Love is a beautiful thing. Sweet and scintillating, especially when two people who genuinely love each other come together in a union. However, there are instances when this love is abused and destroyed by practically impossible demands.
It may not be obvious, but you may already show signs of a codependent relationship.
How is a codependent relationship defined?
What does codependent mean?
Codependency happens when a person depends or relies on a friend, a family member, or partner for their emotional, mental, spiritual, and even physical needs.
Consider a case of two people with dysfunctional personality traits who form a marriage. What comes to mind is probably chaos. But, it may not be exactly chaos. And that’s how codependent relationships are introduced.
Another definition of a codependent relationship is when one is a ‘taker’ or the one who receives, while the other is the ‘caretaker’ or who always gives.
So, what does codependent mean in romantic relationships?
It’s when one person gives everything they can to support the other, and in the process, loses their independence and the other, always taking whatever they can.
What happens in codependency is a case of one person or partner sacrificing more for the sustenance of the relationship than the other. In most romantic relationships, one partner demands excessive attention and psychological support, which is likely coupled with an existing illness or addiction fueling the dependency.
Now that we are familiar with this term and can define a codependent relationship, we have to understand what causes it.
A codependent person doesn’t want to make the people around them unhappy. Once inside this type of relationship, it would be hard to let go because they begin to fear the effects that this may cause to the other person.
People in a codependent relationship would possess some traits in common, including
1. Low Self-esteem
Do you constantly compare yourself, or do you feel that you still lack something? If you do, then you have poor self-esteem.
Some people mask their poor self-esteem with perfectionism. By doing everything perfectly, a person may no longer feel inadequate.
It’s normal to have the urge to please someone you love, but codependents may feel stuck in this situation.
They can’t say ‘no’ and would usually just allow others to request whatever they want. In the long run, this causes unhappiness and stress.
3. Dysfunctional boundaries
We all should have boundaries. It’s that imaginary line between giving too much. This boundary would limit how much you give to protect yourself as well.
However, in codependency, that boundary is either weak or non-existent. Until one day, you feel that you’ve lost your sense of self in the process of giving too much.
When someone who cares for them offers them help in dealing with their codependency problems, they would often refuse and be in denial.
They may say that the problem is with someone else or an uncontrollable situation, but not them. Codependents would often refuse to address their needs and feelings and choose to focus on their partner’s needs.
Why is codependency unhealthy?
All of us feel responsible for our loved ones.
However, this feeling of responsibility becomes unhealthy once you start losing your identity in the process of taking care of someone else.
What is a codependent relationship?
Codependency happens when a person’s responsibility towards their partner becomes excessive.
A person may not see the signs of a codependent relationship; it may only become visible when everything has become unhealthy and toxic.
Over time, it will allow one partner to give in to the taker completely, and the other will succumb to the addiction of being pleased by the giver.
A classic example of a codependent relationship is the case of people involved with narcissists. Such people will drain themselves giving and giving, which never matures to satisfaction because the other partner keeps shifting goalposts and making unrealistic demands. The end effect is the victim is wholly burned out.
A healthy relationship provides a case where there’s a balance between each partner’s independence and the need for mutual help. The moment that balance is swept off, things get messy. So, what would suggest the existence of a codependent relationship?
15 codependent relationship warning signs to watch out for
Signs and symptoms of codependency usually have a pattern of behaviors. These are consistent and will interfere with mental and emotional health.
Codependency expresses itself in many ways that some people may not realize when they are in one.
Here are 15 signs of codependency in a relationship.
1. You have a strong need to want to ‘fix’ your partner
The only way to know or test if this is happening to you is to watch out for the following:
You have a strong feeling that you lost yourself and need your partner’s approval to feel whole.
When you notice the above becoming your daily life, it should ring a bell in your mind as to codependency.
Healthy relationships thrive on trust, mutual respect, and honesty among the partners in the union.
In a codependent case, a partner or both partners have personalities that drive them to be people-pleasers. They only feel thrilled by helping others or sometimes adorning thoughts that they can fix others.
Codependency will drive one to the extremes of not being able to take care of themselves and instead care for others, or, convince them that their self-worth is tied to them being needed.
2. You start filling in the gaps as your partner pulls back
It’s very easy to predict the existence of codependency in a relationship when you see a partner trying to take on the responsibility to connect and keep in touch.
This commonly presents itself when one partner pulls back or withdraws his time, effort, and care they ought to give, forcing the other partner, the victim of codependency, to go an extra mile and work very hard to fill in the gaps so that the relationship stays.
Immediately, the relationship shifts to an unhealthy direction which is codependency.
3. You sacrifice and lose all your boundaries
Boundaries are indeed very healthy to have across all spheres of life. However, it probably is a very unholy word they cannot condone to the codependent person.
One common trait among codependent people is that they have no boundaries. They are overly concerned and responsible for others.
Such people may put on a strong face, but the problem is their lack of boundaries. They throw away everything that relates to them and put on the other’s shoes.
They are okay to be disrespected because they value another’s story more than their course and are ready to drop all their boundaries. Codependent people either have no boundaries or are ignorant about having firm boundaries even to the people they care about.
If you find yourself in this pack, you are indeed in the codependency trap.
4. You are constantly in need to ask for approval for almost every little thing
According to Catenya McHenry, author ofMarried to a Narcissist,being constantly in need to ask permission or approval from your relationship partner to do basic everyday things and have a strong feeling that you can’t make even a simple decision without consulting with your partner, shows clear signs of codependency.
