There are two elements in a codependent relationship. One partner takes the role of helper or enabler; the other is the apparent dependent. Beware of labeling any slightly dysfunctional relationship as codependent; although it may appear that way from the outside, it is not always the case. A codependent relationship has specific indicators.
Signs of a Codependent Relationship: The Helper
- Sacrifices their own needs in favor of their partner.
- Feels responsible for their partner’s emotional state.
- Takes their criticisms to heart and believes they are true.
- Continually enables their partner in unhealthy behavior.
- Are unable to express their own needs and wishes.
- Constantly thinks about the partner to the point of obsession.
- Cannot envisage being separated from their partner.
- Tries to hide their neediness.
- Denies there could be a problem with the relationship.
- Feels shameful and worthless.
- Enjoys bestowing love.
Signs of a Codependent Relationship: The Dependent
- Exhibits signs of dependence, but in fact is the stronger partner.
- Manipulates their partner by criticism, blame, denigration, etc.
- Is demanding and difficult to please.
- Exhibits neediness, but in fact, is not needy.
- Withdraws emotional support in order to achieve their aims.
- May have an addiction that the helper facilitates.
- Enjoys having their partner ‘rescue’ them.
- Expects their helper to deal with the consequences of their behavior.
- May be abusive toward their partner.
- Enjoys receiving love.
Example of a Physical Codependent Relationship
Rob and Tanya have been together for seventeen years. Tanya suffers from a chronic condition, considered by her doctors to be manageable. However, she has allowed it to define her life. Rob is her helper and instead of encouraging her to overcome her disability, he enables Tanya in her dependency because it makes him feel wanted and in control. When asked, he says looking after her is his duty and his mission. He has no other interests outside of his work and his wife.
Tanya is happy to allow Rob to manage the household chores, do the shopping and cook for them both. In actual fact, she is quite capable of doing some of those things, but Rob won’t allow it. When asked, she says that she needs Rob, and knows that he enjoys taking care of her.
Example of an Emotional Codependent Relationship
Sara and Samuel have been together for two years. Sara has a pattern of being involved in codependent relationships and doesn’t recognize that she is currently in one with Sam. Sara has extremely low self-esteem and looks to Samuel for emotional support. Unfortunately, Samuel is so wrapped up in his own issues that he cannot, or will not, help Sara. Sara thinks it’s her fault that Samuel has so many problems because that’s what he tells her. So she tries her best to change in order to please him. Of course, she can never be the person he demands that she be.
Sara craves love and affection from Samuel constantly, but hardly ever receives it. She notices he is more affectionate when he is drunk, so she enables his drinking whenever she can.
How to End a Codependent Relationship
The first step is to know that you are in a codependent relationship; there are many people who do not. Some are perfectly happy with their codependency and don’t want to change it. Ask yourself if you are sacrificing your needs regularly for your partner. If the answer is yes, and it is no longer acceptable, then it may be time to end it. This may not mean that you have to split up, but the basis on which the relationship is built must shift.
If you have a codependent personality, i.e. if all your relationships have been this way, think about seeking professional help.
1. Understand that you are a complete, whole person who does not need their self-esteem bolstered by their partner. This is quite hard to do if you have grown up believing you are unworthy. Therapy may help you to break the pattern. Try a program of self-improvement focussed on your goal of building up your confidence.
2. Learn to say no. Your partner has gotten so used to you acquiescing to their needs that they may be surprised. This is a sure sign that you are in a codependent relationship. Start with something small. Your partner may be so used to you agreeing with them, try expressing your own opinion. Feel the power.
3. Once you have mastered saying no, you can establish your own personal boundaries. This will require some thinking. What do you think is no longer acceptable in your relationship? Make a list. Next time your partner expects you to comply with an unreasonable demand, don’t do it. Use your new-found power to say no. And mean it.
4. Walk away. If your partner tries their old tricks of emotional manipulation, don’t fall prey to them. Walk out of the room. Should they become abusive, know that the relationship has to end. No-one should put up with emotional or physical abuse from their partner.
5. Start paying attention to what you want. Stop sacrificing your needs for theirs. What do you like to do and eat? Where do you want to go? What do you like to watch on TV?
6. Ask that they help around the home. It maybe chores, managing money, grocery shopping or looking after the children. Perhaps you could ask your partner to take responsibility for one household task. Just to begin with. If all these things have been left for you to deal with and your partner refuses to help out, take a few days away and let them cope for a change.
7. Let your partner deal with the consequences of their own actions. If you are the rescuer, then stop. Let them sort their own mess out. Know that it’s good for them to understand that their behavior is unacceptable.
8. Be willing to change. You can’t change them, but you can change yourself and how you interact with your partner. If they don’t like it, then tough tomatoes.
Abusive vs Codependency
An abusive relationship is not a codependent one. Although there can be similarities and blurring of the boundaries. An abusive relationship is when one partner totally dominates the other. There is often verbal and physical abuse. Never stay in an abusive relationship. Get help now.
Should You Stay in a Codependent Relationship?
That’s entirely up to you. For some, it seems to work because it satisfies the needs of both partners. However, if you are feeling constantly unhappy, depressed, uneasy, mistreated, and taken for granted, it may be time for some radical changes.
If you need to talk to someone about codependency, give one of our psychics a call.
Images via Pixabay