Top Mistakes to Avoid When Dating as a Recovering Codependent
By Bethany Dotson.
Will I EVER be able to trust myself again? This may be the constant song playing in your mind.
After 40 or 50 years of repeatedly attracting narcissistic, addicted or emotionally unavailable partners…
It’s only natural to begin thinking that something’s wrong with you.
You’ve done therapy. You’ve researched your eyeballs out online. Maybe you’ve attended CODA groups.
You know you’re a fixer, a helper, a caretaker. More clinically coined a CODEPENDENT. Great. So now what?
How exactly DO you go about dating again when dysfunction is your life long pattern? This is, if you haven’t written off love entirely…(which would be sad, let’s face it).
Let’s start with what NOT to do and the 3 common mistakes I see many people getting trapped in…just like they felt trapped in their last relationship.
MISTAKE #1 – BEING IN THE WRONG KIND OF THERAPY:
Common knowledge says the best place for healing is talk therapy. And when you’re barely able to get out of bed in the morning and spending much of your time obsessing about your Ex or staving off a panic attack…it’s a wonderful place to start.
But what most people don’t fully understand, is that codependency inherently is a byproduct of unhealed trauma.
And in the last decade, research shows CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is NOT the best treatment method for healing trauma.
WHY? CBT focuses on reframing and dissecting thought patterns in your mind. Whereas trauma is stored in your BODY. As a constellation and webbing of memorized emotional reactions and patterns to people and specific situations.
Did you FEEL like your Ex was the one? Only to realize it was the most abusive relationship ever? This is because your BODY and subconscious mind recognized that person as familiar. This person was an emotional match for your unhealed trauma. You may have logically recognized red flags…but because the emotional pull (unhealed trauma) was SO STRONG for this person, your trauma won out over logic.
More and more evidence shows somatic based therapies are critical in healing complex trauma: the specific type of trauma people experience in relationships over prolonged periods of time. Somatic therapy brings your body on board helping you memorize NEW, healthier emotional responses to people and scenarios…so that next time you feel the red flag, you act on it accordingly. Instead of minimizing it or people pleasing your way through the conflict.
MISTAKE #2 – TRYING TO FIX IT YOURSELF (THE DIY METHOD TO HEALING):
With the internet and mass amounts of information available at your fingertips…all you need to do is type in codependency and narcissism in Google and you’ll have enough content to consume well into 2026.
But there’s a severe downside to trying to fix your lifelong pattern yourself:
1. A sense of hyper independence is a sign of trauma. It doesn’t feel SAFE to rely or depend on anyone (let alone a therapist), so you may feel safer and more in control when it’s just you and Youtube.
2. While reading and researching will definitely give you some Ah-ha’s and insights…it’s still only logical information. And you’ve had your deeply ingrained trauma patterns for 40 or 50 years. It’s simply not deep enough work to truly shift your behavior. Thanks to evolution and an inherent negativity bias in human psychology (to help us procreate the planet and run away from danger), our brains like the comfort zone. So truly transforming a lifelong pattern rooted in trauma into HEALTHY relationship habits for the rest of your life requires consistency and working a proven plan with the RIGHT type of therapy (see mistake #1 above).
MISTAKE #3 – TAKING MANY YEARS OFF DATING, HOPING TIME HEALS ALL WOUNDS:
Here’s the deal. Yes, it’s wise to take time off to be single and fall in love with yourself and your own damn life.
But far too many people take YEARS off dating…hoping time off does the trick, and then fall RIGHT back into another narcissistic relationship. Often worse than the one before.
Time off dating is often an invitation for your codependency to rear its ugly head in OTHER life areas such as work, parenting or friendships. Many years off dating is also fertile soil for you to continue anchoring negative beliefs like “what’s wrong with me?” “I’m too old now.” “Men my age prefer younger women.”
Think of how much time you spent hoping your Ex would change. That same habit of taking a lot of time can play out even when you’re single. The other downside to years off dating is that you lose the practice of showing up vulnerable with another, facing rejection in a healthy way and communicating your needs clearly.
Dating is one of the greatest mirrors that reflect back to us our own unhealed wounds.
Dating can either be your greatest enemy after codependency, or a catalyst to continue healing.
Bethany Dotson is a Trauma-Sensitive Somatic Therapist and Relationship Coach
Yes I believe what you say in your well researched article This was me codependent and traumatised from a young age.
Perfect fit and love the clarity.
I am a man so am I excluded from being able to use your healing work as it’s clear you’re aiming this solely at women ?
Surely you recognise men like me suffer too !
I feel once again not good enough and the trauma of being ignored as was my upbringing!
Please please realise this hurts both sexes !