How To Avoid Being Codependent in a Relationship

How To Avoid Being Codependent in a Relationship

I love my boyfriend, but whenever I am in a relationship, my sense of insecurity heightens. It’s because there’s suddenly something to lose, and someone who can take it away from me. I can’t control his feelings towards me, and my abandonment complex rears its ugly head. To cope with all this insecurity, my brain tells me that I should try to spend every second of every day with my boyfriend so that he doesn’t have an opportunity to find anyone better. However, this is unsustainable and we would probably get sick of each other. I want to avoid being codependent in a relationship, but my brain tries to push me into it to avoid abandonment.

“Codependency can be defined as any relationship in which two people become so invested in each other that they can’t function independently anymore.” (Source)

A healthy relationship is one where you can function well without the other person, but you are happier and more fulfilled when the two of you are together. This seems like a given in a relationship where both parties are mentally healthy, but, as always, mental illness makes everything more complicated. When you are mentally ill, your partner is usually your first point of contact for support when you are struggling. They help you through the down times and are there to celebrate when you are thriving. However, this support can easily bleed into codependency if you don’t take conscious steps to avoid it.

These are some ways of how to avoid being codependent in a relationship.

Make time to have physical space away from each other.

Palm beach in Sydney

In past relationships, I panicked if I couldn’t see my partner or ring them for hours every single day. I felt lost, out of control, and worried that they were already sick of me. I clung so tightly that I never had the opportunity to experience life away from my partner.

My current boyfriend and I make a point of spending days apart. This was terrifying at first because I wasn’t used to men setting clear boundaries with me and saying that they needed space. I worried that I had done something wrong and that I was ruining the relationship. The truth is, my boyfriend is an introvert and he likes to have his own space.

Since making a point of having time apart, I have felt so much more comfortable in my relationship. My feelings of abandonment are lower, and I don’t panic every time my boyfriend goes out with friends. It means that I also get time to myself to work on my interests: writing, reading, working on my website, and socialising with my own friends.

Making time away from your partner is so important, because it also gives you something to miss. When you come back together, you have more experiences and stories to share, and you feel recharged from taking a small break from their company. Your partner has time to focus on their own life, and you have time to focus on yours.

Devise strategies to deal with distress on your own.

This can be a really difficult thing to cope with when you have severe mental illness and you are used to relying on your partner for emotional support. However, there are times when your partner will not be able to support you. For example, when I was travelling in South America, I was on an opposite time-zone to my city. My partner and I were only awake at the same time for a few hours of the day. He was often asleep during my night time, which is when I am most easily distressed. I know that he will not always be available when I need him. Therefore, I have strategies in place for when I need to handle distress on my own.

  • Temperature control: having a freezing cold shower or holding an ice-cube in your hand can distract you from distressing feelings and shock your body back into reality.
  • Self-soothing: sitting in the shower, stroking your arms gently, and relaxing your breathing can help to reduce your heart rate.
  • Distraction: loud, energetic music, watching a comedy, or going out for a walk can help you to escape from your thoughts.

There are going to be times when you need your partner for comfort, guidance, and support, but it is important to manage initial distress on your own.

Avoid being codependent in a relationship by travelling alone.

Circular Quay in Sydney

At the extreme end of how to avoid being codependent in a relationship is travelling alone. As well as giving you space from your partner, it also pushes you into situations where you need to problem-solve, be confident, socialise with strangers, and test your limits. You will realise that you are so capable of doing anything that you set your mind to, and that you don’t need to be afraid of being alone. Travelling without your partner will test your relationship, but you both will be stronger for it.

It doesn’t need to be as extreme as a few months away from your partner. If you try a weekend trip, or a couple of weeks overseas by yourself, then your sense of accomplishment and self-sufficiency will already increase. Travelling without your partner also gives you the opportunity to explore activities that you are interested in but they aren’t. Having time apart from each other is a good time to strengthen your own personalities and interests.

Being codependent is not the same as being emotionally close.

