Relationships

Four Signs That You May Be in a Codependent Relationship

| 05/12/2021

two people embracing each other Illustration by Sophi Gullbrants

The term “codependency” is thrown around often, but what does it mean when it comes to romantic relationships? Codependency shows up differently in romantic relationships than when discussed in association with substance abuse. In many ways, it is harder to spot.

Healthy, loving relationships thrive on togetherness and support, but what happens when it impedes one partner’s individuality? Here are a few signs that your relationship may be codependent.

Sign #1: You are unable to make decisions without input from your partner

Asking for your partner’s opinion about your life is healthy and acceptable, but not being able to decide anything without their input is not. Maybe you seek their approval because you do not feel confident enough to decide on your own. Maybe you seek guidance because they require it. Either situation stifles your personal growth. When others always decide for you, it does not allow you to be successful and prove to yourself that you are capable.

Sign #2: You do everything together

When you first met, you probably had separate hobbies, friends, and interests. However, now you only rely on each other’s company for entertainment and leisure activities. The transition into new relationships can disturb the frequency at which you engage with others, but it should not discontinue them altogether. In healthy relationships, each partner can have their own set of friends, interests, and hobbies.

Sign #3: You are afraid to say “no” to your partner

There could be several reasons why you feel afraid to say “no” to your partner: fear of rejection if you do not comply, if you feel like their love and admiration is conditional on your compliance, or if you experienced abuse in the past. “No” is not a dirty word in a healthy relationship. If you notice that you feel anxious when you say “no” to your partner, it could be a sign of codependency.

Sign #4: You feel responsible for their actions

If you find yourself making excuses and feeling guilt or shame for your partner’s actions or lack of actions when talking to family or friends, this is a sign of codependency. You are only responsible for your own actions; no one else’s actions are a reflection of you.

Shifting into healthy interactions

If you have one or more of the symptoms listed above, don’t worry! Your relationship is not doomed. Here are some concepts to help shift those unhealthy relationship interactions into healthy ones, along with an affirmation for each tip:

  • Remember that although it is nice to bounce ideas off your partner, you are capable of being decisive in most situations. You may be surprised to find that they feel less pressure when they are not constantly asked to weigh in. Affirmation: “I am confident in my ability to make decisions.”
  • Independence in relationships is necessary. It gives you an opportunity to miss each other and participate in activities that the other may not enjoy. If you have a hard time remembering this, try the following. Affirmation: “I am free to enjoy time apart from my partner.”
  • If you are afraid to say “no” to your partner due to fear of being abused, please seek professional guidance. If you are afraid to say “no” out of rejection or lack of love, I want you to remind yourself that you have intrinsic value and outside validation is not needed. The following is a great reminder. Affirmation: “I give myself permission to be my authentic self.”
  • You are only responsible for your response to the environment around you. If you find yourself feeling guilty or shameful of your partner’s behavior, it may be time to seek the counsel of a psychotherapist. Try this. Affirmation: “I release the responsibility of what is not mine.”

Many relationships have codependency traits, but with the guidance of a psychotherapist, you can start the process of becoming healthier as a unit or learn how to end abusive codependent relationships. For 24-hour abuse help, visit www.thehotline.org.

This article originally appeared on the Gottman Institute’s blog and was reposted with permission.

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