10 signs of codependency in friendship (and what to do about it)

Love your friends. Be their sounding board when they need to talk. Advocate for them when it’s tough. Show up for them in good times and bad. That sounds like a fantastic idea, right?

But be careful and pay attention, that could be codependency that you’re involved in. 

In this post, we’ll explore ten signs that a friendship might have crossed into codependent territory and will walk through solutions for each problem. 

With these helpful tips and tricks, I hope you can end up with friendships that are healthy and not hurting anyone.

1) You feel responsible for your friend’s happiness

If you’re feeling responsible for your friend’s feelings, there’s a problem. 

Everybody has the right to feel good or bad about themselves. That’s not up to you. 

A healthy friendship means that you’re there for your friends, but you stay out of their feelings and emotions. You support them when they need you, but don’t feel responsible for their happiness. 

If you want to be sure that your friend is happy, why don’t you talk about it? 

Communication is the key to any relationship, so just tell him or her that you want to make sure he or she has the best experience possible and that you want to help them if they’re upset or struggling. 

You don’t need to wait until something bad happens before you worry about someone else.

I have a friend who’s just gone through a bad breakup, so I asked her if she was sad and she said yes. 

Then I asked her if I should make plans to help cheer her up and she was like ‘No, I just want a shoulder to cry on’”.

So, communicate when your friends have good or bad news but don’t make your relationship contingent on whether or not the other person is happy!

2) Your own needs are neglected

In my opinion, it’s one of the most obvious signs of codependency in friendship. 

Your best friend needs you to do something for them and you do it, but then they don’t have time for you when you need them.

It hurts to spend most of your time helping others and never being able to get anything in return

We all need friends’ help sometimes in our life. But there has to be a balance between the two because otherwise you’re only going to feel disappointed and that doesn’t make anyone happy. 

If they can’t be there when you need them, without any good reason, it may be time to reconsider the relationship.

3) Fear of letting go

If you can’t let go of your best friend or if you don’t know how to do so, it could be a sign of codependency. 

As a friend, you need to be able to let go when the time comes. 

Your best friend is not your partner or your family.

You should be able to let your grownup friends go when your friendship has diminished, especially when they need to make time for themselves and their families.

If you’re worried that letting go of your best friend will cause trouble, you might want to consider if your relationship has crossed into codependent territory. 

4) You say sorry a lot

If you apologize a lot or constantly find yourself taking responsibility for things that aren’t your fault, you might be codependent. 

It’s great to take care of your friends and solve problems with them. 

You can also admit when you’re wrong and apologize, but try to stop doing it too much

It might help to check in with yourself often to see if you need a break and try to put in some of the hard work to fix any problems so that you’re not always apologizing and aren’t always feeling responsible.

I have a friend who’s always saying sorry, even when she doesn’t have to. 

It’s like she’s just trying to control the outcome of things, like if she says sorry first then nothing bad will happen.

Sometimes it works, but most of the time it just gets annoying. 

I try to remind her about it a lot and tell her that she doesn’t have to do it all the time because some stuff is really not her fault.

5) You feel guilty when you want to spend time away from your friend

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If you’re spending all of your free time with your friend, you might be so codependent that you feel guilty when you want to do something on your own. 

The key to any relationship is to have some alone time! 

You don’t need to see each other 24/7 or feel like you need to talk every single day. 

If there’s a person in your life that makes you feel like spending time away from them is a bad thing, that means it was time for the two of you to spend less time together anyway. 

Even if it’s a friend, we all need to set boundaries and make our needs more important than others. 

6) Fixing all your friends’ problems

If you’re always trying to fix your friends’ problems, you might be a little codependent. 

It’s great to be supportive, but if your whole life is revolving around fixing everyone else, it’s kind of a problem. 

Maybe you need to go through some of the steps from this article ‘5 Ways to Become Your Own Best Friend’ to find ways to get out of your current situation.

If you believe that you are required to constantly spend your time helping them without having time to solve your own problems, otherwise you will feel guilty, then you should start loving yourself more, because that’s also the reason for the next sign.

7) You have no time to yourself

If you spend all of your time with others and never have time for yourself, you may be codependent. 

Having a friend or two that needs attention 24/7 is okay, but if you’re having to ask for permission from a friend before being able to go out on your own or make plans with other friends, that might not work out so well. 

It’s also important to remember that friends are people too, so they need time away from each other once in a while. 

8) You feel jealous of your friends when they spend time with other people

There are some codependent friendships where the person who gets needy always ends up being an issue in the relationship

It’s normal to want the people you care about to be happy, but it’s not healthy for you to be obsessing about every relationship in their lives. 