A healthy relationship is one where you can be open about your emotions and support each other. I would never suggest that you should try to sever emotional ties with your partner for the sake of independence. However, you should feel comfortable about being alone with yourself, as well as loving the time that you spend with your partner. It should feel like two whole people coming together to create something more than the sum of two halves. It’s important to nurture your relationship, but it’s also important to nurture yourself.

What are some conscious steps that you take to avoid being codependent in a relationship?

Sign up for free monthly post-roundups and further reflections on travel and mental health.
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.
By | 2018-01-11T22:44:08+00:00 December 31st, 2017|mental health|16 Comments


  1. byronicone January 1, 2018 at 8:33 am - Reply

    Fantastic advice as always. I, too, have spent many times worrying about a romantic interest when apart from them. Separation anxiety, I guess. I think feelings of abandonment are definitely at play in some way. Next time I’m in the situation I’ll think back to this. Or maybe I’ll just remain in the forever alone club 😀

    • Her Travel Therapy January 1, 2018 at 7:26 pm - Reply

      It’s scary when you realise that you can’t control another person and how they feel about you! I’m trying to radically accept it at the moment but it sits weirdly for me.

  2. Tahnee's Blog January 3, 2018 at 10:59 pm - Reply

    So much great advice. I always have time to myself and find for me that’s the key. We have been together 13 so it’s very easy to become reliant on each other for every emotional fulfilment. This isn’t plausible though. So yeah some really great advice here thanks for sharing a great post

    • Her Travel Therapy January 4, 2018 at 9:55 am - Reply

      Wow 13 years is incredible! You two must be amazing at navigating challenges in your relationship.

  3. Kasia Mikolajczak (@KasiaMikola) January 4, 2018 at 8:17 am - Reply

    Great advice here. Some people get so attached to each other that they literally can’t be apart. I believe that’s not that healthy. You need to be ok in your own skin by yourself and not be totally dependent on your partner. Thanks for sharing this insight.

    • Her Travel Therapy January 4, 2018 at 9:54 am - Reply

      I’m so glad that isn’t me anymore!

  4. abingeworthylife January 4, 2018 at 8:58 am - Reply

    This is such great advice. I struggled with issues like this years ago. My husband and I have now been married for many years and I will be sharing this post with our teenage daughter!

    • Her Travel Therapy January 4, 2018 at 9:53 am - Reply

      Thanks! I’m glad you think this will be helpful for your daughter.

  5. Brooke January 4, 2018 at 2:00 pm - Reply

    You have some really great advice. Not having control in a relationship can definitely be scary but trust is definitely key.

  6. joniamac January 4, 2018 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    This is great advice! Some people jump into relationships so fast and are together non stop. I don’t think thats healthy especially when you drop everyone else off the planet so to speak! I guess that saying “It’s important to love yourself before you can love someone else” is true.

    • Her Travel Therapy January 5, 2018 at 9:09 pm - Reply

      I think the new relationship fever has an expiry date that a lot of people ignore and keep trying to be together all the time.

  7. Karishma January 4, 2018 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    This is wonderful advice, I absolutely agree and endorse it. My husband and me always give a lot of space to one another. We do different things, have varied interests and Travel on many occasions separately and yet give lot of time to one another. It’s a great feeling

    • Her Travel Therapy January 5, 2018 at 9:09 pm - Reply

      Sounds like a great marriage!

  8. Officially Chic January 4, 2018 at 11:36 pm - Reply

    This was definitely me in my last relationship! Which is why I’m always hesitant to get into a new one. I’m in space right now where I’m trying to better myself and take care of a whole child (lol). If I get into a new relationship, I feel like I would just have another person that I have to devote time to and that just won’t work right now. I love your suggestions though! I’ll keep them in mind when I decide to date again!

    • Her Travel Therapy January 5, 2018 at 9:09 pm - Reply

      It sounds like you definitely have your head screwed on straight and you know your priorities if/when you next get into a relationship.

  9. Kelly Jean January 7, 2018 at 6:13 am - Reply

    I always travel alone as I have anxiety when I am with too many people. If I ever do find someone I want to share this journey with, I will definitely keep this article in mind.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: