I’ve come to the rather upsetting conclusion that my boyfriend is codependent.
It never used to be a problem – at least I didn’t think it was at first.
Actually, I quite liked that he was always there for me, caring for my every need and always wanting to spend time with me.
But after some time it started to get a little bit suffocating.
The problem was that I felt guilty about feeling like I was being suffocated. I felt like I should be more grateful for all the ways he was there for me.
Didn’t I value him?
Well, yes …
Everything he was doing was loving and sweet on the surface.
Yet I still had this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I knew that something was wrong. It didn’t feel like a healthy relationship but I wasn’t sure why.
I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
Then I took part in the free online masterclass on love and intimacy with the shaman Rudá Iandê. He brilliantly explained exactly what codependency is and how we can get stuck in it (and get out).
And I realized that my boyfriend is codependent.
Not only that, there’s something I can do about it.
In this article, I’m going to share with you the classic signs of codependency I found in my partner and then I’ll share what I learned about how to handle this from the masterclass.
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What does codependency mean?
Before listing the signs I want to explain what codependency means. I had heard it once or twice on Dr. Phil or somewhere but I’d never paid much attention.
Was it something to do with people who had some unhealthy emotional patterns or something?
Actually, yes. That’s basically what it is.
Codependency is a vicious cycle of unhealthy attachment. There is often a needy pattern where one partner feels they need to prop the other up and reassure them and feels guilty if they don’t.
This often falls into a “victim” and “savior” complex.
Often there is a mix of the two and shifts and cycles, and many of us play multiple of these roles in our lives when we are in codependent relationships.
I thought I was a fairly emotionally healthy person, but my boyfriend’s smothering and needy behavior made me feel like he needed me to always play the role of grateful partner in order to boost his self-esteem and make him feel valued.
I was convinced for the first two years of my relationship that my boyfriend couldn’t make it without me and that it was up to me to fulfill his expectations and accept his violations of boundaries gratefully and as being normal.
But they weren’t normal – and they weren’t healthy.
The codependent person puts their relationship above everything, so I felt like if I brought up the subject of feeling like I didn’t have enough space it would be devaluing our relationship. I felt like it would make me a bad person.
But the truth is that there are ways to address codependency and face it head-on so you can find the love buried underneath. If you avoid the issues they only get worse.
So here is what to watch out for:
12 of the big signs of codependency I’ve noticed with my boyfriend
1) Our relationship is everything to him
Wait, am I seriously complaining about this you might ask? Well, yeah …
I mean our relationship is everything to him. He’ll put aside everything for a date night or brush off other commitments on a dime to spend time with me.
Not only does this turn the pressure up to maximum, but it makes me feel like if I ever put anything ahead of him even once like a work commitment or time with friends then I’m not valuing our relationship.
He’s so over-committed to our relationship that it stifles me a bit.
Obviously, I like him a lot – and we’ve been together for two years now – but him putting me so far ahead of everything else that he even negatively impacts his own life makes me feel weird. I want a guy who cares about me a lot, sure, but not someone who sabotages their own life to be with me.
I want my boyfriend to look after himself and I know that sometimes he has other commitments. And that’s OK.
But by making our relationship the center and only thing in his world he makes me feel pressured and aware of his own insecurity and neediness.
2) I have to make all the decisions
Another one of the big signs I’ve noticed with my guy is that he never wants to make decisions. It’s always up to me as if I am just a queen dispensing order.
Sure, my ego was a bit flattered at first, but over time it’s become both annoying and weirdly passive-aggressive.
He wants to please me so much and do whatever I want that I feel a lack of his own masculine assertiveness and become really confused about what he actually wants.
A relationship takes two, and my codependent boyfriend thinks that by only doing what I want everything will be perfect.
Something good has happened recently though — to me and our relationship.
I came across an online video about the hero instinct. And the advice in the video hit the nail on the head about what I have to do with my codependent boyfriend.
What it boils down to is that men want to step up for the woman in his life and earn her respect in return. This is deeply rooted in male biology.
When a man’s hero instinct is triggered, he becomes more confident, assertive and happy. These are the traits I’ve been desperate to see in my boyfriend.
All I had to do was bring this very natural instinct out in him (and it was surprisingly easy).
If you want to learn more about the hero instinct, and improve the quality of your own relationship, watch this excellent free video.
3) He always wants to know where I am
Honestly, I have no problem with texting or calling to check in with my boyfriend. It can be nice to know where someone you care about is and what they’re doing.
The problem is when it becomes an obligation.
If I even go to the store these days I feel like I have to let him know.
