Relationships are the best and worst things that can happen to us.
I know most of my triggers stem from past relationships. And many of my happiest memories come from being in a relationship.
Because when they’re good, they’re very good. But when they’re bad, well, it’s bad.
And codependent relationships are bad.
Spotting when you’re codependent in your dating life isn’t easy (trust me, I know).
The “obvious” signs become clear when you’re already in too deep.
But the non-obvious signs appear when you’re still in the early stages of it – and this is the perfect time to reflect on your behavior and change what you’re doing.
Think you might be in a codependent relationship? Here are 10 early signs.
1) You feel upset when they make plans without you
Healthy relationships should involve seeing your friends or family on occasion.
No, they shouldn’t spend all their time with their friends – leaving no quality time for the two of you.
And no, they shouldn’t really cancel plans with you or squeeze in time with you around their friends (like you’re the afterthought or a backup plan).
But they should still have alone time with people other than you sometimes.
According to experts, it’s the best way to understand yourself better and improve your overall state of mind. It’s also important to avoid codependency.
So if you get sad whenever your partner goes out without you, it could be a sign that something isn’t right.
2) You feel sad when they feel sad
Another non-obvious sign you’re in a codependent relationship is if you feel their emotions like they’re your own.
Sure, this can be a very normal thing – especially if you have high empathy.
When you love someone, you care about how they feel. And if they’re sad, being in an overly good mood would be a little strange.
But if their bad moods deeply affect you and put you in the worst mood ever, this isn’t a healthy habit.
3) You get insecure when they don’t validate you
Experts say that healthy partnerships should involve validating the other person’s emotions, experiences, feelings, or points of view.
But they also say it’s unhealthy to get all your validation from your partner.
We humans should get validation from three main places:
Our partners (if we’re dating someone), our friends and family, and (most importantly) ourselves.
My partner often laughs when I ask if he likes a type of clothing and he says not particularly, and I tell him I’ll still wear it anyway.
Because even if he’s not the biggest fan of my mom jeans, I like them and I’ll still wear them. And neither he nor I am saying it to be cruel.
We laugh about it because it’s normal to wear things you like even if your partner isn’t the biggest fan of them.
And that’s just one example of being able to validate yourself when your partner doesn’t.
If you’d throw out all your mom jeans or feel insecure about yourself when wearing them again, it could be a sign of co-dependency in your relationship.
4) You don’t like saying no to them
Having boundaries is one of the most important things you can do for your relationship.
Experts define boundaries as:
“Where things like our personhood, our identity, our responsibility, and our control begin and end relative to the person”.
Which basically means knowing the things you’re comfortable doing and the things you aren’t. For me, I wouldn’t throw out my mom jeans for my partner.
Nor would I lend them thousands of pounds or sacrifice all my energy to support them. I still love them, care for them, and do things for them.
But some things are out of bounds – and that’s completely normal in relationships that aren’t codependent.
5) You only want to visit places with your partner
Experts say it’s healthy to continuously date your partner. It keeps the spark alive, builds emotional intimacy, and creates new, shared experiences.
It’s totally normal to want to do fun things with your partner. But you shouldn’t want to do absolutely everything with them.
When you think of an activity, do you think to yourself:
“My friend Sarah would love it here, we should go”.
“That looks fun, maybe I should ask Jess if she wants to go”.
“I haven’t been to [insert place] in a while, I’ll see if Tina wants to come”.
Or do you always immediately think to ask your partner? And the idea of doing things with someone else feels like wasted time or a chore?
If so, it could be a subtle sign that you’re in a codependent relationship.
6) Whenever they go out, you stay home to pick them up
I fell into this trap with an ex once. Because we lived far away from the station, whenever he went out, I’d stay home (and awake) so I could pick him up.
If friends invited me out, I sometimes wouldn’t go.
And even if I was really, really tired and just wanted an early night, I’d still stay up until whatever hour he decided to come home – just to pick him up.
It was a codependent relationship for other reasons, too. But this was definitely another hidden sign that things weren’t right with us.
Because even though it’s nice to pick up your partner after their plans, you shouldn’t make your plans around it.
Particularly if there’s no reason to (I mean, he could’ve just gotten a cab).
7) You feel selfish doing self-care
Self-care isn’t selfish. Not in the slightest.
In fact, according to experts, looking after yourself is an important part of maintaining a healthy relationship. It leads to more connection to each other and a healthier balance between your personal and romantic lives.
If you tell your partner you can’t see them tonight because you want to have a night to yourself – having a bath, doing a facemask, plucking your eyebrows, waxing everything, painting your nails, or doing literally anything else for yourself – and you feel selfish for it, it’s not a good sign.
And if you feel guilty (or if your partner makes you feel guilty) for “abandoning them” or “spending time with yourself instead of them” – it could be a codependent relationship.
8) You can’t make decisions without them
We make decisions every day – big and small.
And it’s normal to run the “big stuff” by your partner.
Like if you’re planning on changing jobs, moving out of the country, buying a new car, or cutting ties with your toxic parent.
But it’s not normal (or healthy) to run every decision by your partner – or to struggle when you don’t have their help.
If you need to discuss with your partner what time you wake up in the morning, what you’re going to wear that day, whether you attend an event, what you reply to a text message, or what movie you watch, that’s not normal or healthy.
And it’s one of the less obvious signs that you’re in a codependent relationship.
9) You focus more on their issues than your own (even when they don’t want you to)
Some people are caretakers in relationships. They like looking after their partner and doing things for them.
Usually, these people have “acts of service” love languages – which is a normal way to love someone.
But caretaking can be taken a little too far sometimes.
According to experts, caretaking is only healthy when the person wants help.
When your partner doesn’t want help with something – or doesn’t know you’re even helping with it – that’s not so healthy.
And if you’re always trying to save them from themselves (rather than focusing on yourself), it’s not a good habit.
10) You do nothing when they’re not around
What do you do when your partner leaves your house? Or when they go out with their friends, head to work, or just go back home?
Do you run errands, see your friends, have me-time, and do things you want to do?
Or do you sit around and “wait” for them to come back? Feeling like life is on hold and you have to wait for them to return before you can do fun things again?
If it’s the latter, I think you already know it’s not a good thing to do.
It’s an easy habit to slip into, mind. And it’s even easier to do it without realizing it.
But – you guessed it – if you do that or feel this way, you could be codependent on your partner.
Codependent relationships are just the worst.
Experts say they can lead one or both partners to develop serious health problems, including anxiety and depression.
Plus, take it from someone who’s been in a codependent relationship before, they also just don’t feel good.
It doesn’t feel nice to be so reliant on someone else. Or to feel like your day only begins when they arrive – and all other hours of the day are just “wasted” time.
If you’re in a codependent relationship, the first step to getting out of it is recognizing what behavior is codependent (and what isn’t).
Talking things through with your partner to set better boundaries can also help.
As can spending time alone or with friends to rebuild your sense of identity without them.