If your mother displays these 8 distinct behaviors, she might be codependent with you (without realizing it)

It was a sunny Thursday afternoon when I first realized my mother was codependent with me.

I’d just finished speaking to my therapist who had casually mentioned it (conveniently just as the session was about to end) and my mind was spiraling…

“It’s true,” I thought, as memories of situations that I once considered “normal” now flashed before me, the ugly truth of our relationship staring right back at me.

I had researched a lot into codependency between couples, friends even, but for some reason, the idea that a mother (or father) could be heavily dependent on their child simply never crossed my mind.

Yet here I was, living it.

So what exactly are the behaviors and signs to look out for? From the outside, our mother-daughter relationship seemed pretty normal.

But as I’ve now learned, that’s far from the truth.

Let’s start with the most telling sign:

1) She struggles to give you the freedom you need as an adult

At some point, we all need to fly the nest. Making decisions (and mistakes) for ourselves is an incredibly important part of growing up and finding our way in the world.

And granted, this is a difficult time for parents. They’ve got to let us fly and trust that they taught us well.

But if your mom seems to be tightening her grip rather than loosening it, it’s a telling sign of codependency.

She may insist on accompanying you to places that you’re perfectly capable of going to alone. She may feel she has a say in who you can or can’t date.

For me personally, this comes in the form of needing to “check-in” every single day.

My mother often mentions that she won’t sleep if I don’t text her every evening, completely ignoring the fact that I’m a married, 31-year-old woman living abroad!

And that, if you haven’t already guessed, is a sign of emotional manipulation, which leads me to the next point:

2) She emotionally manipulates you

Guilt. Emotional blackmail. Shame. Whatever takes your mom’s fancy, if she’s making you feel bad when she doesn’t get her way, she’s got an unhealthy dependency on you.

I know that might be hard to accept, especially if you come from a culture where this type of behavior is rife, where it’s normal for parents to guilt their children into submission (I say this coming from a South Asian background).

But it’s not a sign to be taken lightly.

Let’s say you want an evening out with your friends. Your mom puts on her best sulking face and casually remarks, “You go have fun. I’m used to being alone anyway.”

Of course, in that situation, it’s natural that you’d feel bad.

But what’s happening here is toxic. There isn’t any way around that fact.

Your mom knows which strings to pull, and she’s not afraid to manipulate your feelings into getting what she ultimately wants.

3) She’s overly involved in your personal affairs

It’s great when a parent takes an interest in your personal life, even as an adult, we all want that close bond and support that comes with sharing our good and bad moments in life.

But what happens when your mom is too involved?

It takes away your autonomy and effectively keeps her in control.

I remember when a family friend was separating from her husband.

Her mom (who happens to be my mom’s best friend, go figure) inserted herself into the situation by calling up all of her son-in-law’s friends and family to complain about his behavior towards her daughter.

This was highly embarrassing for my friend who simply wanted to handle the divorce with grace and dignity.

Well, that went out of the window!

You see, it’s one thing for a mom to offer emotional support during tough times, but if she’s physically getting involved in your affairs, or pressing her opinions onto what you should do with your life, it’s not a healthy dynamic.

And quite often, this reveals itself through how well (or not) boundaries are adhered to…

4) She doesn’t respect your boundaries

Here’s the scenario:

You’re visiting your mom, and she barges into your room without knocking. You’ve asked her repeatedly to tap the door or call your name before entering, but she refuses…

“I’m your mom! Why would I need to knock first?”

The same goes for when she checks through your personal messages on your phone or email, or when she refuses to drop a subject you’ve repeatedly told her you don’t want to discuss.

Regardless of how close a relationship is between two people, we need boundaries in place.

And when someone constantly oversteps those boundaries, it shows a lack of respect.

It also shows that she’s not considering your feelings or thoughts, she’s solely focused on what she wants.

This can be very hard to deal with. If you’re currently setting boundaries with your mom, remember that consistency is key.

And if she keeps overstepping, a little space and time apart may be best.

5) She constantly needs your approval

Constantly needs your approval If your mother displays these 8 distinct behaviors, she might be codependent with you (without realizing it)

Another behavior that signals your mom might be codependent with you is if she heavily relies on your approval.

She may frequently ask if you think she’s a good mom, or whether she’s making good decisions in life.

If you ever dare say “no”, you’ll find that she’s quick to get upset.

In fact, I went through this very situation a few weeks ago when my family came to visit. I decided to speak to my mom gently about how her behavior was making me feel.

Rather than listen and take on board my feelings, she instantly became defensive and then broke down, too emotional to continue the conversation.

And hey, I get it. It’s not easy to have these types of talks, but at the same time, it really felt that my view of her as a mother was paramount to her happiness.

And the fact that I had something mildly negative to say completely threw her off balance.

Which leads me to the next behavior:

6) She can’t handle disagreements or rejection

In a healthy relationship, disagreements happen.

It’s perfectly fine to have differing opinions, and even if the conversation becomes lively, it shouldn’t result in one party feeling completely miserable or shutting down.

The same applies to telling someone, “no”.

“No, I don’t fancy going to the cinema, maybe another time.”

If your mom isn’t codependent, she would say something along the lines of, “Sure honey, we can do another time.”

What she wouldn’t do is cause a scene, accuse you of being difficult, or give up her entire plan to go to the cinema just because you don’t want to.

Being passive-aggressive is common in codependent relationships.

It’s much easier to make a snarky remark that’ll no doubt make you feel guilty than outright express the hurt or rejection she feels.

7) She feels responsible for your emotions (and expects you to feel the same about hers)

This is a tricky one to explain because, to some extent, we all feel bad when someone we love is hurting.

But the difference lies in how intertwined your emotions are.

For example, when I’ve gone through a tough breakup or bereavement, my mom has also suffered, as if she went through it herself.

It’s not just empathy at this point, it’s that she can’t separate her emotions from mine.

And worst still is that she expects me to do the same with her.

If my dad has upset her, she expects me to be upset with him to the same level of intensity as she is.

If she’s having a bad day, it’s on me to make her feel better (rather than simply offering a sympathetic ear and moving on with my day).

The bottom line is, we are each responsible for our own emotions. It’s not on anyone else to constantly make us feel better (as that essentially means we can’t self-regulate our own emotions).

8) She sacrifices her needs for you (no matter what)

And finally, if your mom often neglects her own well-being, such as engaging in hobbies or meeting friends, just to be with you or to make you happy, it’s not a good sign.

This is when parental responsibility turns into martyrdom – because quite often, the mom who sacrifices absolutely everything for her kids will then take the role of the martyr.

She’ll remind her children often… “I couldn’t do XYZ because SOMEONE had to be at home with you guys.” Or the worst one, “I gave up everything for you.”

But despite her unhappiness at having taken on this role, she’ll continue to put the needs of others before her own.

In her mind, she’s doing what any “good” mother would do.

But she doesn’t realize the pressure and burden it puts on her children, let alone herself.

So, here we have it, 8 signs that your mother might be codependent with you without realizing it.

I know some of this might have been hard to digest, but take a moment to let it all sink in.

Once you have, you can now think about how to make positive changes, and one day, get to a healthy place where independence, boundaries, and emotions are respected.

Picture of Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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