him was impossible and he’d never reciprocate the love I tried to give him for four years.
- I started exploring my own hobbies and interests. Once I was free from the heavy burden of unhealthy relationships, I used that freedom to explore and rediscover my interests. I’m finally in a healthy relationship and we encourage each other to do what makes us happy. Not all of our interests are the same. Now that I’m not pouring all my energy into a guy to cater to him, I’m able to spend that energy on what I love. Writing gives me the ability to heal from my old toxic romantic relationships, so it’s a double win.
- I started spending time apart from my partner so we can flourish. My current boyfriend and I live together but we still find a way to have our separate alone time. I thrive when I have time to myself. I learned that I don’t need to be attached to him 24/7. He has his video game time while I have my writing time. The less we depend on each other, the more we flourish. And when our alone time is over, it makes the time together even more engaging and exciting.
- I started embracing the idea of having separate friends. My boyfriend and I have mutual friends, of course, but we also have our own separate groups. Unlike in my past relationships, I don’t push my closet friends away to cling on to my boyfriend. I keep in touch with my best friends, no matter the distance between us. Having our own individual crews gives us the chance to have a friends’ night without feeling obligated to bring each other along. It’s good for us.
- I learned self-care was essential to my mental health. I know, I know, every millennial preaches about self-care, but it’s legit and super important, especially when you’re in a relationship. When I take care of myself and set healthy boundaries in my relationship, I can kick my co-dependent behavior in the butt.