November 16, 2017 |Gideon Hanekom

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One of the most troubling relationship elements is codependency. According to an article in the New York Times (1990), almost 96% of all Americans suffer from some form of codependency. But, what is it, and what does it mean for your relationship? This post looks at possible signs you’re in a codependent relationship

When two people have a very close relationship, it’s natural and mentally healthy to depend on each other for certain things.

However, if one of you lose sight of who you are, in order to please only the other person, the relationship can run the risk of becoming very unhealthy.

A Working Definition of Codependency in This Post

“Codependency” is defined as an unhealthy relationship where partners are overly reliant on one another.

As a result, a dysfunctional pattern of living and problem-solving develops between the two.

Another definition of codependency, according to Melody Beattie, the best-selling author of ”Codependent No More” and ”Beyond Codependency,” is:

“Codependency as being affected by someone else’s behaviour and obsessed with controlling it.”

Codependency, as you can see, is therefore not a healthy trait in any relationship and should be avoided.

The question, however, becomes, how do you know whether you’re co-dependent or not?

Signs You’re in a Codependent Relationship Quiz

Answer the following questions to examine whether you might be involved in a codependent relationship.

Then read the rest of the post below.

Take the Quiz

Are you afraid to express genuine feelings to your partner?

If you notice you often have feelings of fear of how your partner will react, that’s usually one of the signs you’re in a codependent relationship.

Healthy couples tend to openly share their genuine feelings with each other.

Unhealthy couples, on the other hand, tend to pretend, hide, or lie about how they’re really feeling.

Strong, healthy relationships are built on openness and honesty, however.

If you’re afraid to share how you’re really feeling as it might put the relationship at risk, it might be a sign that you’ve become co-dependent.

Talk to your partner about this to see and hear how they feel.

Also, aim to create a regular space for both to share how you genuinely feel about things.

If you do express feelings honestly, do you then feel guilty?

Perhaps you have tried talking to your partner in the past but instantly felt guilty for doing it.

Maybe you thought, “I shouldn’t have said anything… it just made matters worse.”

What is that about?

What do you think is at the heart of you feeling “guilty?”

Healthy couples share their feeling honestly and feel good about them.

Not because what they’re feeling is always good, but because there’s enough trust in the relationship for them to do that.

They know that their partner needs to hear how they’re feeling.

They also know the relationship will be better and stronger for it.

If you’re feeling guilty for sharing your feeling honestly, you need to ask yourself why that is.

Again, start by talking to your partner about it and see where they’re at.

Maybe it’s just you.

Maybe it’s something you need to work through with your partner’s help.

But, perhaps it’s a sign that you’ve become co-dependent and sharing your feelings honestly feels like a betrayal; hence the guilt.

Is much of your day taken up with trying to do everything for your partner?

Are you always saying “yes” and struggling to say “no” to your partner?

If you’re completing a lot of things for your loved one that could easily be done by them, you might want to pay attention to that.

It might very well be a sign that you’re caught up in a dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship.

These chores are done to the detriment of the relationship, and your own life, in the long run.

Helping out is one thing.

Being a slave to your relationship or partner is another.

Again, talk to your partner about this.

See how they react.

Their reaction might tell you everything you need to know about how they see you.

Are you wary of asking for help from your partner?

This goes with what I said before about sharing your feelings honestly.

If you can’t seek assistance from your partner, you need to ask, why that is.

What’s going on?

And is this something you’re actually OK with?

The reality is, in healthy relationships, partners freely and regularly ask for a hand.

No worries.

If you cannot do that, you might want to ask what that fear of asking is about.

Fear of one thing usually spells fear of something deeper.

Fear to ask for help could mean fear of losing the relationship if you do.

And if that’s the case, you need to consider whether your attachment to this person is healthy or not?

signs you're in a codependent relationship

When you do ask for help, how does your partner react?

Hopefully, your partner is open and willing to help you out whenever you ask.

However, often, one of the typical signs you’re in a codependent relationship is that you might avoid (fear) asking your partner for help OR with how your partner might react.

This is just an extension of #4.

Fear of how they might react is rooted in the same fear that keeps you from asking for their help.

What is really going on here?

Are you OK with it?

Do you find yourself feeling hurt or angry because your partner doesn’t notice your needs?

Is any of the following true?

  • Although you try to take care of everything, you’re disappointed that your partner does not spontaneously see what’s going on with you.
  • You wait and wait for your partner to recognise your needs but they rarely do.

We all crave recognition from others, especially our partners.