If I’m a bit late then there’s a nagging voice in my head telling me to let him know and to explain why. It’s become like a job to keep his concerns and worries pacified about where I am and what I’m doing.
I don’t think he suspects that I’m cheating or something. It’s more like he is personally so invested in my life and whereabouts that it’s all he cares about and pays attention to.
He’s depending on me to reassure and get back to him.
The problem is when I can tell that me taking half an hour longer to text back is bringing him down and making him feel depressed because I’m not putting him first.
That’s not romance, that’s codependency – and it sucks.
If I speak up about it he’ll just smile and say it’s no problem even though I know it bothers him.
And if I stay quiet he’ll smile as we cuddle on the couch and not say anything is wrong even though I can tell he’s feeling unappreciated or neglected.
Frankly, it’s exhausting.
4) He always agrees with me even when he doesn’t actually agree
Like I was saying, he never says no. He only wants to do what I want: watch the shows I want, go to the places I want, visit the friends I want.
Of course, he doesn’t always actually want what I want, but he’d never show it.
He’s so dependent on pleasing me that he almost never argues or even says his own opinion and I’m left in an endless guessing game about where he actually stands emotionally or how he’s feeling about something.
I know my boyfriend had a hard childhood growing up in a broken home where his mom had a problem with alcohol, and he’s struggled with depression, so I understand that he has low self-esteem and some personal issues.
I know he grew up feeling he had to be a people pleaser to those around him and always fall in line and be “nice.” I understand his issues are deeply rooted.
I have my own issues too, which I’ve been working on.
The problem is that he won’t own his trauma and he tries to use our relationship and my affection for him as a bandaid to feel good.
There’s only so much niceness I can take, to be honest.
I’d love for him to just once be honest and tell me exactly what he’s thinking and be open when he disagrees instead of trying to placate me.
5) He thinks I need help constantly
Sometimes I do need help, let’s be honest.
It’s awesome when he comes to pick me up from work sometimes and I really appreciate the times he’s given me advice about some problems I was having with a friend last year.
But the issue, again, is that I feel obligated to accept his help even in the situations where I don’t need it at all.
I feel like if I say “I’m all good, babe,” he will feel like I punched him in the gut. Even though he would still smile and nod and say “no problem.”
Like everyone sometimes I like my own space: that doesn’t mean I love him any less, it just means I enjoy being on my own now and then.
Sometimes I’m also swamped with work, family obligations, and some personal interests – I love making crafts and sketching – so on occasion, I’m just in my flow state of “intuitive expertise” and enjoying my solitary vibes.
But he just can’t seem to accept that I want time alone sometimes.
And it’s really starting to get to me. That’s why when I watched Rudá’s masterclass on overcoming codependency it affected me so strongly.
He was literally telling my story with every word and showing the way out of it.
6) He’s made it clear his life is over if I leave him
This is going to sound a bit dramatic – it did to me, too – but my boyfriend has told me his life is over if I leave him.
I know about his issues and rough time growing up and I feel absolutely awful about the idea of leaving him. He’s already told me about how past breakups crushed him for years and he says he loves me so much that he’d never be able to go on without me.
It makes me feel terrified at the thought of how bad a person I would be to leave him.
He has an intense fear of abandonment and we have shared amazing times together. I ask myself: don’t you appreciate that?
And I do, I really do.
But I can also tell that some big things are going to have to change in our relationship if it’s going to have a future, and Rudá’s masterclass really illuminated to me how staying with him out of guilt is doing both of us a disservice.
7) He doesn’t care about spending time with other friends
My boyfriend and I have a few overlapping friends, but most are from our different areas of life. I have my old school and university friends, my friends from work and he has a couple friends from the drop-in basketball league he goes to and guys from his job at the car dealership.
Except the thing is he never wants to spend time with them, even his best friend.
Whenever I hint at it he winks and says he’d rather have some cuddle time with me.
I mean, I’m flattered: but I also find it suffocating that he depends on me for his company at all times and wants me to be everything to him: a friend, a lover, a partner.
We don’t live together yet, but he wants to come over all the time, and there have been more than a few occasions where I really wanted to go out but felt compelled to spend the evening in with him or leave him feeling stranded.
He’s made it very clear that I’m all that matters to him and he doesn’t care about other friendships.
And while that’s very flattering it’s also kind of frightening.
8) He’s full of self-guilt and focuses on his mistakes
My boyfriend is big on the self-guilt. While he never argues with me or criticizes things he doesn’t like, he criticizes himself a lot.
If he even thinks he did something to upset me he says sorry a hundred times.
Sometimes I feel like he’s drowning and I need to pull him up out of the water with my own positivity.
The result is that I feel responsible for his happiness and like I need to help him prevent making any more mistakes.
