Codependency: a dysfunctional and one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other for all their needs.
In short: it’s a toxic situation.
Codependencies can be dangerous, as they often can trap both partners in a failing relationship.
Feel that you always make sacrifices for your partner while they take, take, take? Are you trapped by their needs?
You might be in a codependent relationship.
The good news is that codependency can be fixed if it’s caught early enough.
So, for the sake of your relationship health, read on to find out the symptoms of codependency and how you can fix your relationship.
What is codependency
Codependency or a codependent relationship is a behavioral condition in a relationship where one person enables their partner’s shortcomings.
These shortcomings can be addiction, immaturity, poor mental health, or chronic under-achievement.
It takes two to tango; in a codependent relationship both partners contribute to the poisonous dynamic. One is the enabler, the other is the person who takes advantage.
What are the symptoms of codependency?
Read on to find out!
Symptoms of codependency
Codependency can be difficult to spot at first, so it’s important to fully understand all the symptoms to know if you have fallen into a dangerous codependent relationship.
Important: you don’t need to have all the symptoms to be codependent.
You’re the caretaker
Whenever your partner has a problem, you’re there to fix it. While helping and nurturing aren’t problems, caretaking is a problem when you exclusively put your partner’s problems ahead of yours.
If you are always fixing your partner’s problems to the point that they rely on you to practically live their life, then you have become the “caretaker” in a codependent relationship.
This can affect both partners in a codependent relationship.
If you think that you’re not good enough, or you can’t stop comparing yourself to others (negatively), then you may suffer from low self-esteem.
When you suffer from low self-esteem, you may look to your partner to boost your confidence. This reassurance can become constant, with one partner using the other as an emotional crutch.
On the other hand, the caretaker can also suffer from low-self esteem, and can rely on taking care of their partner as a way to assuage their fears of inadequacy.
In other words, you worry you’re not good enough, so you compensate by being the absolute best partner ever.
This comes at a huge emotional cost, as you’re shouldering the burden of your partner’s pains in a way to better yourself.
You’re a people-pleaser
It’s a good thing to help others — especially those you care about.
It becomes a problem when you don’t have a choice whether to help or not. Codependent people-pleasers sacrifice their own happiness and stability in order to please their loved ones. If you are unable to say “no” due to your own anxiety or lack of self-confidence, you might be in a codependent relationship.
In a healthy relationship, boundaries are critical.
Even if you spend all of your time with someone, it’s important to divide up your space from their space.
This is where boundaries come into play. You can delineate your money from your partners, your belongings from hers, your body from his.
A critical symptom of codependency is no boundaries. Your partner may be always dipping into your savings to bail herself out of trouble. Or, your loved one will keep using you as their emotional support, invalidating your emotional boundaries in the process.
When you have no boundaries, you have no way to keep your partner’s thoughts and feelings apart from your own.
Everything becomes personal.
If your partner says something, you absorb it. You believe it.
When someone criticizes your partner, it’s like they criticized you. You defend them immediately.
This is because you and your partner have become so inextricably tied that you cannot separate opinions of your partner from your own opinions. Everything is personal.
Setting up boundaries becomes a critical way to disentangle your own thoughts, allowing you to not feel threatened by disagreements.
People in a codependent relationship often struggle to communicate their feelings, needs, and thoughts to their partners.
There are several reasons.
One, when you’re in a codependent relationship, it can be hard to divorce your partner’s thoughts from your thoughts. This means that it’s difficult to recognize your own needs, let alone tell your partner.
Two, you often do not want to upset your codependent partner. You feel that it is your responsibility to make them better, so you don’t want to burden them with your needs or desires.
This ends up making the relationship worse, as you keep censoring yourself, leading to a lack of honesty on both sides of the relationship.
This can affect both partners.
Everyone needs some control over their live to feel safe and secure.
In a codependent relationship, one partner exerts control over the other partner in order to feel secure.
For the caretaker, they may work to actively enable their partner’s negative traits in order to serve as their “savior,” allowing them to exert control over their partner’s life. This gives them a powerful sense of control, making them feel safe.
For the other partner, they may attempt to control the caretaker by forcing them to act as their savior. In a sense, they’re forcing the caretaker to do the hard work of living for both of them. This too is a form of behavioral control.
Both forms of excessive control are key symptoms of codependency. If you or your partner is exerting an unhealthy level of control in the relationship, you should consider seeking counseling.
