The 8 Best Books On Codependency That Will Help You Let Go & Recover

Codependency is the term used to describe an unhealthy relationship dynamic in which one partner believes they need the other. They believe that they will not survive or function without the other, while the other partner, the giver, thrives off this sense of being needed. The term codependent was popularized around the 1980s by Melody Beattie and was initially used within the context of addiction, where the taker (the person who needs help) is addicted to a substance or process, and the giver (the one who needs to be needed) enables them. Now, this term is being used in many of the best books on codependency.

Codependent relationships are a breeding ground for emotional abuse. The giver typically struggles with low self-esteem, so they source their self-worth from taking care of their partner. As such, the partner who may be struggling with addiction, poor mental health, or other unresolved emotional issues benefits from the givers need to be needed and may frequently take advantage of them. Learning about codependency is a wise choice no matter who you are and whether or not you have been directly or indirectly affected. Knowledge is power when it comes to relationships, boundaries, dependence, addiction, and other mental health issues.

Below, we have outlined some of the best books that focus on codependency published since the term was first coined. All of these books contain inspiration, insight, and investigation into the nature of codependency, and some include workbooks to help you work on your own codependent behavior. 

Best Books On Codependency

The 8 Best Books on Codependency

1. Codependent No More

One of the most educational and inspirational codependency books, Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More, is a must-read for anyone—directly or indirectly affected or even with a curiosity about codependency. 

Throughout her best-selling book, Beattie breaks down the how’s and why’s of codependent relationships in a way that is easy to understand and digest. She offers case studies, life stories, personal reflections, and exercises for self-evaluation throughout the book so that you, the reader, can fully engage with the learning process.

“As caretakers, we allow people to victimize us, and we participate in our victimization by perpetually rescuing people. Rescuing or caretaking is not an act of love.”

2. Facing Codependence

In Facing Codependence: What It Is, Where It Comes From, How It Sabotages Our Lives, renowned author and authority on codependency, dysfunction, and addiction recovery, Pia Mellody, offers an insightful yet easy to understand framework for identifying and then addressing the codependent relationships in your life.

Mellody, who lectures internationally on the childhood origins of emotional dysfunction, maps out the connection between childhood trauma and one’s capacity to maintain healthy relationships as an adult. Pia Mellody’s book is an eye-opener. Even if you are not currently in a codependent relationship but suspect that you have codependent tendencies, Facing Codependence can serve as an invaluable asset to your future relationships. Readers also enjoy a practical workbook to help them practice the healing process Mellody describes throughout the book.

“Recovery from codependence is a lot like a growing up process – we must learn to do the things our dysfunctional parents did not teach us to do: appropriately esteem ourselves, set functional boundaries, be aware of and acknowledge our reality, take care of our adult needs and wants, and experience our reality moderately.”

3. Boundaries

A defining characteristic of codependent behavior is a lack of healthy boundaries. In Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud, the reader learns not only about why one should set healthy boundaries in all areas of one’s life but also how to do so.

If codependents were to set firm and healthy boundaries around their time and energy, their tendencies would not be as much of an issue. The problem is that to set boundaries and follow through with them calls upon a level of confidence and self-esteem that codependents, as per their condition, typically lack. In Cloud’s Boundaries, the author helps you identify and address those barriers to functional self-esteem and practice setting firm boundaries by taking small but significant steps in the right direction.

“We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.”

low self esteem and codependency

4. Codependency for Dummies

The Codependency For Dummies series is a collection of instructional, educational books on a broad range of topics and subjects presented concisely, easy-to-understand, and highly accessible. In Codependency for Dummies, author Darlene Lancer offers the reader an unrivaled education on codependency. She explores codependent behavior’s causes, symptoms, and outcomes in a sensitive but highly informative way.

Throughout the book, you learn about the language of codependency as well as a road map to recovery. Lancer offers advice and guidelines on identifying and addressing your behavior to finally make the necessary changes to live a healthier life filled with self-care and authenticity rather than avoiding deeper issues through codependency.

“When we let go of our reactions and detach from other people’s moods, actions, and words, we take back our power. Instead of reactors, we become self-determined actors in our lives. We take charge of ourselves and decide how we act at that moment and every moment, skyrocketing our self-esteem.”

