The term “codependent relationship” is often used, many times without a clear
understanding of what codependency truly means. Maybe you are in a romantic
relationship that seems potentially unhealthy and unbalanced, and you are
starting to question if there could be codependency forming. This article will
explore the warning signs of a codependent relationship and what to do if you
find yourself in this kind of dynamic.
What is Codependency?
Codependency can be thought of as an enmeshed relational dynamic where
there are blurred boundaries regarding ‘where one person starts and another
ends.’ In a codependent relationship, an individual’s self-worth and identity
becomes wrapped up in approval from another person. Due to this, they may
ignore their own needs and lose sense of their individual identity in order to
support their partner.
Over time, codependent dynamics can be exhausting for the person who is
constantly giving more than they’re receiving in return and may feel like their
empathy and generosity are being taken advantage of. Let’s take a look at 5
warning signs that your relationship may be codependent.
5 Signs of a Codependent Relationship
1. You find yourself continuing to make sacrifices to meet your
partner’s needs despite the negative impact on your own well-being.
A key sign of codependency is if you prioritize your partner’s needs above all
else, even to the point of neglecting your own mental and emotional health.
Maybe you feel like your sense of happiness and fulfillment is tied to this
particular relationship, and continuing to please your partner no matter the cost.
2. You have lost a sense of individual identity.
Healthy relationships involve an appropriate balance between togetherness and
continuing to pursue individual hobbies, friendships, projects, etc. If you feel like
you have lost sight of who you are and what is important to you, this could point
to unhealthy enmeshment. A healthy partnership enhances your commitment to
self while an unhealthy one requires you to lose yourself.
3. You feel unable to say ‘no’ to your partner or voice your needs.
It is important to feel like you can express yourself openly and honestly to your
partner, and set appropriate boundaries when needed. If you feel like you are
unable to be honest with your partner about your needs and find yourself saying
‘yes’ when you want to say ‘no,’ this could indicate a codependent dynamic. In
some cases, feeling unable to say no may be attributed to past abuse. For more
information about trauma and PTSD, visit Mind Diagnostics.
4. You take on the responsibility of bearing your partner’s emotional
burdens for them.
While loving relationships include healthy support through difficult times, it is
crucial to distinguish between being there for your partner and trying to take on
their pain for them. Ultimately each individual has to take ownership over
managing their own feelings without expecting a partner to do their emotional
work for them.
5. You constantly give more than you’re getting in return.
Perhaps you feel like you’re consistently giving of your time and energy and it’s
not being reciprocated. You may not even realize that your own relational needs
are not being met in the attempt to care for this other person, who ultimately is
not fully meeting you.
What To Do If You’re in a Codependent Relationship
If you resonate with any of these signs of codependency, first try not to shame
yourself. There are deep-rooted factors that contribute to the formation and
maintenance of codependent relationships, such as attachment wounds or past
There are steps you and your partner can take to move away from codependent
tendencies towards a more balanced, healthy dynamic. Working with a couples
therapist can be very beneficial for having discussions around attachment styles,
setting appropriate boundaries, and pursuing growth as separate individuals. It is
crucial for both partners to develop a sense of self outside the relationship by
strengthening their friendships and pursuing individual passions.
Sometimes it may be healthiest for both people to part ways, but this does not
have to be the case. It is possible to put in the effort and work required to move
towards a healthier, more fulfilling relationship. Awareness is the first step in
shifting your relationship in a positive direction.