Being in a relationship could be one of the most fulfilling experiences to have, especially when both partners are committed to the well-being of the connection while also prioritizing their individual needs. However, a relationship that consists of one or both partners using the relationship as a means to validate their own self-worth is considered a codependent relationship, not a healthy one.
Codependency can be tricky to identify, especially when you or your partner are so entrenched with conditioned behaviors or patterns that make it difficult to tell what is helpful from detrimental. The main thought that one or both partners have in a codependent relationship is: “I am worthy, as long as/only if you love me.”
Not sure if this could relate to you? Stay tuned for 6 common signs that you might be in a codependent relationship, instead of a healthy one:
No Responsibility for Personal Feelings
While it’s inevitable that hurt feelings may and will inevitably occur throughout a relationship, how such emotional conflicts are resolved can matter differently across the board depending on how healthy a relationship shows to be. In a healthy relationship, both parties understand and accept that they are responsible for their own feelings and responses to said feelings.
Communicating with one another on how certain behaviors have caused a negative effect, while simultaneously processing feelings and doing the personal work to overcome triggers can be a healthy method of addressing conflict. Which opposes methods of blaming and forcing ultimatums upon the other to change without realizing how responses to these triggers are also called to evolve as well.
In addition, Doctor Holly Daniels, specializing in topics of codependency and relationship addiction, advises considering that you may be in a codependent relationship if either partner requires constant reassurance, validation, or approval from the other. Take it as a sign of codependency if you or your partner are unable to feel self-worth on your own.
Unbalanced Giving at Personal Expense
Traits like compassion, patience, and generosity are all surefire signs of an amazing romantic partner. However, it’s not uncommon for people who have warm and thoughtful characteristics like the ones listed to unknowingly find themselves in codependent relationships.
Partners who continue sacrificing their own needs for the needs of their partner tend to have feelings of pride in themselves for living up to their ideals of being a compassionate, patient, and generous partner, while concurrently feeling depleted, dissatisfied with the relationship, and taken for granted by their partners. Yet, their ability to give feeds their feelings of self-validation, even if it happens at their personal expense. The codependent person feels a deep need to be needed, and while becoming an essential person with notable qualities is admirable, the need to be so for the validation of self can be mentally and emotionally toxic to the self.
If you or your partner fall into habits of pleasing the other at your own expense, find ways to communicate with one another to reach solutions that could benefit both sides. You deserve to receive as much you are willing to give!
Boundaries are Blurred
Do you find it hard to say “no” to your partner? Or do you feel responsible for their mental and emotional health at the detriment of your own? If your answer to either of these questions is “yes”, it’s possible that you might be under the influence of a codependent relationship.
It can be hard to define where your boundary lines are drawn when you bind yourself emotionally to another. A healthy relationship calls for strong boundaries, even if that means saying “no” to the one you love, while a codependent relationship enables both partners into deeper unhealthy patterns when neither are willing to stand their ground. Codependent personalities might hold a belief that boundaries could cause distance within the relationship, which is why they are unwilling to enforce or act upon them.
Though it might be difficult, it’s possible to encourage boundaries within a relationship, as long as both partners agree on an intention to do so for the well-being of both individuals, knowing that will inevitably lead to the success of the relationship as a whole. Boundaries have the potential to strengthen a relationship, instead of weakening it, as someone with codependency beliefs might assume.
Not Thinking for Oneself
A healthy relationship often produces a blending effect for the individuals involved. It’s normal for partners to begin behaving, thinking, and even looking similarly. Even still, a red flag to look out for when it comes to codependent relationships can be hidden in the likeness of a couple.
Notice if you or your partner begin “parroting” one another’s thoughts or perspectives, as psychologist Nicole Martinez states. The difference between agreeing with another’s viewpoint and “parroting” their thoughts is in how critically you’ve dissected the information they’ve presented before willingly adopting it as your own. While it can seem harmless to agree 100% with everything your partner thinks, this pattern can potentially lead towards an eventual harmful belief that someone else will always know better than you – or worse – that they know what’s best for you as an individual.
One way to grow out of this behavior is to consider your partner’s thoughts against your personal beliefs and perspectives. When you come to a conclusion and share a thought that feels authentic and right to you, you know you’ve stayed true to yourself – which adds to your level of independence and self-assurance.
Losing Sense of Self
Most dangerously of all, a codependent relationship may deliver the opposite of what a codependent person is seeking: a loss of sense of self. People who fall into codependent relationships often do so without realizing they are looking for someone to validate their identity. In their quest for such, they may have sacrificed too much of themselves at the expense of their search.
To combat this from happening, be sure to prioritize both your needs alongside your partner’s, and never feel that being in a happy and fulfilling relationship requires you to sacrifice your individualism. The difference between sacrifice and compromise is the consideration of self – to think of and consider the well-being or benefit of oneself while doing the same for another.
Never stop scheduling girl’s/guy’s night even while you’re planning date nights. Check-in with family members and maintain connections to those who supported you even before your relationship began. Continue nurturing the hobbies or interests you had before your partner entered your life, and/or find new ones to enjoy together or alone.
Not all forms of dependency are negative. While it remains that codependent relationships are unhealthy and detrimental, it’s possible to build a relationship on the principles of interdependence instead.
Interdependence calls for both partners to approach the relationship with a balanced sense of self to support one another towards becoming their best selves in both their relationship and individual lives. A relationship that is pillared by foundations and principles of support for both oneself and the other is a healthy and thriving relationship.
Be sure to check out our Psych2Go YouTube channel for more videos like the one below on tips for nurturing a healthy relationship!
Borresen, Kelsey. “10 Signs You Might Be in a Codependent Relationship.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 2 Feb. 2018, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/signs-of-codependent-relationship_n_5a725f26e4b05253b27572ba.
Clarke, Jodi. “Interdependence Can Build a Lasting and Safe Relationship.” Verywell Mind, Verywell Mind, 26 July 2021, https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-build-a-relationship-based-on-interdependence-4161249#:~:text=Interdependence%20involves%20a%20balance%20of,in%20appropriate%20and%20meaningful%20ways.
Dodgson, Lindsay. “Experts Say Codependent Relationships Are Damaging – Here Are 8 Warning Signs You’re in One.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 27 Feb. 2018, https://www.businessinsider.com/warning-signs-your-relationship-is-codependent-2018-2#5-you-lose-contact-with-friends-or-family-5.
Greenfest, Sara. “10 Signs Your Partner Is Codependent.” Insider, Insider, 5 Dec. 2018, https://www.insider.com/codependency-signs-partner-2018-12.
Paul, Maragaret. “7 Signs You’re in a Codependent Relationship & Why It’s Unhealthy.” Mindbodygreen, Mindbodygreen, 25 June 2021, https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/signs-of-a-codependent-relationship.
Steber, Carolyn. “11 Subtle Signs of a Codependent Relationship to Watch out For.” Bustle, Bustle, 5 July 2016, https://www.bustle.com/articles/166774-11-subtle-signs-of-a-codependent-relationship-to-watch-out-for.