Okay, obviously that is a cheesy photo. However, once you’re out of a codependent relationship, and have gotten beyond the grief, this is how you’ll feel!
Anyhow, let’s get to the point. Ending a relationship from a codependent position is one of the hardest things you will ever do, or have ever done. You have recognized your friendship, dating relationship, sibling relationship, etc. has reached very unhealthy levels. You now realize that you are often drained of time, energy, emotional well-being, and a general feeling of joy after you are around the toxic person in your life. You feel manipulated, guilty and exhausted after you are with the person. You have asked yourself repeatedly, ‘Why do I continue to answer their phone calls?’ The person calls you whenever they are in crisis. The person always needs something that “only you” can give, whether it is money, time, a place to stay, or you name-it. When you can’t break out of this cycle, you are in a codependent relationship. Other terms you will frequently hear are enabler and coaddict.
So, the big question is, ‘How do I stop this crazy in my life?’ That’s really what it is too: crazy-making. You always leave a conversation feeling like the crazy one, but your friends all tell you it’s the other person. To end this kind of relationship takes very drastic measures. You have to come to a place of strength and reality. You need to take a very honest look at what has been happening between you and this person. Is this a truly reciprocal and healthy relationship? If the answer is “no” or, “It used to be,” then it is time to move on.
Once you have really looked at the relationship, you have to tell yourself, “I will no longer enable bad behavior. I am not responsible in any way for the outcome of this person’s life.” Truly, the person will get better or get worse with or without you.
Next, surround yourself with good friends or family who will keep you busy and keep you grounded in reality. The crazy-maker in your life is going to call you with a crisis because that has always worked. You will have to either not answer the call, or simply say over and over again, “You will have to call someone else with this problem. I have been unable to help in the past because you have not chosen to help yourself.”
Finally, you need to maintain firmly whatever boundary or rule you’ve set. If you told the toxic person you will not call them back in the middle of the night anymore, then turn your phone off at night. You get the idea…
Again, ending an enabling relationship is challenging beyond belief. However, once you’re through the mud and the muck of it, you’ll feel free. You’ll feel like the guy in the picture at the beginning of this blog post!
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT