Home  >  My Life  >  Relationships

Codependent Friendship: The Bad Signs & Why It’s Unhealthy for You

A friendship should be a two-way deal. If all you ever do is put them before yourself, you’re in a codependent friendship. It’s time to change – now.  

Codependent Friendship

We all need friends in our lives. Partners might come and go, but friendships often outlive any relationship. Friends lift us up when we’re down, they provide a support network, and they’re an endless supply of fun and giggles. But, a codependent friendship? That’s not going to make you happy or provide you with the support you truly crave.

We need friendships because they allow us to explore ourselves. They allow us to let off steam, be supported, be encouraged to grow into the people we’re supposed to be, and quite frankly, they’re a lot of fun!

When you live a life devoid of friendship, you’re living a very lonely and sad life.

Does that mean you should involve yourself in friendships that are toxic from the outset? No. In that case, you’re better off without them. [Read: Bad friends: 25 types of friends you must unfriend from your life right now]

Friendships lift you out of hard times, they encourage you when you’re down, and in return you do the same for your friends. It’s a two-way thing which should always be equally beneficial to both parties.

When one party is getting more out of it than the other, there could be a problem. In fact, that’s almost always a problem.

What is a codependent friendship?

A codependent friendship is a friendship which is one sided. You put all your effort into supporting your friend. You ignore your own needs and desires in order to ensure that they’re happy. And when they’re down, you often feel guilty if you can’t fix it completely.

Simply put, a codependent friendship is one where one friend needs the other to fulfill their needs, and the other friend desires nothing more than to just be needed by their friend.

It’s dysfunctional and it’s unhealthy, but it’s often painted as something selfless and good. [Read: The martyr complex – How to recognize it and stop inflicting it upon yourself]

There is nothing good about ignoring your own needs and putting everyone and everything before yourself. Focusing on yourself from time to time isn’t selfish, it’s necessary!

If you’re the enabler in the codependent friendship, i.e. the one always doing the work, always ignoring their own feelings, and always trying to fix every problem there is, you’re actually detrimentally affecting your friend without even realizing it.

They need to fix their own problems sometimes. They need to feel down, they need to experience their emotions. You can’t save them from life – we all need to experience everything that we need to experience in order to grow.

Who is to blame in a codependent friendship?

So, is it your fault or theirs? You’re both to blame equally in some ways.

Firstly, you’re ignoring your own needs in order to make them happy. You think that you’re being some kind of Earth angel, but you’re probably distracting yourself from other issues in your life that you don’t want to face.

It could also be that you have low self confidence and need to be lifted up by the good you do for someone else. Don’t worry, you can overcome that! [Read: 16 reasons why you’re being taken for granted by the people you love]

In essence, your friend is also to blame for letting you do all these things for them.

Surely, they can see that you never look after your own emotions? It’s obvious that you’re always swooping in like a character from a superhero film, attempting to save the day, right? The truth is they probably can see it, but everyone likes it when someone looks after them so closely and selflessly. And they enjoy using you.

It’s messed up in so many ways, but a codependent friendship can be altered for the better. In order to fix it however, you both need to realize what’s going on. [Read: How to take care of yourself and avoid falling apart]

Signs you’re in a codependent friendship

Before you can fix the issue, you need to recognize whether there is a problem to fix or not. Here are a few signs that point towards a codependent friendship that’s totally out of balance.

1. You often do what they want to do

Do you always say things like “I don’t mind, you decide” when it comes to deciding where to go or what to do? You’re allowing them to make the decisions because you think that’s going to please them.

2. You’re always there whenever they need help

Sure, it’s a good thing to be there for your friend when they’re in trouble. But if it comes at your own expense time and time again, something isn’t right.

If you often leave your partner or yourself in the lurch to go out and help your friend, you need to ask yourself why. Do you literally drop everything, even if it’s important to you? [Read: 15 signs a friend is using you and draining the happiness out of you]

3. When they’re upset, you feel like you’ve failed

If your friend is down or something didn’t go their way, you somehow feel you failed by not being able to pick them up and make them smile.

It’s not your responsibility to swoop in there and save the day for your friend constantly. You can’t protect them from negative feelings all the time either.

4. You often feel exhausted

Is it any wonder? You’re running around trying to look after yourself and your friend, and you have no time to just chill and “be”. You’re likely to feel totally exhausted after hanging out with your friend because you’re always on the look out for things to do, or what to say, or how to make them feel. You can’t just enjoy the moment. [Read: How to deal with selfish friends & recognize the ones that hurt you]

5. You regularly put their needs first

It’s okay to put your friend’s needs first sometimes, perhaps if they’re going through a crisis. However, if you’re always putting your own needs to one side and focusing on what they need, you’re in a codependent friendship and you need to start putting yourself first.

6. It’s as though you feel their emotions

No, this doesn’t mean you’re an empath necessarily, it means that you’re so tuned into your friend’s emotions that you often take them as your own.

