As a recovering codependent, I understand how earth-shattering a breakup can be. In the throes of codependency, our romantic relationships are defined by our “excessive emotional or psychological reliance” on our partners. As such, we experience breakups more severely than most.
This is a tiny sample of what I wrote in my journal the day after a devastating breakup:
I cannot comprehend the degree of pain I’m in. I feel like it’s destroying me and thoughts of the future only drag me down further. I feel like I am dying. Please help me. Somebody, something, please. Please help me.
Therapist and codependency recovery expert Ross Rosenberg writes that, for the codependent person, a breakup causes pathological loneliness, which is “excruciating painful and is experienced physically, emotionally, existentially, and spiritually. […] In the throes of pathological loneliness, the [codependent] feels isolated, unloved, unsafe, and fundamentally unworthy.”
His statement perfectly describes my emotional state after my breakup one year and nine months ago. I felt as if the language did not exist for the particular type of hurt I felt. It was similar to grief, but tainted with the cutting edge that my partner hadn’t died; he’d chosen to leave me. This was the most painful part of all, and left me vulnerable to self-loathing, blame, and regret.
“I think the problem is that we depend on our lovers to love us the way we should love ourselves.” — Humble the Poet
In the weeks that followed, I was astounded by the dearth of professional support available to me. Myriad support groups and counselors existed for those who had suffered a loss, but none that treated heartbreak as a grief equivalent. The generic advice to “move on” and “focus on your hobbies” did not apply to me because, as a codependent person, I’d completely enmeshed my identity with my partner’s. In his absence, I was lost, even to myself.
Though I didn’t realize it at the time, that breakup was a giant first step on my road to codependency recovery. That it gets better — universes better. Through my healing experience, rediscovered the voice I’d lost, and it returned stronger and bolder than ever. I can now look back on this time of grief and healing as the most transformative experience of my life.
These are the 11 practices that made my breakup bearable and transformed my pain into a conduit for codependency recovery. You, too, can use these tactics to feel better and mature in ways that reduce your codependent behaviors and the pain they cause you.