15 signs you are a codependent girlfriend (and what to do about it)

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As someone who has struggled with codependency in the past, I know how much of a strain it can be on your emotions and relationships! 

But it’s not always easy to know whether you’re actually codependent or just in a crappy relationship.

Don’t worry, by the end of this article, you’ll be clear on whether you’re a codependent girlfriend, and if you are, I’ll be sharing exactly how I overcame codependency (and made toxic relationships a thing of the past!).

Let’s jump straight in:

1) You prioritize your partner’s happiness over your own 

Do you find yourself more concerned over how your partner feels than yourself?

If you’re constantly doing things to make your partner happy while putting very little effort into your own happiness, it’s a good indication you’re codependent. 

So, why do you do this? 

Often, the root of codependency lies in low self-esteem. When you make your partner happy, you feel good too. 

But this isn’t healthy – there needs to be a balance. You need to be able to prioritize your happiness without depending on anyone else. 

As Will Smith aptly said about his marriage:

“Her happiness is not my responsibility. She should be happy and I should be happy individually. Then we come together and share our happiness. Giving someone a responsibility to make you happy when you can’t do it for yourself is selfish.”

Now, you may not be doing this intentionally, but either way, it’s only going to cause a strain on your relationship. And worse…it could result in you losing a vital part of yourself:

2) You’ve lost your sense of self in the relationship

Question:

Who were you before you got into a relationship? 

Were you outgoing?  A complete bookworm? Maybe you were a movie buff or avid runner? 

Next question…

Do you still do all those things that define you and bring you happiness? 

If your answer is no, it’s a sign you’ve lost your sense of self in the relationship. This is a common trait of codependency. 

You become so immersed in the relationship that “I” becomes “we”. You don’t have an individual opinion anymore – you take comfort and security in being “one” with your partner. 

But the truth is, some individuality is needed for a healthy relationship.

When you lose yourself in a relationship, you could end up losing all the fabulous qualities that attracted your partner in the first place!

3) You don’t feel like you deserve your partner 

If you constantly feel like you’re punching above your weight with your partner, girl, I feel you. 

I felt like this about an ex. I felt pretty insecure around him. Jealous of other women. Threatened whenever he went out without me.

The truth is, as we’ll discuss a lot in this article, codependency is often a result of low self-esteem. 

And when you suffer from low self-esteem, you may put your partner on a pedestal. 

In a healthy relationship setup, you’d see your partner as an equal. 

Of course, we all have moments when we confess lovingly, “You’re so sweet, I don’t deserve you”…but deep down, it’s important to know that you DO deserve love. 

As a result of feeling like your partner is too good for you, you may overcompensate by always going above and beyond for them. Even if they don’t reciprocate…

4) You give more than you get in return 

If you constantly feel like you’re running around like a headless chicken while your partner takes a backseat, this is a red flag for codependency. 

You always keep them at the forefront of everything you do, but they can easily forget to factor you in when they make plans or order takeout. 

Now, this could be for two reasons:

  • They’re taking advantage of you and have no desire to make an effort
  • They want to help out but you don’t let them

Hear me out on the second point:

Sometimes, codependents will actively discourage their partners from doing anything so they can do it all themselves. This makes them feel valued and needed. 

But this backfires, as eventually you get worn out from doing everything. Then you begin to resent your partner, not realizing that it was you who created this situation in the first place.

Your partner, by sitting back and letting you take control of everything, is also enabling this behavior. They’re not off the hook that easy. 

And when this happens, it can create unhealthy ideas of how each person should behave in the relationship, which leads me to my next point:

5) You have unrealistic expectations 

In my last point, I spoke about resenting your partner when they don’t show up in the relationship like you do. 

This directly links to having unrealistic expectations of your partner.

For example, I used to get annoyed at my ex for not calling me once he got home from work.

He never saw it as a big deal. I used to feel rejected and infuriated. 

But in reality, I never stopped to consider why I felt that way. I also never conveyed my expectations to him. I just assumed this was something he should do for me.

So, if you find yourself disappointed and constantly resenting your partner for not living up to your expectations, there’s a good chance you are a codependent girlfriend. 

Another sign is how quickly your moods change according to your partner’s behavior…

6) Your moods are heavily affected by your partner 

Let me paint a picture here:

You’ve had a great day at work. The sun was shining, your colleague treated you to a coffee and you found your long-awaited Amazon package waiting for you when you got home. 

Life is good. 

Then your partner walks in and throws his bag on the table with a sigh. His day wasn’t very good. 