You can’t make your own decisions, and the time will come that you will need to seek approval from your partner about everything. This is one of the signs of codependency.
You might find yourself constantly checking if your relationship is okay. You will also ask your partner if you did something wrong or if there is anything you can improve on. One way to assess yourself is to check your confidence levels before and after the union starts. Suppose there’s a mismatch, and you find that you are full of doubts about your self-worth and can’t make decisions. In that case, there’s a significant likelihood of a codependent relationship in your marriage.
Also, if even after breaking up with a controlling partner, you still feel and believe you need them, then you are in codependency.
Codependency is an awful state and is not recommended for anyone. Breaking away from it requires that you are first aware of how it manifests. The above is an excellent place to start assessing your relationship.
5. You feel you don’t have an independent life
When you no longer feel that you have a life of your own, that’s one of the codependency relationship signs.
Even if you get married or have kids, it’s essential to still have a life of your own.
You don’t feel trapped or chained to the relationship, let alone with your partner. You don’t even have free time for yourself, because you give everything to your partner.
6. You have lost contact with your family or friends
How to know if you’re codependent? Try remembering the last time you visited your family and friends. When was the last time you had time to be with them and bond?
This is one of the saddest parts of being in a codependent relationship.
If you try to reach out to them, you might have issues with your partner and be accused of abandoning them. In time, the people who care for you will feel that they are no longer part of your life.
7. You feel that you are always “walking on eggshells” to avoid issues with your partner
What are the signs of a codependent person? It’s when a person constantly walks on ‘eggshells’ to avoid any issue.
They are afraid of making the slightest mistake and scared of the outcome of their mistakes.
This is very common in narcissistic relationships, where one mistake can create a traumatic experience.
8. Your partner has unhealthy habits, and you join them or entertain them for your own reasons
When you’re in love, you want to do everything together, and it’s so much fun to be fond of the same things, right?
Unfortunately, in an unhealthy codependent relationship, you will choose to join your partner in their habits, even if it’s bad or wrong. You may even find yourself entertaining this person’s addiction or bad habits.
It’s one of the most dangerous signs you’re codependent.
9. You are afraid of saying ‘no’ to your partner
One of the saddest signs of a codependent relationship is when you can no longer say ‘no’ to your partner.
This is why the giver would choose to say ‘yes’ even if they are in a tight position. They would agree to what the taker wants even if that choice will be wrong for them.
If the taker asks the giver to do drugs, the giver, even if they don’t want it, will be forced to agree as a sign that no matter what, their partner would come first.
“Prove your love to me.”
True love is felt, it is respected, and it is selfless. If a person demands, and always wants proof just to get what they want, then can you call this love?
10. You feel responsible for everything they do
Even if you are in love, you can’t be responsible for your partner’s actions and decisions.
In a codependent relationship, you will find yourself making excuses and reasons for everything your partner does.
If this person ruins their life or becomes depressed, you will feel like it’s your fault and feel like you were the one who caused this grief. In the end, you’ll do everything for your partner until you find yourself drowning in this toxic relationship.
11. You’re stuck in your relationship, unable to move forward
Codependent relationship signs include the feeling of being stuck in a toxic and needy relationship. You are well aware that you are not moving forward. In fact, in some cases, it even gets worse over time.
You try your best, but you don’t know how to bring life back into your union.
12. You become too focused on your partner’s feelings and start neglecting yours
Do you still have time for yourself? When was the last time you took a long relaxing bath?
When was the time you went out to shop for yourself?
Codependent signs in a relationship include neglecting one’s needs and wants to focus on their partner’s.
Becoming too focused on your partner is damaging and is not the right way to show your love. It only creates codependency, and this is not healthy.
13. You don’t communicate with each other
When was the last time you had open communication?
Have you ever felt that whenever you try to talk to each other and open up, it leads to a fight?
When you try to open up, your partner might take it negatively and seem like you’re planning to abandon or hurt this person.
Soon, any form of honest communication may seem like a threat.
14. You think your partner is responsible for your own feelings
One of the signs of codependency in relationships is when your happiness will depend on your partner’s happiness.
Unknowingly, you start making your partner the source of your happiness, which is very unhealthy.
Soon, you will no longer know how to identify your own feelings.
15. Feeling sorry for your partner even if they are already abusive
Deep inside, you know you are already in an abusive relationship, yet, you still feel that deep connection with your partner.
You may even believe that you are the only one who can change this person, and you don’t want to give up.
If this is how you view your relationship, you have one of the signs of a codependent relationship.
Difference between codependent and dependent relationships
In a healthy relationship, the right amount of dependency is healthy.
We aim for a companion in life, a partner, someone we could depend on when life challenges us.
A healthy companionship will help the relationship thrive.
Here, you don’t focus on your partner’s needs alone. Instead, you are there to support your partner and vice versa.
This involves being there to listen, to be able to offer solutions, to understand, and to care.
While with codependency, it becomes selfish and controlling.
What step should you take if you’re in a codependent relationship?
Now that you are familiar with the signs of a codependent relationship, it’s time to know what you can do when you realize that you’re in one.
Not all couples who experience codependency need to break up. If there is a chance that both of you are willing to take, there can be a chance.
Here are some treatments that can work.
1. Seek counseling
Seek help. There is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting that you need help.
Licensed therapists offer their help to rebuild your life again.
These therapists will help you get back what you have lost and assist you in handling your relationship better.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.