by Kahlia Meeuwsen, Relationships Columnist
Published in Relationships on 7th August, 2018
Codependence is a problem that can sneak up in some relationships, and it can become a problem that snowballs into something huge. That said, not everyone realizes that codependency is the culprit when it comes to their relationship problems.
Consequently, we're going to take a look into what codependency is, how to tell if someone might be codependence, what the signs are that your relationship is at risk, and what to do if you notice these signs in your relationship. Continue on to be armored with important information that can lead to a healthier life.
In every relationship, there is some level of dependence. This isn't typically a negative thing, and it's perfectly okay to look to others for help and support from time to time. However, when one partner finds that they are sacrificing a great deal to keep their significant other happy, this can become a problem.
In a codependent relationship, there can be an extreme amount of clinginess that you won't see in a healthy relationship. One partner may feel that their very existence depends upon who they're with. That may even include that partner setting everything else in their life aside to focus on their significant other.
It's important to be aware of what these relationships look like because they can often be a signifier of deeper problems within the psyche of the codependent partner. In some cases, codependency in an individual can be the result of past abuse that needs to be healed.
There are a few things worth looking for in someone who you think might be codependent. These can include certain personality traits as well as behaviors. Consequently, it's important to pay attention and see what signs you may find in that person before deciding whether or not they have a problem.
Some of the personality traits that can be signs of a codependent person can include things list people-pleasing, an inability to set boundaries, low self-esteem, a tendency to react quickly and intensely, denial and obsession.
Someone who is codependent may not realize that they are. However, they might believe they are doing what they need to in order to obtain love. In some cases, this can be the result of unhealthy parenting teaching them from a young age that they need to place the needs of others before themselves.
Oftentimes, the behaviors can be more obvious than the personality traits. These behaviors may include a need for control, poor communication skills, caretaking, and generally placing the needs of their partner first, regardless of the cost to themselves.
One of the more common signs is a person being incredibly submissive, doing what they can to conform to the wants of their partner. They may also refrain from sharing any displeasure they may be feeling towards the situation, or even accepting it as a problem.
To get more specific, there are a multitude of key signs to look out for that may signify a codependent relationship. If you're concerned that someone may be in a codependent relationship, or that you are, make sure to take into account these signs and use them to determine the overall risk.
In a healthy relationship, the importance should be shared between both partners. In addition, that importance should be well balanced with other aspects of your lives. The codependency problem can begin when one partner places the other on a pedestal, and it results in a serious imbalance.
Generally, this displays as one person frequently getting what they want, while the other strives to provide that to them. In some cases, it may not be something that the "more important" partner wants, but the "less important" partner feels that they need to give it to them in order to maintain happiness.
However, in some cases those who are codependent can find themselves in abusive relationships in which the other partner does see themselves as more important, and therefore makes more demands of the codependent partner. This is a dangerous sign that is very important to watch out for.
Another issue that can take place in a codependent relationship is that one partner may be left feeling like they just don't measure up. They might feel disrespected, devaluedor just that they aren't deserving of the attentions of their significant other.
This is one of the habits that can often be the result of low self esteem, and the person may feel that they need to make more sacrifices and take what they can get in order to earn any of the love they may receive. Such a person can struggle to see their own worth.
Consequently, if you feel that you need to constantly strive to earn the attention of a partner, or know someone who appears to, this is a definite sign of a problem. At the very least, that individual could probably use some help from a professional to improve their self esteem.
It's important to be wary if one partner doesn't appear to ever express disappointment, anger, sadness or other negative feelings. From time to time, it's normal for someone to be upset. Whether it's due to something their partner did or said, or just a result of something going on in their life, it's normal and acceptable to have these feelings.
While many of us may be well aware of that, some can feel that expressing those emotions will have negative consequences. They might worry they'll get "into trouble" or that their partner will become dissatisfied and leave them for the expression.
As a result, one partner may do their best to remain cheerful, look for the positive and always display a good mood. While to an extent, looking for the positive is a healthy thing, it can also be very unhealthy when it is used to cover up feelings of sadness or anger.