Codependents often obsess about their relationship and how it measures up to others.
Additionally, they are constantly thinking of their partner.
These thoughts and obsessions swirl around perceived failures and shortcomings.
“Why aren’t we as great as our friends?”
“I must have hurt her feelings. She’ll definitely break up with me.”
“If only things were as good as they were at the beginning.”
These types of ruminating thoughts tend to exacerbate existing problems. Due to the previously mentioned lack of communication, these thoughts cannot be expressed, so they end up causing greater psychological damage.
Let’s put the bedroom aside for a moment. Instead, let’s talk about emotional intimacy.
In codependent relationships, both partners often struggle to achieve intimacy. This may be rooted in a fear of rejection, or in a fear of being smothered by your partner’s excessive needs.
Either way, you close yourself off to intimacy, becoming detached and unavailable.
In turn, this causes your partner to reach out even more aggressively, furthering this negative dynamic.
You can’t spell codependency withouth dependency.
The harsh truth is that those in codependent relationships (both partners) are equally dependent upon the other for their existence.
In a codependent relationship, one person cannot be defined without the other. They cannot function on their own. When their partner is not in the picture, they often become depressed or anxious.
This causes both partners to prolong the relationship, even at the expense of their own happiness, as the thought of being alone is worse than being miserable together.
A key symptom of codependency is being bombarded by negative emotions.
When you are stuck in a codependent relationship, you are often under a tremendous amount of stress to please your partner.
This stress brings out a slew of negative emotions, such as shame, guilt, anxiety, and fear.
These emotions are often rooted in fear of being rejected, being trapped, or simply being abandoned.
These fears continue to cause the person to stay in the codependent relationship, as the fear feels worse than the codependency itself.
This is the last symptom of codependency, and one of the hardest ones to address.
People in codependencies are in denial about it. Whenever the issue is raised, those in codependent relationships will attempt to shift blame, simply state it’s a passing issue, or will become downright defensive.
Patterns of denial are very important to learn and then address. Some common symptoms of denial are: having difficulty identifying feelings, minimizing issues, and masking pain.
When codependent relationships ultimately fail, the former partners usually wind up in other codependent relationships as well, doomed to repeat the problems as they never addressed the root of the codependency.
So what can you do to address the root of the problem?
How to fix a codependency
The good news is: you can fix a codependent relationship. It does require hard work, but there are ways to turn your codependent relationship into a healthy relationship.
Talk to your partner
You need to have an open and honest communication channel with your partner. Without judgement, you need to explain your needs, feelings, and wants. When you are able to be truthful with your partner, you’ll find that a lot of the anxiety around your relationship will dissolve.
Cut out negativity
Whenever you find yourself having negative thoughts, work to change them. If you can reorient your mind around your relationship, you’ll begin to see its strengths.
Healthy relationships have boundaries. You and your partner need to establish boundaries in order to salvage the relationship. Sure, you can help out your partner, but you do not need to pay their rent while they refuse to look for a job. Similarly, you don’t need to rely on your partner to live your life. You have to take charge of your own existence.
Take a break
If things are too overwhelming, it can be helpful to take a pause in the relationship. This allows you to reevaluate your life, your wants, and your values. It can help you understand your own personal power, and enable you to come back to the relationship in a stronger place.
Go To Counseling
Sometimes, a codependent relationship is too difficult to fix on your own. If you find that you are unable to change the dynamic of your relationship on your own, you should seriously consider seeing a professional in order to help you reorient your relationship.
Know When To Move On
Ultimately, not all codependencies can be fixed. You need to be able to break through your powerful denial to understand when a relationship is too damaged to be salvaged. While the breakup will be painful, it will ultimately be better than staying in a toxic relationship.
Tina Fey wrote on Ideapod about realizing her boyfriend is codependent in the relationship and why she made the decision to move on. Read more here.
Rebuilding damaged relationships
Sometimes, you need another person’s perspective in order to truly identify your own shortcomings.
If you have been dogged by a history of codependent relationships, and are looking to free yourself from toxic relationships, you seriously ought to consider our free masterclass on Love and Intimacy by Contemporary Shama Rudá Iandê.
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In this masterclass, you’ll learn:
It’s a great class to help you identify the symptoms of codependency, as well as how to break yourself out of this toxic dynamic.
It’s not too late to salvage your relationship. If you’re serious about developing meaningful and long-lasting relationships, this masterclass is the right tool for you.