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Why Am I Codependent? 37 Reasons & Signs You Overstep Boundaries in Love

If you are wondering if you are codependent, then it’s likely that you probably are. Here are the signs to know for sure and how to overcome them.

Why Am I Codependent

If you’ve been called needy or clingy in past relationships, this has probably sparked your attention. If you find yourself asking, “am I codependent or not,” it’s about time you found out.

You see, relationships need a certain amount of reliance, but only in small amounts. If you become over-reliant on your partner, you risk losing yourself in the process. 

You also give them all the power in any situation, and that’s never a good situation to be in. 

The whole ‘I can’t live without you’ thing has just gone too far. You should never feel like you can’t function, or God forbid, you can’t live without your partner. 

You don’t need them for your happiness, you want them. In effect, you choose them, and that’s what makes a relationship so special. 

So, if you’re struggling with codependency or you think that you might be moving a little too close to the line, let’s explore the subject to help you out. [Read: How to spot codependent behavior early & regain your self-identity]

What does it mean to be codependent?

Before we get into the signs, let’s outline what it means to be codependent. 

If you’re codependent, you’re overly dependent on your partner for your emotional needs. In some severe cases, this can mean that a person plans everything around their partner and doesn’t think for a second about their own needs. 

Basically, the other person is always put before them. [Read: Do you have codependent traits that make you clingy?]

It can be that the other person doesn’t see what’s happening or that they enable it. They may like having everything planned around them and everything done for them, so they play on it and keep it in place. 

Or it could be that they find the over-neediness far too suffocating, and it causes the relationship to turn toxic.

Either way, codependency is never a good thing. For sure, it’s good to put your partner’s needs first sometimes, but the key word there is ‘sometimes.’ Not always. [Read: Effective ways to stop being so needy and insecure]

You have a life, you have friends, you have hobbies, and you have emotional needs too. Also, your partner cannot be there to prop you up in life and help you with everything; you need to stand on your own two feet.

Codependency facts

Here are some interesting facts about codependency. 

1. It’s not just for romantic partners

While most people think codependency happens in a romantic partnership, it’s not the only kind of relationship where you find it happening. [Read: Scary signs of codependency in your relationship]

Codependency can also be between friends and family members and not just romantic partners. Whenever someone puts other people’s needs before their own, they have a tendency to be codependent.

2. Abuse is usually involved

Codependent relationships often include emotional or physical abuse. The reason for this is that in order to gain the approval of the abuser, the codependent person adjusts their behavior to cater to them, even if that means allowing the abuse to continue.

3. Other people notice it

A person in a codependent relationship might not realize it, but their friends and family can usually notice that something is wrong. It’s not difficult to sense when something is off between two people. [Read: 15 early signs of an abusive relationship that reveal a dark side]

Even if it’s not evident in what they say, people can see it in their actions toward one another.

4. Treatment isn’t easy

Of course, anyone would love to wave a magic wand and get rid of their codependency. However, treatment for codependency takes a lot of time and effort. There is no quick cure, so the person has to be committed to working on it and overcoming their codependency.

Am I codependent? Warning signs to heed

Many people watch the movie Twilight, and they’re totally into the idea of having a needy and controlling partner like Edward Cullen. The fact that Robert Pattinson was attractive certainly helped push that narrative. [Read: How to stop being codependent and improve your relationship]

You start to think that’s what a healthy relationship is all about because it looks so romantic. But, aside from the whole vampire thing, that relationship is so abnormally toxic that it’s not something anyone should be aspiring to. 

Love isn’t about dropping everything and focusing on your partner to extremes. It’s about encouraging each other to be the best you can be, apart and together. 

You should totally be able to function with your partner, it’s simply that you enjoy it when they’re around! [Read: Am I toxic? How to tell if you’re the toxic one & not everyone else]

To help you avoid slipping into a spiral of codependency, let’s check out the signs to look out for. 

1. You don’t make any decisions

It’s normal to be indecisive sometimes, but around your partner, you never make any decisions. You double-check with them on everything, things that don’t need double-checking. [Read: 18 critical signs of an unhealthy relationship]

The fact that you can’t go with your own instincts shows that you’re too codependent.

2. You always make excuses for your partner’s behavior 

Listen, there are times when we make excuses for our partner based on embarrassment, etc. We’re only human at the end of the day. 

