How to Practice Detachment to Unburden Yourself in Relationships 

By Michelle Farris, psychotherapist.

If you struggle with codependency, detaching emotionally is like pulling teeth. Learning how to let go becomes a long and painful process in codependency recovery. We never let go without a fight and that too is part of the journey! 

In this article, you will learn the value of detachment in relationships and how to free yourself from taking on other people’s burdens.

If you find yourself giving unwanted advice…fixing other people’s problems…excusing bad behavior, their problems become YOUR problems.

Taking on other people’s lives is the definition of codependency, right?

Feeling responsible for everything and everyone becomes a never-ending cycle in codependency. The more you try to control things, the more anxious and overwhelmed you feel, and I don’t want that for you.

What is detachment? 

Detachment means letting go of trying to control other people, situations and outcomes. It’s knowing what you’re responsible for and what isn’t yours to fix. 

Healthy detachment creates a boundary that protects you from giving too much then losing yourself in relationships.

For instance, when bad things happen, you feel compelled to step in even though it’s not your problem to solve. You  spend hours trying to help – often without being asked!

By taking responsibility for other people’s problems you carry the weight of the work on your shoulders. As a result, you have no time or energy left to deal with your own life because you’re consumed with fixing everyone else’s. 

This is how detachment creates unnecessary stress and anxiety. 

So how can detachment help?

Detachment keeps you focused on what you CAN control versus worrying about what you CAN’T. Expecting people, places and things to be a certain way creates your own suffering. 

However, detachment doesn’t mean that you don’t care. You are simply giving others the dignity to take responsibility for their circumstances and figure it out.

Detachment creates a pause in your emotional reactions. Instead of feeling anxious and enmeshed in other people’s lives, you understand that other people need to figure it out. 

There are other ways to show support and care. Listening, validating someone’s feelings or spending time together can be ways to show support without losing yourself. You don’t have to fix it.

For instance, when a loved one is depressed but won’t get help, you can’t change that. Or, when a family member drinks too much, you don’t make their life easier by paying their bills. 

Let them make their own choices and wait to see if they ask for help. You may be surprised that your loved one may not be looking for a rescue after all. 

In codependency recovery, you come to realize that the only thing you have complete control over is YOU: your thoughts, your actions and your beliefs. Everything else is outside of your control, especially other people! 

Practicing detachment preserves your energy in situations where you have no control. Instead of getting frustrated because people don’t behave in a respectful manner, you can detach with love by leaving. 

Healthy ways to detach include:

  •  Leaving the room when someone is yelling
  •  Staying quiet instead of volunteering to help
  •  Showing support without trying to fix it
  •  Letting someone figure out their issues

You may be wondering…isn’t it more loving to help rather than watch them suffer? Not necessarily. Doing for others what they can do for themselves robs them of the dignity of choice.

Everyone deserves to make their own choices.

Final thoughts

You may have good intentions but if your loved ones aren’t asking for help it may be kinder to refrain. In codependency, assuming that you’re being helpful may do more damage and continue unhealthy dependency. 

When practicing detachment relationships improve because you can love and accept the other person and save your sanity in the process. 

Michelle Farris, Codependency Expert and Psychotherapist Get Michelle’s FREE E-Workbook on 7 Signs of Codependent Relationships (And How to Heal Them)

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