Codependency is a dysfunctional relationship in which one person assumes the role of ‘the giver’, sacrificing their own needs and well-being for the sake of the other, ‘the taker.’ In a codependent relationship, one partner sacrifices everything for and is defined by the relationship. It can happen in any type of relationship, not just romantic-oriented ones and was first used to describe lopsided relationships where one partner’s substance abuse consumed and controlled the entire relationship. This kind of dynamic is so unhealthy it can kill a relationship. A healthy relationship should instead be interdependent, they should view each other as teammates, working to meet each other’s needs and balancing the individual’s needs and the relationship overall.
Signs of codependency
You may be in a codependent relationship if you:
- Are overly concerned about what the other person is doing, thinking, and feeling—and you want to fix or rescue them from their problems.
- Feel your relationship is consistently one-sided – one person is hardworking and responsible and the other is allowed to be irresponsible or avoid the consequences of their actions.
- Sacrifice yourself and your resources to make the other person happy. Your life revolves around the other person.
- “Walk on eggshells” around the other person, afraid of doing or saying something that will displease or anger them including not sharing your opinions and saying yes to things just to avoid conflict.
- Act like a martyr, taking care of everyone and everything, but resentful that no one helps or seems to care for you.
- The need to fix or rescue becomes controlling. You attempt to control the other person’s behaviour through criticism, ultimatums, nagging, or giving unsolicited advice.
- Continue the relationship even after the other person has repeatedly hurt you (physically, emotionally, financially, etc.).
- Spend more time taking care of others than taking care of yourself. And when you do something for yourself, like rest, enjoy a hobby or practice self-care, you feel guilty or selfish.
- Are afraid of being rejected, criticized, or abandoned.
- Often feel resentful, frustrated, taken advantage of, or unfulfilled.
- Are often the one who apologizes even when you’ve done nothing wrong
How to save your relationship
If you think your relationship exhibits signs of codependency, here are some things you can do to save it:
- Learn how to separate from each other and take small steps to create a healthy distance and boundaries. For example, try taking up a hobby separate from your partner.
- Focus on yourself, prioritizing the things that bring you joy. Self-care is the name of the game.
- Set aside ‘me time’ every week where you spend time apart, in what is effectively the opposite of a date night.
- Don’t let bad behaviour slide. Address it when it happens.
- Stand up for yourself if someone criticizes, undermines or tries to control you
- Take steps to allow the other person to manage things for themselves independent of you
- Don’t be afraid to say no
- Reflect on any trauma you’ve experienced that may have put you on this people-pleasing path
- Consider joining a support group or one-on-one therapy
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