But if you constantly make excuses for their behavior and never let them take responsibility, the boundaries have blurred. [Read: Why do men cheat? 43 honest reasons, excuses, and ways to prevent it]

3. You’re always number two in your relationship 

Whether single or taken, you should always come first. How can you be a good partner if you don’t see yourself as someone important? 

If you come number two after your partner, you’ve become someone whose only goal is to please their partner. This is a sign of someone who’s codependent. [Read: How to cope with one-sided love relationships]

4. You don’t think about how you feel 

You’re always willing to say ‘yes’ to your partner when it comes to almost anything. But you never stop to think about how you feel and if it’s something you want to do. 

Instead, you prefer to keep your partner constantly pleased while you put your feelings aside.

5. You give more than you get

In the relationship, you give your partner 110% of yourself. But this isn’t usually matched. If anything, you’re continuously giving your partner more and more without them meeting you halfway. [Read: How to pull back when you’re giving too much in love]

Codependent people will always give more in a relationship than their partner in fear of rejection.

6. You’re dating a project

You’re not dating someone who’s well-rounded and balanced – that would be too easy and boring. 

Instead, you date a project, someone who comes with a lot of baggage and needs endless attention and support. Codependent people attach themselves to those with problems in hopes of “fixing” them. [Read: Should I give up on him? 25 signs he won’t change or be a good fit]

7. Your relationships are all like this

When it comes to your relationships, this isn’t something new for you. Most of your relationships have been like this, and they’ve all ended the same way. 

It’s hard to change old habits, that’s for sure, but this is something to cut out. You can only do that when you acknowledge your codependency. [Read: How to quit attracting unhealthy relationships]

8. You’ve placed your interests to the side

When you’re in a relationship, it’s normal to have your own hobbies and interests that don’t involve your partner. 

But you’ve lost most of the things that bring you happiness outside of the relationship. Codependent people give up the things they enjoy for their partners.

9. You fear abandonment

Most of us fear abandonment, but not all of us get to the point of codependency from the fear of being abandoned. [Read: Abandonment issues and how it affects your relationship]

If you find yourself doing things for your partner because you don’t want them to leave you, this is a solid sign of a deeper issue. 

10. You don’t feel understood or accepted by others

When you’re around people, you often see yourself as being different from the rest. You want to be included so badly, and for the most part, you are, but you see yourself living outside of people’s lives. 

This is based purely on a self-esteem issue that can probably be traced to childhood. [Read: Signs of low self-esteem and 5 ways to increase it]

11. You can’t pinpoint the root problem

You’ve noticed your codependent behavior, but you can’t seem to pinpoint the reason why. You’re not looking deep enough. 

Of course, go to a therapist and find the real root cause because, most likely, it’s deeply rooted in you.

12. You take on your partner’s struggles

When your partner goes through something difficult, you go overboard. Supporting them is fine, but you go a step further and take their pain as your own. [Read: 15 ways to overcome the fear of losing someone you love]

You want to carry it for them. You feel responsible for other people’s feelings when you’re not.

13. You’re easily manipulated during arguments

When you have a disagreement, your partner doesn’t fight fair. Healthy relationships argue but should be resolved through communication and discussion. 

But if you’re codependent, your partner will use this against you. [Read: Relationship hang-ups and how to deal with them]

14. Deep down, you know something isn’t right

Despite your love for your partner, you know something is off in your relationship. You walk on eggshells in fear of being dumped, and deep down, you know this isn’t what you want. 

If you notice these issues in your relationship, it’s the first step to your addressing your codependency.

Why am I codependent?

Most of us are not born with codependency issues. They can arise from our parents, loved ones, and, most commonly, our romantic partners. [Read: Interfering parents – all the ways they can affect your love life]

Codependency is often brought on by low self-esteem and a need for approval. But it can also be brought on by someone else’s influence on you. You can be codependent on your partner’s problems. 

It is commonly seen that the partners of addicts are codependent. Their partner’s addiction defines their behaviors and happiness. 

In this case, codependence does not just plague your life but can cause you to enable your partner’s harmful behavior as well. [Read: How to spot codependent behavior early and regain yourself]

What led you to your reliance on others? When did this behavior first show itself? Was it one traumatic event, or was there a pattern in your life that led to you being codependent? 

Here are several common things that can make a person codependent.

1. Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse

Abuse of any kind is severely damaging to a person. When this happens to a child, it affects who they are and the quality of relationships they have as an adult. [Read: Emotional abuse – what it is and 39 signs this relationship is breaking you]

An abused child will learn not to be able to meet their own needs because no one ever taught them that they should be valued. They have practically no self-worth and, therefore, look to take care of other people.

