Codependent relationships are not exclusive to people who are seeing each other. It can also happen between family members, friends, roommates or even coworkers. With romantic relationships however, it’s easy to mistake love, affection and neediness with some of the telltale signs of codependence. [Read: Not quite sure if it’s codependency? Check out the other relationship types you may have]
There are two people in a codependent relationship. One gives and gives and gives, while the other keeps on taking without any thought to the emotional strain it’s giving the relationship. It’s termed codependent because both people contribute to the unhealthy situation. [Read: 18 critical signs of an unhealthy relationship]
The dependent partner relies on an enabler to satisfy their needs emotionally and physically at a level that’s unreasonable. The dependent one can then take up all of their partner’s time and energy in the process. The enabler, on the other hand, allows the dependent person to continue his or her behavior because they believe that this is the only way to keep their partner from breaking down.
What happens in a codependent relationship?
Many codependent relationships are rarely acknowledged because society has allowed us to think that some things are expected in every relationship. The clinginess and the prerequisite attention are only two of those. When a person has been in a relationship for a very long time, they fail to realize that these aspects need to slowly dissolve in order for both people to grow.
At some point, couples need to re-establish their individuality. This is supposed to happen after the honeymoon phase. For codependent relationships, it almost always never happens. Because the codependency is not recognized, couples tend to push through thinking that the situation is supposed to be that way. [Read: 7 signs that your relationship isn’t as good as you thought]
Sooner or later, they start to develop resentment, disappointment and intense depression when the enabler fails to provide and the dependent person fails to thrive. Simply breaking up, however, is nearly impossible for these couples since they unhealthily rely on each other. The most effective course of action in this case would be to consult a professional.
Why do couples become codependent?
A person becomes codependent because of a recurring pattern in their life. Most people who become codependent have been in unfulfilling situations like a dysfunctional family, a deteriorating career or a past bad relationship.
The dependent party… Because they failed to achieve some level of accomplishment or achievement in maintaining these past relationships and situations, they become emotional, clingy and dependent. They start to feel that only their partner can fill in the void left by their negative past experiences. [Read: Is your past holding you back?]
They feel insecure because they think that they are not good enough, which then leads them to think that only their partners can validate their strengths. They see their partner as their beacon of hope or even their savior. They would then place their partners at the center of their world.
The enabler… The enabler has a sense of duty towards his or her partner. Their primary obligation in the relationship is to meet their partner’s needs, no matter how unreasonable these needs may be. When these needs are not met, they can develop a disturbing attitude of frustration towards both their partner and themselves.
This frustration towards their partner stems from the fact that their partner is too dependent and too demanding, and yet impossible to refuse. The frustration towards themselves, on the other hand, comes from a sense that they have failed in their primary duty of providing what their partner needs.
Signs that you are in a codependent relationship with a needy partner
The simple signs are obvious once you acknowledge them. There may be times when you spot these signs in your relationship only during certain circumstances such as a stressful phase in your lives or an adjustment period for recent life changes. However, if these signs consistently show up across numerous occasions, then it may be safe to assume that you’re in *or headed towards* a codependent relationship.
#1 Your partner can’t socialize without you. A dependent partner will assume that they cannot function in public without their lover. They feel safer, more confident and more at ease only when they have their partner in tow.
#2 Your partner becomes paranoid whenever they can’t reach you. The worst fear of a dependent partner is losing their enabler. They concoct various scenarios like infidelity, abandonment or even death as the reason you can’t help them out.
#3 Your partner won’t acknowledge their achievements if you don’t know about it. Whether it’s a promotion, a scientific breakthrough or any positive milestone, none of these matter without your acknowledgement. It’s only when you’ve cheered them on that they can truly be happy about what they’ve achieved.
#4 Nothing they do makes them happy unless it’s with you. They could very well be meeting the President or going to the moon, but they would be very unhappy unless their partner was with them. Barring extreme examples like those two, they cannot develop their own personal hobbies that satisfy them unless their partner does it too.
#5 When you say jump, they leap. Anything you say is the word of law to your dependent partner. They say yes to anything you say, even if this goes against what they used to believe in before they met you. They’ll do anything you ask because they feel that disappointing you will make you abandon them.
#6 Your partner doesn’t have an extensive set of friends. The dependent party may have had friends before, but in their quest to gain approval in their enabler’s eyes, they choose to immerse themselves in their enabler’s circle of friends instead.
#7 You can’t stand not being there when your partner needs you. Whether it’s a burglar or an unopened pickle jar, the enabler in a relationship will always try to save the day. If they fail to do this, they will consider themselves a failure and take it out on their dependent partner for asking them for anything in the first place.
#8 You have this incessant need to change your partner. You want to change your partner for the better. However, you may be giving off mixed signals since you might alternate between pushing them to be their better selves and allowing them to still count on you for everything.
#9 You find yourself sacrificing your passions to cater to your partner’s needs. It’s almost never an emergency when your partner calls for you, but there’s that sense of urgency that you simply can’t resist. No matter how trivial the situation is, you allow yourself to shut out the world just so you can help your partner. [Read: Are you giving up too much of yourself for your partner?]
#10 Your partner relies on you to make decisions, no matter how trivial. Whether it’s buying something new, accepting a job offer or even wearing a certain outfit, your partner must always look to you for advice. They may be torn between getting what they want and getting your approval, but they will always rely on you to tip the scales in favor of whatever makes you happy.
It’s easy for enablers to justify their actions since they feel that they’re helping their dependent partner. However, this would only serve to reinforce their partner’s unhealthy behavior, whether it’s irresponsibility, immaturity, addiction or compulsive behavior. Being constantly at the beck and call of your partner can eventually take its toll on your mind and body. When it does, it can only lead to feelings of resentment, anger and even regret. But despite knowing this, you may feel like it’s your sworn duty to give your partner what they need. [Read: What other toxic relationships should you look out for?]
If you consistently see these signs of codependency in your relationship, we urge you to acknowledge that there may be a problem lurking in your relationship. Once you accept that your relationship is unhealthy for both of you, you can then start looking into options that may help you deal with your situation.
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