Knowing I’m the most important person to him also then puts the spotlight completely on me to act out my part perfectly and never do anything – even something unintentional – to make him feel worse about his mistakes and shortcomings.
It’s a vicious cycle.
9) His boundaries are non-existent
He almost never asks for time alone and apart from blaming himself for everything he seems to basically think he only exists to please me.
It makes me feel bad.
If I’m in a bad mood one day and vent at him he takes it all and never complains. Then I feel like an epic asshole.
I never said I was perfect, either.
It’s just I wish my boyfriend would set some boundaries for himself and not make everything dependent on me.
I’m just a girl, as Gwen Stefani said …
I mean I think I’m pretty cool but I don’t always get everything right and I’m not always in “couple mode.”
Sometimes I just want to stay in my pajamas and eat a bucket of ice cream without him reaching in to scoop it out and pretend to like the movie we’re watching.
Is that too much to ask?
10) He’s extra nice to get what he wants
Part of the issue, like I’ve been saying, is his cycle of self-guilt and his over-niceness.
He’s so doting on me that if I ever don’t give him what he wants I feel like a bitch.
It’s like that Reddit thread “Am I the Actual Asshole”? (AITA). I start wondering AITA? He was so nice all this week and then I said I wasn’t feeling well to spend time together on the weekend, AITA?
You know, maybe sometimes I don’t always fully show up for our relationship and there are things I’m working on as well, but that feeling of dependency and being required to be always switched on in order to keep him stable is exhausting me.
It wasn’t until the masterclass on love and intimacy that I understood how to find your way out of the codependency trap.
11) He avoids fights but makes me feel guilty if I’m in a bad mood
When he’s in a bad mood he blames himself or hides it (which makes me feel worse either way).
When I’m in a bad mood it comes out in subtle ways, but it comes out.
And he brushes it off and is even nicer to me. And I feel even worse.
Now, he might not mean to make me feel guilty and I get that, but knowing his well-being is basically 99% (100%?) dependent on his relationship with me definitely makes me feel guilty if I think I’ve brought him down.
I don’t want to be a burden to our relationship, but I also don’t want to have to play perfect or feel like I’m hurting him and stressing him sometimes but he won’t admit it.
I want him to be open and speak to me about hard topics even if it risks starting a fight or opening up new, uncomfortable vulnerabilities.
12) He constantly doubts our relationship
He’s literally always looking for validation about how I feel about him and our relationship.
He wants it in texts, he wants it in calls, he wants it in conversations, he wants it by seeing me smile, he wants it when we’re intimate …
I mean, come on … If I wasn’t physically and emotionally attracted I wouldn’t be having sex with him and spending hours a day multiple times a week over at his place or vice versa.
I know he understands that on some level, but he’s still always fishing for validation …
“That was so good, right?” after sex.
I care about you so much, in a text – making it obvious that I’m supposed to write back the same thing (which he already knows).
“I feel like our relationship is going to be the one that finally works,” he told me a couple of weeks ago.
Uh, I mean, no pressure … What can I say? Codependency is not a place you want to spend your life.
So what should you do?
If your boyfriend is showing similar signs as those above and you’re also getting sucked into a codependent spiral there are things you can do right now to start climbing out.
Next, I advise you to take stock of your relationship. How codependent is it on a scale of 1 to 10? How do you help feed into the codependency?
The truth is that none of us can “fix” someone else, and sometimes going our own way despite how it can hurt a codependent person is the best for both partners.
You can only change yourself, and it’s up to you to make the choice to work on yourself and encourage your codependent partner to do the same.
My boyfriend and I are seeing a relationship counselor and I’ve also had talks with him about this subject. We’re taking it day by day, but I emphasized to him that I don’t want him to just agree with everything about codependency because I might leave him if he doesn’t.
I want him to go on his own journey of self-exploration and self-healing, just like I’m on mine.
Because it’s only by working with the dark and light in ourselves and meeting our own needs that we can ever expect someone externally to fill the emotional needs we have.
We have to be there for ourselves before someone else can be.
In other words, I’ve made it clear to my boyfriend that he has to own himself and be there for himself before we can really be together in a real and healthy way. And he said he understands.
If you’re trapped in codependency there’s hope. You can see it as a chance to grow. It doesn’t always have to be the end of the road in a relationship, instead, it can be the start of a new, stronger, more romantic partnership based on mutual support combined with a rejuvenating amount of independence and personal self-sufficiency.
If you’re looking for some inspiration to take this decision to put yourself at the center of your life – even if you have a codependent partner who makes you feel guilty for doing this – then check out the free masterclass on love and intimacy.