If you are constantly jealous of your friends when they spend time with other people, then it might be a sign that there is something wrong in your friendship. 

A friend should never make you feel jealous unless you know that they’re being intentionally selfish and are making sure that you suffer because of it. If this happens, of course, it’s definitely not a healthy friendship.

On the other hand, a friend should never feel jealous when his or her friend wants to spend time with other people. Your friends should be given personal freedom.

9) You feel like you need to tell your friends everything all the time

I have a friend who’s a little obsessed with texting me 24/7 and it makes me feel like I can’t do anything without them. 

I don’t really mind when they tell me something important, but they might not know when to stop. 

I have my own friends and I have my own life, but my friend seems to think it’s a crime if I spend more time with them. 

You shouldn’t feel like you need to tell your friends everything all the time.

There is a balance between being an open book and sharing too much information.

I would tell my friend that I need some time to myself. 

They might not like it at first, but they will get over it. 

10) You don’t see the friendship as normal 

You love your friend, but sometimes you feel like something is wrong with the relationship.

It’s a normal thing to worry about if you have an unhealthy relationship, but if the friendship is nothing but bad, you need to keep in mind that there’s something wrong with it. 

It could be you may feel that being around this person makes you feel negative, but you cannot stop yourself from seeing that person. 

Or perhaps you feel like you have to flatter this friend in order to get more attention from that person.

If those are the cases, you are clearly involved in a codependent friendship. 

What to do about it?

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If you are codependent, don’t fret. 

There are tons of ways to deal with your issues. 

Most codependent people have always had a problem, but only realize this when they’ve finally been able to let go. 

We all make mistakes, and the best way to figure out what our issue is is to not repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

If you want to get rid of some of the issues that may be causing problems in your friendship, try taking a little time off going out with them or talk to them about it when you’re alone and be more assertive about what you want and need. 

Something you can do such as: 

  • Taking a break for a little while. 
  • Have a heart-to-heart talk with them and tell them how you feel. 
  • Remind yourself that your friends shouldn’t make you feel bad about yourself and if they are, it might be time to end things
  • Don’t be afraid of trying different things.
  • Make time for yourself and don’t feel like you have to spend every waking moment with your friends. 
  • If they don’t respect your feelings, maybe it’s better if the friendship ends.

You can’t change other people, but you can change yourself. 

Other people will notice that you’re different and if they don’t like it, then that’s their problem. 

I have a friend that I used to have a lot of problems with in the past but I decided to talk about it with them one day and things blew up in my face. 

I was trying to fix everything for them and ended up making everything worse. 

It took a long time,  of course, until everything became almost normal again. But now when that friend understands what I meant, we actually get along much better. 

I know that sometimes friends are like siblings. However, you shouldn’t treat them as if they’re your real family. 

You can think of them as people that you care about and want to be close to and make things happen for. But don’t expect things to be the same the other way. 

I find it so important that when we hang out with someone that we don’t try to change them or make them be who we want them to be. Try to put yourself in that person’s position and imagine how you would feel if you were forced to change.

What is codependency? 

Codependency is a term that is thrown around often but can really be hard to define. The truth is, no one is truly codependent or not. We’re all codependent to some degree, even if it’s just with yourself.

Generally what we think of as codependency comes from one’s behavior towards someone else. 

Codependents tend to over-function in relationships, doing more than their share of the work and giving more than they are receiving (whether this functions as co-dependence or love depends on how the recipient views it).

Codependency in friendship is a little different. 

Unlike romantic relationships, friendships are transactional. One person usually does more than their share of the work and does it without expecting anything in return (or if they do ask for something, it’s not necessarily mutually agreed upon). 

Instead of being in a mutual exchange where both parties are helping each other, codependency is a one-sided transaction where one person typically takes care of the other without any expectation (or if there is any expectation it isn’t necessarily ones that are traditionally acceptable).

Last words

Before reading this guide, you probably had no idea that being codependent could be affecting your life badly. 

It’s a good thing that you now have the information you need to change your life for the better. 

You will be able to take care of yourself and improve the relationships that are important to you. 

No one can help you but yourself, so don’t hold back if you want to make changes!

Picture of Nguyet Yen Tran

Nguyet Yen Tran

Yen is a freelance writer and a researcher specializing in mental health, self-awareness, and psychology. Her hobby is studying human behavior throughout their reaction upon situations. Be sure to check out her other posts on our blog.

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