Are you addicted to your relationship? Do you feel needy and cling to your partner? Does your mate support and rescue you to the point where you’ve given up a lot of your independence and ability to make most decisions?
Or are you the one taking on the role of a supporter or rescuer? It takes two to perpetuate a codependent relationship. Whichever side you’re on, both of you may be breeding unhealthy relationship habits … habits that may have damaging effects on both your relationship and your individual lives.
Are You Dependent or Codependent?
There’s dependency and there’s codependency. So what’s the difference in terms of a relationship? You can spot codependency. A tell-tale sign is that both partners are getting something they feel benefits them.
Let’s say you’re playing the role of the dependent person and that dependency becomes your partner’s accepted responsibility. It’s a two-part arrangement that the two of you may not even be aware of. It usually isn’t acknowledged outwardly. As the needy partner, you’re getting your emotional needs met and your supporting partner might be getting the satisfaction of being the hero or enabler of your emotional – and sometimes physical – needs.
If your partner doesn’t buy into the neediness, doesn’t get any satisfaction from you generating your sense of self-worth based upon what he or she does for you, it’s not really a codependent relationship. It’s just you being needy. Still, the relationship isn’t healthy at all.
Codependency doesn’t lay a foundation of a healthy relationship, that’s for sure. The self-esteem of both of you is affected. While you might feel a loss of self-esteem from forfeiting your independence, your partner gains a warped sense of self-esteem or possibly even a feeling of control from sacrificing or tending to you.
Your relationship may be close and caring, but is that closeness really authentic? As the needy partner, you may struggle with disasters and your partner’s assistance deepens the emotional connection and feelings of intimacy. But love and intimacy should come freely and naturally, both of you with a good sense of who you are and what you want out of the relationship.
With a codependent arrangement, it’s almost as if you’re constructing a relationship solely based on need. You’re essentially “enabling” one another due to some dysfunctional personality traits each of you has. See how this can perpetuate a cycle of codependency?
Signs You’re in a Codependent Relationship
If you’re not sure you’re in a codependent relationship, ask yourself these questions:
· You feel the need to keep your partner close because you’re afraid of being abandoned?
· Do you feel that your desires, needs, or feelings are unimportant? Do you have problems recognizing or expressing them?
· Is it difficult to say no when your partner makes demands on your time and energy?
· Do you avoid disagreements or arguments for fear that your partner will withdraw their support?
· Do you feel trapped in the relationship?
· Are you or partner in a relationship that includes emotional or physical abuse?
· Do you ignore your own morals or conscience in order to do what the other person wants?
· Can each of you express and feel satisfaction about your emotions and needs with one another?
· Do you enjoy outside interests, other friends, and hobbies without your partner?
· Do you or your partner neglect other important areas of your life to please the other partner?
· Do you feel worthless unless your partner is making extreme sacrifices for you?
· Does your partner do anything to please and satisfy you, no matter what the expense to them?
· Do you feel you must be needed by your partner in order to have any purpose in life?
· Does the thought of not getting support or separating from your partner fill you with fear or dread?
· Do friends, family or others close to you mention that they sense something is “off” with your relationship?
· Do you or your partner believe you deserve to be mistreated, unhappy, or taken for granted?
Effects of a Codependent Relationship
Codependent relationships are often not sustainable. Eventually, tending to a partner consumes a lot of energy and interest may fade. A partner that keenly feels the other partner’s struggles can also feel guilty at the thought of limiting their help or terminating the relationship. That can lead to resentment.
You both may decide to stick together because of children, finances, the time you’ve invested, fear, shame, or inertia. A breakup can also cause extreme emotional pain to the needy partner; abandonment is often a big fear.
Effects on Your Personal Life
Codependency has effects not only within a relationship but outside of it: problems with other relationships, career, and everyday responsibilities.
· It can be very difficult to extract yourself from the relationship because your own identity is so wrapped up in sacrificing yourself for your partner.
· Codependency inhibits your maturity, life skills, and confidence.
· It can reduce your motivation to change because it discourages normal functioning; you continue to need more love, care, and assistance from your partner. You are less able to cope with life’s challenges without them.
Breaking the Cycle of Codependency
Awareness and the willingness to change and grow are the starting points for breaking the codependency cycle and healing. Here are some pathways:
· Recognize and stand up for your own wants and desires.
· Know that you’re not responsible for anyone's happiness; just your own.
· Relationships don’t shatter because of how you think your partner might respond and react. Stand up for and own your own feelings.
· See yourself as reliant and capable of handling life’s slings and arrows yourself and act upon it.
· Set up boundaries with your partner. Learn how to say no and accept when your partner says no.
· Accept that your partner may not always agree with you. Try not to take that too much to heart.
· Get help through counseling to learn communication and coping mechanisms in your relationship and how to be more independent.
When you can successfully achieve some healing breakthroughs, you will begin to see your relationship for what it is or what it can be. At that point, you can more honestly assess if what you two have together is good, feels right, and is a source of joy and happiness for you both.
If you don’t see a light at the end of the codependency tunnel, it might be time for some relationship counseling to learn how to better understand yourself and how to walk away, if the relationship is not serving you.