But, when this craving becomes an unhealthy obsession, something more might be going on.

Anger and feeling hurt because you’re not getting your needs met, could be a sign that you’ve become dependent on this relationship.

If you can no longer feel good just for doing something good, perhaps you need to ask why that is.

Do you believe you can’t have a friendship independent of your relationship?

Because you’re busy doing chores and errands for your partner and he’s rarely satisfied with how you do them, you don’t have time to maintain a friendship.

Or, you’re simply so needy of your partner’s presence and attention that you don’t want an independent friendship.

If any of this is happening, it might be one of the signs you’re in a codependent relationship.

Talk to your partner about it.

See how they respond.

Do you have hobbies and activities to enjoy separately from your partner?

To maintain a healthy individual identity, it’s important to cultivate your own hobbies and interests, apart from the relationship.

If you don’t, it could be one of the signs you’re in a codependent relationship.

You are a unique person and need to take care of yourself.

Growing independently from your partner, in most cases, can only benefit your relationship.

Codependency creates the illusion that the only growth that matters is what occurs in the relationship.

No!

Losing your individuality because of your partner is never a healthy thing.

Do you try to control things to make yourself feel better?

Because you feel like you’re walking on eggshells, you don’t want to upset your partner.

Therefore, you take steps to control situations however you can.

If you catch yourself doing this, you need to take some steps to address this.

Control is often about fear.

By controlling things we control our fears.

The problem is true freedom and passion lie beyond excessive control.

You need some variety and an element of surprise to experience a sense of fun.

Controlling things to feel better might be a sign of an unhealthy arrangement.

And if that’s the case, are you OK with it?

Would you describe your partner as needy, emotionally distant, or unreliable?

These qualities often draw in partners who are seen as “caretakers.”

Thus, the codependency begins.

If your partner shows any signs of the above most of the time, be aware.

You might run the risk of being imprisoned in a relationship that will run you dry.

And whenever your partner threatens you with suicide should you leave, you need to know it’s time to get help.

Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re that special or important to them that they can’t live without you.

They are most likely unstable and the relationship is toxic at best.

Address this ASAP, or get out.

Do you have a perfectionistic streak and try to get things exactly right?

Do you believe that if you get things perfect, then maybe your partner will be happier, more satisfied, and less angry, disappointed, or annoyed with you?

If you feel this way, your relationship is likely co-dependent and most likely very unhealthy.

As with #10, address it ASAP or get out if nothing changes.

Healthy relationships demand that we show up as our best, not because we have to, but because we want to.

Our partners bring the best out in us.

When unhealthy fear drives us to be perfect for someone else, the alarm bells need to go off in our heads.

Do you trust your partner?

If you trust your partner, great!

If, however, you wonder what your partner’s doing or suspect they’re not telling you the truth about something, it is another one of the signs you’re in a codependent relationship.

On the other hand, there may be just some trust issues you might want to resolve.

Talk to them about it and see what’s up.

Maybe get a relationship coach and explore your situation together with a professional.

How is your health as it relates to stress?

Often, people involved in co-dependent relationships experience health issues that might be related to stress like asthma, allergies, out-of-control eating, chest pain, and skin disorders.

Of course, if you experience any of these symptoms, it’s wise to see your doctor.

It could be many things.

But, stress is known for making people sick.

Here’s something you can do:

  • Look at the last 6 months and assess your health during this period.
  • Think about times you had poor health.
  • Did these coincide with higher than normal levels of stress?
  • If so, your relationship might be at the root of your health issues.

You might need to talk to someone about that.

Last thoughts

I appreciate that this post could have made you uncomfortable.

That’s fine. I get it.

But your happiness is more important to me than your sense of comfort.

The good news is, that if you believe you’re in a co-dependent relationship, you can begin altering your behaviour right away to gain back a healthy sense of individuality.

You can look at your relationship boundaries and set healthier ones.

Also, use these questions to guide you in correcting your behaviours and emotional expressions in your loving relationship.

And if you feel you need help, seek out a professional trained in helping those with codependency and relationship challenges.

You’ll feel better and your relationship will be stronger when you can relate to each other in more positive ways.

About the author

Gideon Hanekom

Gideon Hanekom is the creator of TheRelationshipGuy.com, a popular relationship blog that ranks among the top 50 relationship blogs in 2024. The website helps couples to create happier, healthier, and more intimate relationships. Gideon is a trained professional counsellor and holds post-graduate degrees in Theology and Psychology. His articles have also been featured on respected platforms such as Marriage.com and The Good Men Project.

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