From lack of independence, frequent lying to controlling behaviour. Have you ever heard someone talk about codependent relationships, but don’t know what exactly they are or how to figure out if you’re in one?
The term ‘codependency’ gets brought up a lot when discussing unhealthy relationships, but what exactly does it mean? And how do you know if it applies to you?
What is a codependent relationship?
A codependent relationship involves a power imbalance between two people. Generally, one partner will act as the other’s ‘caretaker’, and their sense of identity and self-esteem may rely on how much they can fulfil their partner’s needs. The other partner will take advantage of this, and gain satisfaction from having their needs met by the caretaker.
According to sex and relationship coach Ness Cooper, “Most relationships will have moments where either individual is needed and the other individual fulfils that partners need, but often in unhealthy codependent relationships the needs that need to be fulfilled become very one-sided and control other aspects of the relationship.
When someone falls into an unhealthy codependent relationship, the individual self can become lost and this can affect the individual’s ability to communicate their needs and even consent in situations.”
5 signs you’re in a codependent relationship
- They push boundaries
If you’re in a codependent relationship, your partner will often push your boundaries and have you questioning your beliefs, while simultaneously expecting you to conform to theirs.
- They put you down often
People who engage in unhealthy codependency will often start taking control of the situation early on with comments that will put you down. They may pick apart and criticise even the tiniest things, like what you wear or even the food you pick for date night.
- They lie to get their own way
If their lying is more than just a slip of the tongue and happening regularly, particularly when used to control other parts of your relationship, then this is a major red flag that you’re in an unhealthy codependent relationship.
- They always put the blame on you
Often they will blame you for things that aren’t your fault and find issues with your efforts to please them, rather than thank you as they should in a healthy relationship.
This often has a very negative impact on your self-esteem, and can make it harder to leave the relationship even early on.
- They constantly check in on you
Your partner may try to control your schedule and closely monitor your actions. Even if you’re doing a task they asked you to do, you may find your phone buzzing non-stop with texts checking where you are and how long you’ll be. This can cause feelings of panic, and a sense of pressure to always live up to their expectations.
Freeing yourself from a codependent relationship
Ness Cooper says, “To avoid your relationship becoming codependent in the first place, try to both maintain an individual sense of self apart from each other, and connect positively with your partner.”
But if you do find yourself in an unhealthy codependent relationship, it’s important to recognise this as early as possible and take steps to free yourself from the situation.
This might involve talking to your partner about problems in your relationship and looking to find solutions – or it might mean walking away from the relationship altogether and focusing on your own wants and needs.
Since codependent relationships can cloud your sense of self, spend some time cultivating independence and figuring out who you are on your own without a partner. Discovering ways to satisfy your own needs and find pleasure alone can be a huge confidence boost, and help you find freedom from an unhealthy relationship. And the new year is the perfect excuse to gain your freedom and sure your relationship with yourself is the most important in your life.