Those who are in a codependent relationship may take it upon themselves to handle most, if not all, of the "dirty work" involved in the relationship. This can include things like taking care of all the chores at home, being the one to always change or cancel plans for the partner, or generally trying to please them.
On top of that, this can also include doing everything possible to avoid confrontation. If their partner is unhappy or angry, they may seek only to bring them back to a happy state. In order to do that, they may try to be positive, change the subject, or even beg in a more serious situation.
This is an aspect that is more likely to take place in a relationship that is abusive as well as codependent. If one partner is abusive, either emotionally or physically, and the other is codependent, then it can create a dangerous situation where one partner is consistently taking abuse without being able to find it in themselves to leave the abusive partner.
In smaller amounts, this can also mean that the codependent partner may feel that they are at the whim of the emotions, needs and opinions of their significant other. That might mean that a statement that could otherwise be considered harmless may seem to have deeper, darker meanings. Things like an unanswered text can set their mind wild with terrible possiblities.
Essentially, the world of the codependent partner is driven by the emotions of others.
While they may be unwilling to express it, the codependent partner can feel trapped by the relationship. They may feel a lot of anxiety about upsetting their partner, or that their partner may simply leave them at any given time. Though they may care deeply about their partner, they may also feel trapped by these feelings.
On the other hand, the other involved partner can feel trapped by the neediness of the codependent partner. They may feel like they have little room to breathe, that they can't do things without that partner, or that they have to continuously reassure their partner that everything is okay.
Overall, this can create a suffocating environment for both partners involved, and it's a very unhealthy way to take on a relationship. So if you notice that you or someone else feels trapped by their relationship, for any reason, it's important to urge them to get help.
Anxiety is a frequent problem in codependent relationships, often on the part of the codependent partner. They often have a strong fear that they will be abandoned, or that they'll do something to mess up the relationship. Some may even believe the latter is inevitable.
This anxiety can create an anxious attachment style that is based more on not being abandoned than it is on a genuine love for the other person. However, those who have symptoms of codependency may not realize that's the case, and believe that their fear is driven by that love instead.
A large red flag can occur when one partner appears to not have a life outside the other person. This may result in them losing connections with friends and family members, losing interest in activities they used to enjoy, or in extreme cases even losing a job as a result.
This is a huge sign to take note of, because at the very least it can portray an unhealthy obsession. At worst, it may also be the sign of an abusive partner who is trying to isolate that individual in order to gain more power over them.
Consequently, if you notice this situation in your own life, or that someone you care about is experiencing these kinds of problems then do what you can to seek help, or get them to seek help. If it is someone else, there is only so much you can do but at the very least it's worth bringing to their attention.
An aspect that can make a codependent relationship especially difficult is that one or both members may not be willing to realize or accept their problems. The codependent partner may believe their attachment style is normal, or that the sacrifices included aren't as hard on them as they may actually be.
As a result, it can be extremely difficult to make a codependent individual aware of what's going on in the relationship. They may even fear accepting the situation because it may mean that they need to let go of their significant other, which can bring about the fear of abandonment even more.
As a result, it's important not to invest too much into the problem if it isn't your own relationship at the center of the problem. Those on the outside can attempt to help, but it's impossible to resolve the problems of others yourself.
The sacrifices involved in a codependent relationship can be exhausting on both sides. The partner who gives constantly may feel they get little to nothing back, or may simply tire themselves out by working so hard to please their significant other.
On the other hand, the partner on the other side of the situation may become exhausted by the need to reassure their partner and address the increased amount of emotional need. This can also run the risk of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, as this partner may eventually leave the relationship due to the exhaustion.
Many of the thoughts and feelings that can drive a codependent relationship can be deeply rooted. Oftentimes, they can come from the lessons taught to us from childhood. If you are concerned that you may be a codependent person, there is help out there. Reaching out for professional help can allow you to feel more fulfilled and happier as an independent person.