5. You’re Not Crazy – You’re Codependent

In You’re Not Crazy – You’re Codependent, author Jeanette Elisabeth Menter uncovers the potential causes of codependency, which range from emotional abuse to childhood trauma and toxic parenting to deeply held shame. Menter’s book is an essential read for anyone who experiences even mild codependency symptoms. She explores how symptoms can be confusing. The person suffering understands the importance of boundaries and the dangers of being an enabler but cannot use that rationale to change their behavior.

Menter helps the reader ease the confusion around symptoms through education and guidance. She offers practical advice and tools for how to help your inner child heal shame and let go of the toxic beliefs that lead to and perpetuate codependent behavior.

“It can be the lack of interaction and lack of rules, consequences, or overall involvement with the child. It can be accomplished very well by simply ignoring or not talking as a way of manipulating. When this is done without explanation, it makes children crazy with guilt and fear because they don’t know what they did to deserve it or when it will happen again. Non-parenting (neglect, for example) is a very lethal form of abuse. Sometimes it takes a little digging to realize you were subjected to this type of abuse because you may feel like it’s all in your head.”

6. The Language of Letting Go

This is another wonderfully insightful and inspirational book from Melody Beattie. Beattie empowers the reader to take positive action in The Language of Letting Go: Daily Meditations on Codependency. She offers meditations and reflections that remind the reader to focus on their own lives, self-worth, and the right to let go of shame. The key themes in Beattie’s book are self-renewal and personal growth and are the driving forces behind real and lasting recovery.

Beattie’s book can be deeply helpful and insightful, but note that it focuses on a Christian message and context. As such, non-Christian readers may not feel as connected or involved with her work. Still, it is entirely possible to read Beattie’s work from a secular point of view and gain insight that you may not have gained otherwise.

“I used to spend so much time reacting and responding to everyone else that my life had no direction. Other people’s lives, problems, and wants to set the course for my life. Once I realized it was okay for me to think about and identify what I wanted, remarkable things began to take place in my life.”

understanding a toxic codependent relationship

7. Conquering Shame and Codependency

In Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You, Darlene Lancer (author of Codependency for Dummies) explores the toxic and destructive consequences of shame on the individual and all of their relationships. She helps the reader understand how holding onto shame can lead to and perpetuate codependency, addictions, and other mental health issues.

Throughout her book, Lancer not only explores the consequences of shame but also offers eight practical steps to help you identify, address, and safely release deeply held feelings of shame so you can begin to live more freely and healthily as your authentic self.

“Shame destroys our dreams and stifles our talents, and as much as we want to love and be loved, it sabotages our relationships. As I researched and wrote Conquering Shame and Codependency, the insidious way shame undermines us became even clearer to me. My work with individuals and couples became more focused and effective. My clients’ self-awareness, moods, and behaviors exponentially improved. Healing shame is powerful medicine.”

8. The New Codependency: Help and Guidance for Today’s Generation

Melody Beattie’s third book to feature on this list, The New Codependency, looks at the state and prevalence of codependency in the 21st century. This time around, Beattie helps us define what is and what is not codependency by shining a light on how even seemingly normal behaviors can indicate deeper tendencies toward codependent behavior.

Melody Beattie has pioneered global awareness on the prevalence and nature of codependency and has helped countless people recognize and address their behavior. Any of Beattie’s books are most certainly worth a read.

“We can confuse love with dependency, manipulation, and neediness. None of those are love. Love is when we want other people to be who they are.”

Conclusion

Breaking free from codependency issues is not easy, but the rewards of doing the work far outweigh the consequences of continuing to allow this unhealthy behavior to run your life. The books focused on helping the reader develop a healthy relationship with oneself, let go of toxic shame, and finally learn to set boundaries.

If you have been reading this article because you have found yourself in a dysfunctional relationship, you have a history of unhealthy relationships, or you think you have tendencies towards codependency, then you are on the right track. Education and knowledge are important steps on the path to finally breaking these toxic cycles and living a life unhindered by shame and toxic relationship behavior patterns.

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