If they’re down, you feel bad that you couldn’t cheer them up. As a result, you feel down.

If they’re angry at something, you become angry at yourself because the problem hasn’t been solved. [Read: Empaths and relationships: How to handle them and find happiness]

7. You’re only happy when things are going well in the friendship

If you and your friend share cross words or something isn’t quite right, you aren’t happy. Your emotional wellbeing relies upon that status of your codependent friendship. Friends can and do fall out sometimes; it’s normal to clear the air with a few angry words occasionally!

8. You often apologize for things that aren’t your fault

If you do have a slight misunderstanding or argument, do you apologize just to make things right? Do you do this even if it wasn’t your fault, or you didn’t do anything wrong? That’s classic codependency.

9. You feel jealous if they don’t include you in something

Perhaps they meet a new friend at work and go out for drinks after a long day at the office. Do you feel jealous?

Friends can have other friends, it’s normal and healthy. It doesn’t mean that your friend thinks any less of you because they hang out with someone else occasionally. [Read: How to deal with jealousy in a relationship & learn to overcome it]

Distance is key when fixing a codependent friendship

If you suspect that you are in a codependent friendship, it’s time to do something about it. The good news is that it’s entirely possible to make the move from codependent to healthy.

It comes down to two tactics – distance, and identifying why you feel the need to rely so much upon your friend.

It’s highly unlikely that whilst you’re around your friend you’re going to be able to break this pattern of behavior. It’s also unlikely that they’re going to force you to do so either.

In that case, you need to have a break from each other. Don’t worry this isn’t permanent, think of it like Ross and Rachel from Friends but without the constant “we were on a break” chat in the future!

Take a little time to focus on yourself, away from the friendship that takes up all your time and effort. It’s also a good idea to avoid speaking to each other for a while too. This doesn’t mean your friendship is over, it doesn’t mean it’s on hiatus either. It simply means you’re doing ‘you’ for a while, and you’re allowing your friend to do them. [Read: 15 steps to stop caring about someone who hurt you and heal yourself]

Distance is beneficial in many ways. A codependent friendship isn’t a healthy friendship. Take time away from each other, remembering who you are, and remembering that your needs and wants matter too.

By actually doing something about the things you need and want in life, you’ll be able to come back together at some point in the near future and strive towards a natural and healthy friendship.

Of course, that means doing some intensive self-discovery work whilst you’re on this break.

Ask yourself the hard questions

Examine why you feel the need to place all your attention on your friend. What are you trying to run away from? What are you ignoring? Do you somehow feel that your needs aren’t as important as theirs? Why is that?

You’re just as important as your friend, and whilst it’s always nice to try and do things for other people, it shouldn’t be at the expense of your happiness and health. [Read: Why am I so insecure? 20 reasons why you care more than others]

Do you consider yourself to have low self esteem? And by doing things for others and making them feel better, perhaps fixing their problems, it makes you feel worthy? You’re worthy whether you fix all the problems in the world or none of them. Each one of us is worthy.

What about the future?

If you need a kickstart to begin the process of sorting out your codependent friendship, ask yourself this question – how would you feel in the future if your friend found a partner? If they already have one, how would you feel if they met another friend who they began spending more time with?

Investing all your time and effort in one person is risky. I’m sure your friend is a wonderful person, but we all make mistakes.

What if they stop paying you the attention you need? What if they stop coming to you with their problems and start going to their new partner instead? Will you feel lost? How will you fill the void? [Confession: I made my friend my priority and then she dumped me!]

Codependent friendships and the bottom line you need to understand

The bottom line is this – we can’t rely on other people for our happiness in this life. We can only rely on ourselves.

There are far too many possible roadblocks to focus on one other person. Yes, embrace your friend as a very important part of your life, but do not make them your entire life. They could easily leave you; it’s sounds harsh, but it’s possible.

By investing all your time and attention in one person, you’re stopping yourself from moving forwards.

You’re not likely to be taking opportunities that come your way, simply because you can’t see them. You’re too busy focusing on your codependent friendship!

What about relationships? Do you want one? If so, how are you going to spread your love and time over two people? Your future partner may become jealous of all the time and attention you throw at your friend and that could cause major problems. [Read: 15 exciting ways to make new friends as an adult]

We have to learn to spread our time equally amongst the people in our lives, but we have to reserve a huge chunk of it for ourselves.

This doesn’t make you selfish, it doesn’t make you vain or self-centered, it makes you a human being who understands that looking after number one is just as important as looking after everyone else.

If you feel like you’re in a codependent friendship, take a look at these signs of codependency to know if you’re being taken for granted by your friend.

A codependent friendship is out of balance, dysfunctional and unhealthy. You can easily right the issue, but you first need to identify why your friendship has become so out of balance.

Liked what you just read? Follow us on Instagram Facebook Twitter Pinterest and we promise, we’ll be your lucky charm to a beautiful love life. And while you’re at it, check out MIRL, a cool new social networking app that connects experts and seekers!

Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
Follow Nicky on