2. Parents or caregivers that ignore a child’s needs in favor of their own

Not everyone is a good parent. In fact, most people are at least a little selfish. However, when a parent is so selfish that they completely ignore their children’s needs in favor of their own, they could be creating codependency.

This teaches a child that their needs aren’t important – only other people’s needs are. So, the child grows up to learn to take care of other people at the expense of themselves. [Read: Being raised by narcissists – 18 harmful ways it affects your life]

3. A caregiver with a personality disorder 

There are many people in the world who have a personality disorder, and they have children too.

So, if someone has a borderline personality disorder, narcissism, dependent personality disorder, or a related mental health condition, their children could grow up to be codependent.

When someone grows up with a parent with one of these disorders, it encourages them to suppress their own self-identity to accommodate them. This, in turn, becomes a habit and ultimately becomes part of who they are. 

4. Controlling or overprotective caregivers 

Some caregivers are overprotective or controlling and hold their children back from building the confidence needed to function in the outside world.

There might have been anxiety around trying new things, or they might have been so coddled that they never learned to do basic tasks. [Read: Overprotective parents – 28 signs, psychological effects, and how to deal]

This prevents a child from learning safe limits and setting healthy boundaries in their adult relationships. They don’t know how to take care of themselves.

5. Living with a physically or mentally ill family member

When a family member is physically or mentally ill, then their needs come first above anyone else’s. While this is certainly understandable, it teaches a child that they constantly need to take care of another person and not themselves.

6. Underlying sense of self-rejection and self-abandonment

Perhaps a person had a bad relationship with one or both of their parents, and that created intensely low self-esteem.

Because of that, they reject themselves and even abandon all of their needs in favor of other people’s needs. [Read: 20 signs you’re a people pleaser and don’t even realize it]

How to overcome codependency

If you’ve asked yourself, “am I codependent” and you’ve noticed a few of the signs above in your own behavior, it’s time to fix the problem. 

Overcoming codependency is a lot like overcoming trust issues. It is something that is deeply ingrained in your mind. You are hooked on this feeling, and it is your norm, so fighting it can be difficult.

It can feel vulnerable and scary because taking the power over your emotions back puts more pressure on you but less on your relationships which helps you heal. [Read: How to improve yourself – 16 powerful secrets to self-improvement]

There are a lot of steps you can take to overcome codependency, and not all of them will work for everyone. 

But being able to take these steps and apply these things to your life will give you more strength and awareness of your own feelings leading you to become more self-reliant.

You won’t be able to overcome codependency overnight, but you will be able to see small signs of progress as you go along. [Read: How to not be a pushover anymore! Learn what makes you one and take a stand]

1. Admit that you are codependent

It’s time to hold your hands up and accept that you have a problem with codependency. You can’t move on until you’ve admitted it to yourself. 

You can’t change what you don’t recognize.

Admitting that you are codependent or in a codependent relationship is the first step to overcoming it and is one of the hardest ones. [Read: How to say no – 15 ways to reason politely, stop pleasing, and feel kickass]

It is difficult to break the cycle you may have been stuck in for years. Learning how to identify the behavior that correlates to your codependency is vital to change it. 

Whenever you notice that you are letting your emotions be dictated by your partner, by the success of your relationship, or the like, you can alter that reaction.

Then, you need to talk to your partner and explain how you feel and what you believe the problem is. [Read: How to set personal boundaries and guide other people to respect it]

2. Work out the root cause

Do you know what is causing you to act in a codependent way? Perhaps keep a journal and identify any triggers for codependent behavior. 

Sometimes triggers aren’t too obvious, and they only unearth themselves when you do a little digging. Once you know what the problem is, you can work to face it and overcome it slowly. [Read: Emotionally stable: How to find your zone of perfect calmness]

3. Regular communication

It’s important that you talk to your partner and keep the lines of communication open. They need to feel comfortable talking to you about your behavior and how it makes them feel. 

But you also need to be able to do the same. You can overcome it together if you keep on talking. 

4. Establish boundaries

By setting boundaries and both of you respecting them, you can slowly work on reducing and overcoming your codependent behavior. [Read: How to set boundaries: 10 crucial steps to feel more in control]

For instance, if your partner is going away on a business trip, you can set a boundary on the number of times you call them. You have to respect and stick to any boundary you set for it to be effective.

