When you’re in a relationship it’s natural to become a close-knit team. You turn to your partner for love and support. This is perfectly normal.
But codependency is more than that. It crosses a line that leads to relying excessively on your other half for your own emotional and psychological well-being.
The codependent partner in the relationship needs the approval of their partner in order to feel worthy.
If it is starting to sound like a recipe for disaster then you’d be right. This article will explore the dangers of codependency and why it is bad for a relationship.
Is it bad to be codependent on your partner?
We all depend on people. It’s a part of human connection. And in itself, isn’t a bad thing either.
Codependency in recent years has become a familiar term, but sometimes we mistake what it actually means.
Is codependency ever good in a relationship? No, but dependency absolutely is. And that’s why it can be confusing.
Having a deep and loving bond with your partner who means “the world to you” isn’t codependency.
As therapist Matt Lundquist highlights in Insider, even the term codependent can be misleading. Because it suggests a mutual reliance, when really the relationship is far more unbalanced:
“With codependency, it’s rarely that we mean each person is dependent equally on the other. If one is more dependent than the other, it is inequitable because there is an enabler and an enabled.”
And this gives way to all kinds of problems in the relationship. Here are 5 reasons why it’s bad to be codependent on your partner:
1) You end up consistently putting yourself last
You may find that you go to extremes to satisfy your partner above yourself. You want to please them so badly that you’re prepared to put yourself and your needs under strain.
That can leave you exhausted, stressed, anxious, and burned out.
You may find it difficult to accept help because you identify as the giver. You do so much in your relationship but often feel like it goes reciprocated or unnoticed.
The more you do, the more you may feel resentful or upset.
Your cup is never full because you are constantly filling other people’s.
2) You are always looking to someone else for validation
We all care what our partners think about us, but the problem with codependent relationships is that you end up relying on what your partner thinks of you.
It dictates your self-esteem. Without feeling this strong sense of need from your partner, you struggle to feel good about yourself.
The biggest problem when we go searching for validation solely outside of ourselves is that it leads to disappointment.
We find ourselves at the mercy of others. We give all of our own power away to them.
Besides, no matter how much reassurance, love, or praise a partner offers it can never be a substitute for your own self-regard. So it will always be lacking.
3) You struggle to be your true self
When you are codependent on your partner, you can find it really hard to express your needs and wants.
Rather than allowing yourself to have a voice, you can end up suppressing yourself, because you are terrified at how the real you will be received by your partner.
It’s impossible to connect in a genuine way without sincerity in our interactions. We need to be vulnerable enough to share our truth. Even when we fear it won’t be understood fully or accepted by our partner.
If you are always putting on a mask and trying to be the most polished version of yourself, it can lead you to feel very uncomfortable with being yourself.
You may not even feel like you know your own likes, dislikes, or desires anymore because you have neglected them for so long.
4) You suffocate the relationship
Whilst we all want to feel close to our partners, codependency can stifle autonomy that breathes life into a relationship.
Without that fresh oxygen brought into the relationship from maintaining a healthy level of independence, it often suffocates.
Leaving no room for anything other than your partner in your life can be smothering. An inability to be alone starts to become clingy. Needy and desperate behavior can flood in.
Whenever you fear your partner is pushing away, the more you try to draw them near. It is a vicious cycle that only leads to feeling more rejected, unloved, and unwanted.
5) You put up with things that you shouldn’t
When you are codependent on your partner your boundaries start to slip.
Extreme people pleasing, which codependent people tend to fall into, always has the potential to lead to accepting toxic behaviors.
Maybe you try to justify bad things in your relationship by absorbing the blame and making your partner right and you wrong.
You are so scared to lose their approval and attention that you find yourself having to deal with more and more unacceptable behavior.
Codependent relationships can turn emotionally or even physically abusive.
For example, codependency often shows up in relationships where addiction is present.
The very term itself was first used in the 1940s in the context of treatment for substance misuse after it was discovered that wives had a tendency to show codependent behaviors.
Signs you are codependent
The truth is that many of us display a few codependent behaviors from time to time.
So you may well wonder ‘am I codependent?’
After all, codependency may be a recognizable term but it is ultimately a subjective experience that cannot be so narrowly defined.
The lines can feel a little blurred between what’s a healthy dependence in a relationship and what is unhealthy.
So here are some codependent behavior examples to help you decide:
- You always do things for your partner that they can do themselves —almost like a parent would.
- You struggle to say no to your partner, but end up feeling resentful, frustrated, or sad about saying yes.
- You feel like you are always drawn into relationships with issues.
- You tend to take responsibility for your partner’s feelings, behavior, and actions.
- Your relationship feels all about your partner.
- You really think you can fix problems in your partner’s life, and take it upon yourself to do so.
- You struggle to be apart from your partner.
- You’re not even sure what you feel or think anymore (because it’s all about them).
- You seek permission from your partner for the big things and small in your life.
- You bottle things up to avoid conflict.
- You change your plans for your partner.
- You try to put a brave face on all the time for your partner.
- Your relationship causes you anxiety.
- You feel scared of being abandoned and left by your partner.
- You feel like no matter what you do, it’s always wrong.
- You think you have no choice but to do what you do because your partner needs and relies on you.
- You struggle to find happiness or fulfillment outside of your relationship.
How to stop being codependent
1) Recognize and admit your codependency
There can be a habit of denial in codependency. And that is ultimately what keeps people stuck in destructive patterns.
Whenever we seek to make changes we need to bring awareness to our behavior. And be willing to look honestly at it.
2) Dig into your childhood
Whilst experts and researchers have failed to agree conclusively about codependency, certain recurring patterns have emerged.
One of which is the role of control and abandonment in childhood experiences.
Michelle Halle, LISC, told Psych Central says codependency can be a learned coping strategy:
“Codependency is an outgrowth of unmet childhood needs. Kids rely on their parents to nurture their physical and emotional development. When parents do not do this, the child doesn’t blame their parent. They might blame themselves, instead.[You] may seek relief from these thoughts and feelings by doing things for others so that [you] will receive praise, recognition, or affection. This is [your] relief”.
3) Take steps towards small amounts of separation
Making big changes and leaps in your behavior is scary.
So instead, seek to find little adjustments that can help you practice putting your own needs first.
That can involve saying no to your partner’s requests. Figuring out what you want, and giving yourself permission to be a tiny bit (consciously) selfish.
It can be helpful to find some stress management techniques to help you deal with anxieties that may arise from pushing your comfort zone.
4) Build your self-esteem
Codependency is often linked to self-esteem, self-love, and self-worth struggles.
Learning to untangle your own sense of self from any validation you receive in the relationship is important.
Trying to build your confidence is something you can try alone, but may need support in.
Research on codependency concluded that talking to a professional can help. And that simply having someone empathetically listen can help restore a better sense of self.
5) Learn healthy expectations from relationships
I mentioned earlier that we all can fall into slightly codependent behaviors from time to time. Part of the reason for this is our unrealistic image of what relationships can offer us.
This unhealthy reliance on relationships to “complete us”, “fix us”, and “make us whole” is prolific in society.
We’re brought up thinking it’s romantic to be the other half of someone else when really it has very codependent undertones.
Watching this free video from the renowned shaman Rudá Iandê brings home all the toxic habits we can so easily stumble into in relationships, that ultimately end up destroying them.
Not only does he identify the ways we chase love in unhealthy ways, but he also pinpoints the three key ingredients to creating fulfilling and joyful relationships.
I really suggest you take a few minutes to listen to what he has to say. I suspect it might just change your relationships with others, and yourself for the better.