In a codependent relationship, one’s own needs and feelings take precedence over another partners. Emotional dependency can be very unhealthy as the giver loses a part of themselves. Here are the subtle signs of codependency in your relationship that you didn’t realize you were codependent on.
Do your friends tell you that you are codependent in your relationship? Don’t you know what that means? Is it a term you heard and you are not clear in its meaning?
The definition of codependency is characterized by excessive emotional or psychological dependence on a partner, usually someone who needs support due to an illness or addiction.
Here are the signs of dependency in relationships
Now that you understand what “codependent” means, let’s explore the signs if you are codependent in your relationship.
- The need to please.
Do you do anything you can to please your partner? Do you dress the way they want, listen to the same music they do, cook only their favorite things, and compliment them on everything? Have you left yourself to keep your person happy?
And did you do this because you are afraid that if you don’t, your partner will get angry or, even worse, leave you?
I have a client who has bent over backward to please her partner. She was sure that if she didn’t, he would leave her. She took care of all his needs, pretended it was okay that he was always late, bought him things, and walked his dog. Why did you do all these things? Because she was worried that he would leave her.
In the end, he left her. He recognized the bonding in their relationship and did not like the role he was playing in it. So, he left, got his shit together, and soon after found someone who didn’t bend over backwards to please him, and with whom he could have a healthy relationship.
- Take care.
I know caring may sound like doing anything to please your partner but it is not. Caring is supporting your partner’s illness or addiction in a way that justifies the behaviors or even hides them from the world.
I have a client who has been in a long-term relationship with an alcoholic. He will go on bendy for 3 days where he will disappear. He was calling her from a police station after he was arrested. He was narcissistic and inconsistent in his feelings for her and their relationship. He was verbally and emotionally abusive. And despite it all, she still loves him. Even worse, she was protecting him.
My client would go out of her way to protect her husband, not to let the world see what he was struggling with. She hid his drinking from his children, made excuses when he did not attend family functions, and justified his absence from their lives together.
She took such good care of him that she was very empowering about his behavior and addiction. And this is one of the most damaging features of codependency – taking care of someone in a way that doesn’t give them a chance to heal!
Read : 7 Signs You Are Dealing With A Cerebral Narcissist
As I described above, the signs that you are co-dependent in your relationship, one might think that the person being cared for would be codependent. And although this is true to some extent, there is dependence on the part of the caregiver and it is a sign of codependency.
What do I mean by that?
In the example of my client, she has come over the years to take care of him more than he needs to be taken care of. Her determination to keep him safe and well taken care of was something she needed in her life and she felt that without him she might die.
As a result, even when confronted with his toxicity, she didn’t turn away. She was as addicted to taking care of him as she was to alcohol. As a result, she was unable to leave. More than that, she needed to survive.
Therefore, if you find that you depend on your person’s care as a way to maintain your sense of security, this is a sign that you are codependent in your relationship.
- Low self-esteem.
In any list I write of signs of a toxic relationship, there is a lack of self-esteem. A lack of self-esteem is one of the top three signs that your relationship is not healthy.
Why does codependency in a relationship lead to low self-esteem? It seems like it would be the other way around because you care about someone and that should make you feel good about yourself, right?
Yes, taking care of someone feels good, if you do it healthily. But, if you’re too dependent on your relationship, you’re giving too much. You care too much. And you do it at the expense of your mental health.
For my client, her addiction to nurturing her partner has become the central focus of her life. She gave up work, friends, family, and her health in an attempt to ensure that her husband was well cared for and protected from outside influences. As a result, her self-esteem fell more and more because she stopped knowing who she was outside of the relationship.
Before she met him, my client owned a successful business, was an avid tennis player, had lots of friends, and was an amazing mom. Slowly, one by one, these things fell. I stopped doing the things I enjoyed. Her business suffered as did her children. As a result, she felt bad about herself.
Ironically, the lower her self-esteem, the more she engaged in codependent behaviors because she believed that, counterproductively, these behaviors would make her feel better about herself.
Read : Decoding the Dark Triad: Recognizing and Differentiating Narcissists, Machiavellians, and Psychopaths
- Inability to communicate.
An inability to communicate, like low self-esteem, is one of the top three indicators that your relationship is toxic. Communication in a relationship is the thing that holds it together. An inability to communicate can kill even the healthiest of relationships.
When a couple falls into these codependent behaviors, they stop communicating in any meaningful way. Because their lives are essentially an illusion, their behaviors based on addiction or caregiving, or some other similar cycle, a couple in a codependent relationship can’t ‘go there’, can’t talk about their relationship, or usually, any anything at all.
And what happens when communication fails in a relationship? Nothing but a huge big mess. The caregiver walks around their partner, trying to keep them happy and safe. A person who is struggling may feel guilty, angry, ashamed, or unaware of their partner’s efforts, and because they are struggling, may project their problems onto their partner.
From there, it slowly descends into chaos, into a codependent relationship so toxic that one wonders if anyone can emerge from it unscathed.
So if you find that you and your partner can’t communicate about anything, perhaps other than the weather, you’re most likely codependent in your relationship.
Recognizing the signs that you are co-dependent in your relationship is an essential way to prevent yourself or escape from that toxic relationship.
In my client’s case, she was eventually able to move away from her partner. It left her self-esteem in tatters but she didn’t have such self-reliance day in and day out that she could begin to recover.
So, look for the signs in your relationship. Do you over-give or take care of your person in a way that makes them happy or protective of them? Do you depend on this care for your happiness? Do you struggle with who you are in the world? Can’t you talk about any of it with your partner? If any or all of these signs are present, you may very well be in your relationship.
I can tell you that codependency doesn’t have to be forever and it doesn’t have to mean the death of a relationship. If both parties recognize the codependent behavior and are willing to make a change, a good therapist or life coach can work with you to change your behaviors. However, if only one person wants to make a change, the relationship is likely to remain bonded and toxic.
So take a good look at your relationship status so you can decide if you want to stay and make it work or move on with your life, towards finding a healthy relationship so you can be happy!
you can do that!