What Are The Signs Of A Codependent Relationship?

Feb 23, 2023 | Communication, Codependency, Family Issues, Relationship Issues

We all want to be loved and cared for. But when this desire starts to become toxic, it can have a negative impact on your mental health and relationships. If you are in a codependent relationship, you might find yourself sacrificing your own happiness and well-being for another person. This can be especially common in romantic relationships, but codependency does not affect only romantic partners. It can also happen between a parent and child as well as friends or siblings. Codependent relationships can be emotionally draining and damaging for all parties involved. In order to establish if you’re in a codependent relationship, it’s crucial to examine your behavior and ask yourself some important questions.

What Is A Codependent Relationship?

A codependent relationship is one in which one or both partners have unhealthy behaviors that negatively impact their lives and relationship as a whole. The signs of a codependent relationship can be hard to spot because they often look like basic love and care. The term codependency was popularized in the 1980s when it became more widely recognized as a mental health issue. Essentially, it refers to people who are dependent on others for their emotional well-being and who have difficulty functioning independently. The problem with codependent relationships tends to be self-perpetuating. If you find yourself in a relationship like this, breaking out of the cycle can be hard.

Codependency often starts developing during childhood. With parents that are either overprotective or under protective, a child may begin to rely on others to an unhealthy degree. For overbearing parents, the child is not given an opportunity to establish independence or build confidence. Their parents reinforce their reliance on them, and this translates into adolescence and adulthood in many cases. In contrast, when parents are unwilling to provide basic love and care, children will seek it from outside sources. These tend to be the codependent adults that suffer from anxious attachment styles. In general, the way a child is raised has a lot to do with their chances of developing codependency later on in life.

You Define Your Self-Worth Through Relationships

In a codependent relationship, you may feel like you’re not good enough on your own. You may feel like you need the other person to make you happy and that without them, you do not have the same level of self-worth. In a healthy relationship, both partners are working toward becoming better people and maintaining their independence. But in codependent relationships, one person may be focused on getting their needs met while the other focuses more on meeting the needs of their partner. Having a strong sense of self-worth is correlated to an increased level of happiness and satisfaction with life. For those that are codependent, these do not exist in many cases. The state of being constantly on edge due to the prioritizing of a partner’s needs is hazardous for overall mental health. 

You Are Overly Dependent On Others

Another sign that you may be in a codependent relationship is that you have a hard time making decisions without asking for advice from your partner. Although seeking advice or making decisions as a unit is important for a healthy relationship, not all decisions should require another person’s assistance to make. Many people that are codependent lack the self-confidence required to make their own decisions and often second-guess themselves. Relying on others for guidance on major life decisions can be unhealthy for all parties involved. The increased pressure put on others can be detrimental to their mental health as well. Being overly dependent on others can also take shape in the form of happiness. Many codependent relationships revolve around one person’s needs, desires, and interests. In order to ensure their partner is happy, a codependent partner will put aside their own happiness. This can lead to depression, anxiety, and a general lack of interest in activities. And should the relationship end, they are not likely to know how to find happiness on their own.

You Have A Hard Time Saying No

If you have a hard time saying no, this is another sign that you may be codependent. The inability to say no is commonly referred to as people pleasing, though it goes much deeper than this. Saying no can be a scary concept for people that are codependent because it sparks fear of conflict or rejection. By saying no to someone you love, you are running the risk that they become angry or decrease the amount of love shown towards you. Once again, this is a reflection of a childhood in which love was either not freely given or given in abundance. This type of behavior will cause stress in the relationship and make both parties unhappy with each other as well as themselves.

You Struggle To Communicate

If you find it challenging to communicate with your partner, whether it be speaking up or sharing your own needs, you may be experiencing some level of codependency. Especially in instances where you feel unsafe, communicating is of the utmost importance. Even so, codependent people will let their feelings take a back seat in order to avoid conflict or keep their partner happy. In the event that the relationship is unstable, this may cause fear that their partner will leave them should they say the wrong thing. Codependent partners learn to quiet their own needs or desires in order to appease others.

You Feel Like A Caretaker

Commonly, codependent people will seek out partners that need them in order to acquire an increased sense of security. By finding someone that is likely to rely on them, they can guarantee their love and acceptance will remain consistent. An example of this could be a partner that is unemployed or recovering from substance abuse. The codependent partner is able to take care of their significant other in need, and as a result, they can feel confident that the relationship will endure. This creates a sense of caretaking, which is unhealthy for both partners involved. This need to take care of a partner can also stem from childhood as they experienced situations in the past that reinforced the need to step in in order to avoid potential catastrophes. The fear that something terrible will happen if they do not take consistent care of the other person is a dangerous loop that many people can become stuck in. In the instance of a recovering addict partner, they may feel that their significant other will relapse if they do not provide adequate support. Even if their logic is completely unsound to others, it makes sense to the codependent person involved.

You Make Your Partner’s Problems Your Problems Too

A draining aspect of codependency is the need to take on the problems of those you care about. When a partner suffers a hardship like job loss or grief, the codependent partner feels an equal amount of suffering. Although many people may view this as empathy, it is unfortunately not a healthy way to cope. On the contrary, a healthy relationship features a balancing act in which one partner is able to provide support for the other in times of need. Codependency removes this ability as both people in the relationship are simultaneously suffering. This may also increase conflict in the relationship as resentment can build due to the lack of support. Each person should be able to process and handle their own problems individually while receiving the love and support they require during these challenging times.

The signs of codependency are subtle and can be easy to miss. It’s important to remember that you are not alone if you do feel like you have some of these tendencies. If you find that your relationship is causing problems in your life, then it may be time to seek professional help by way of a specialist. Codependency is challenging to overcome on your own, but with the right guidance and support, it can be done.

New Dimensions Can Help!

If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, or other mental health or substance abuse issues, New Dimensions can help.  To learn more about our intensive outpatient treatment programs for adolescents and adults, contact us at 800-685-9796 or visit our website at www.nddtreatment.com.  You can also learn about other mental health services at www.mhthrive.com.


Keywords: Codependency; relationships; codependent relationships; people pleasing


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