5. Talk about how you feel

Don’t keep things bottled up inside. The fact you’re asking yourself if you’re co-dependent means that you have a lot you need to get off your chest! 

Talk to your partner, talk to friends and family members – just don’t keep it all bottled up, waiting for the inevitable explosion. [Read: How to express your feelings – 16 must-know ideas to speak your mind]

Being honest is the best way to overcome codependency. Telling your partner how you feel and how what they do makes you feel is the only way to work through this together. 

Come clean about how you feel without editing it down.

As someone with codependency, you don’t want to upset your partner because you feel that that reflects on you, but being brutally honest will help you rely on your own emotions. [Read: How to tell your partner you’re unhappy in the relationship]

6. Know you cannot fix your partner

Those who are codependent often choose partners that they feel need them. 

You may be with someone you have to take care of physically or emotionally. You become a rock for your partner and constantly give without receiving what you need. 

Once a relationship starts in on this routine, it is hard to break. You are constantly feeling down and drained because you are giving so much, hoping for something in return, but are left empty. [Read: Martyr complex – How to recognize the signs of the martyr syndrome in you]

Accept that you cannot change your partner. Their behavior and treatment of you do not define you.

7. Let go of control

The hard part about being codependent is that your feelings are being controlled by others, but you desperately want control. 

You change your behavior by making excuses, keeping your mouth shut, and not speaking your truth to keep the peace. But that only clogs your emotions and leads to resentment and frustration. [Read: 23 subtle signs of a controlling boyfriend most girls don’t notice]

8. Release self-hatred

Self-esteem issues lead us to crave attention and love from others. We qualify our success and self-worth through how others see us or, worse, how we think others see us. 

If you can work on your confidence internally, you can let go of the need for acceptance from others. [Read: We accept the love we deserve – Why do you think you aren’t worthy]

9. Fill your life with more

Codependency arises when we close ourselves off from the other important relationships in our lives. Since you started dating this person, have you drifted from friends and family? 

That can cause more of your happiness and self-worth to be pulled from the person you are with most of the time.

Make time for the other people in your life. Go home and visit with family. Be sure to make plans with the friends you lost touch with. [Read: Madly in love? How to balance your life when you’ve fallen hard]

Find hobbies you enjoy or pick up the hobbies you let go of. Adding more to your life helps you live it more balanced.

10. Learn to say no

Those who are codependent aren’t just prone to enabling their partners’ poor behavior but are often martyrs. When you are codependent, you go above and beyond the norm. 

You go out of your way to say yes even when you don’t want to do something. So, you please them, and that should please you, but often leaves you feeling empty. [Read: How to tell if someone is using you – 16 signs a user can’t hide]

Be bold and say ‘no’ more often. You don’t have to do the things your partner expects all the time just because they want it or are used to it. You are your own person and free to make your own choices.

11. Know your worth

This step may be harder to accomplish and comes with time and practice, but it is very important. 

Once you can do this, you know you are excelling in overcoming your codependency. Demand the respect you deserve. Speak up for yourself. [Read: Secrets of self-worth and self-belief]

12. Enjoy your alone time

One big part of being codependent is having a fear of being alone. A lot can go into that, but practicing self-care when you are alone is vital. Take baby steps to get there.

Go to the movies alone. Go have lunch by yourself. Take a walk. And don’t think of alone time as being lonely. Think of it as sharing your own company. [Read: The signs you’re addicted to a relationship and slowly losing yourself]

13. Seek help if you need to 

Some people choose to seek professional help when overcoming codependency issues. If that’s something you feel you would benefit from, go for it. 

There is nothing to worry about or fear in asking for help. It’s one of the strongest things you can possibly do. Then, you’ll be able to move on with your life out of the shadow of codependency.

Find a therapist that will take that journey of self-growth with you. They will dissect what led you here and help you work your way forward as a stronger and more independent person. [Read: How to stop being codependent and have a healthy relationship instead]

Final thoughts

You can’t click your fingers and get rid of codependency overnight. However, you can identify the problem and work on it. 

Self-improvement is never a waste of time, and when it comes to your relationships, you’ll notice a huge difference in the weeks, months, and years to come. 

[Read: How to be emotionally independent and stop using others for happiness]

Am I codependent? If you identified with a couple of these signs, you probably found the problem. Learning how to overcome codependency is not something that happens overnight, but with awareness, practice, and help, you can thrive on your own.

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...