In an instant, your good mood vanishes. You feel stressed out, upset even. 

What is happening here?

Your emotions are heavily affected by your partner. When you’re secure within yourself, you’re less susceptible to this. But as we know, codependency goes hand in hand with low self-esteem and insecurity. 

This isn’t a conscious choice you’re making, so don’t feel bad. But it’s also not sustainable if you want your relationship to be healthy and stand the test of time!

7) You don’t have any boundaries in place 

Talking about healthy relationships, if you’re codependent, yours might lack boundaries.

You don’t have healthy boundaries in place if you:

  • Struggle to say no to things you feel uncomfortable doing 
  • Feel guilty whenever you put yourself and your needs first 
  • Constantly try to please everyone around you, even to your own detriment 
  • Put your values on the back burner to accommodate other people 

In my ex-relationship, I struggled a lot with boundaries. Since then, I’ve been working hard on taking a minute before agreeing to things. It’s still hard to say no, but over time it’s becoming easier.

And the interesting thing?

Since doing so, my self-esteem has gradually increased. People may not like it when you put your foot down, but you gain a ton of self-respect instead (which is so worth the uncomfortable conversation!). 

8) You depend on your partner for most things 

We’ve already partially touched on this – if you’re a codependent girlfriend, you’ll depend on your partner for:

  • Emotional support 
  • Happiness 
  • Approval 
  • Assurance 

And so much more. Essentially, you see your partner as being responsible for how you feel and how you function daily.

The truth is, this is worse than depending on your partner to do the cooking or household DIY. That stuff they can do. But fulfilling all your emotional needs is much harder! 

At this point in the article, I’d like you to stop and think about the things we’ve covered so far. 

  • Where are you in terms of boundaries? 
  • What unrealistic expectations do you have? 
  • When was the last time you prioritized your happiness? 
  • How much do you depend on your partner for emotional stability? 

We’ve got a lot more to cover, so I want you to take your time and really think about the role you’re playing in this relationship. The first step to change is to acknowledge the problem! 

9) You’re always seeking your partner’s approval 

Now, back to the signs that you’re a codependent girlfriend. Approval is another major indicator that you lack self-esteem. 

When you’re insecure, you can’t find the validation you’re looking for within. Therefore, you try to get it externally. 

This could be as simple as needing your partner to tell you that you look nice in that dress. 

Or as big as asking them whether you should go for that big job promotion or not. 

Ultimately, if you can’t give the go-ahead to yourself, you’re naturally going to turn to your partner for approval. But again, this is passing the power over to them rather than making your own choices and decisions! 

10) You constantly try to “fix” things for your partner 

Another common sign of codependency is trying to “make everything okay” for your loved ones, even more so for your partner.

I know the feeling very well – he comes home with a work problem, or an issue he’s having with his best friend. 

Rather than just listen and support them, you want to do everything in your power to fix the problem for them. 

So, why is this unhealthy?

  • Firstly, your partner is an adult. Unless he asks, he should be able to resolve his own problems. 
  • Secondly, when you take responsibility for his issues, it isn’t beneficial to the relationship. When things don’t work out, now you’re to blame! 
  • Thirdly, you may feel constantly drained from trying to fix everything. As I mentioned earlier, you may also start resenting your partner. 

So, the lesson here?

Listen, offer your sympathy and support, but avoid getting involved!

11) Communication is tough for you 

Now, one of the reasons you might find it tough to take a step back from fixing things for your partner is that communication can be tricky for a codependent. 

Just as you may struggle with boundaries, you may also find it hard to say, “I’m here for you, and I can listen, but it’s not my place to get involved.”

The reason behind this?

You don’t want to hurt your partner’s feelings. But when you say, “Yes, I’ll sort this out for you” even though deep down you don’t want to, you’ll later feel resentful. 

The trick here is getting clear on your communication style and recognizing where you’re going wrong. 

As therapist Emelina Bell comments:

“Effective communication is essential in authentic and clearly stating your thoughts directly, honestly, and with integrity. We often make the mistake of assuming what our partner is feeling and thinking, and we are often wrong in our assumptions.”

12) You avoid arguments (and hate saying “no”)

As a result of poor communication habits, you’ll likely avoid arguments if you’re a codependent girlfriend. 

You may struggle to:

  • Get your emotions and thoughts across to your partner
  • Listen without feeling offended or hurt 
  • Say the truth without feeling guilty for hurting your partner 

All of these factors make it much easier to just back down and sweep any issues under the rug.

But in the long run, these problems will resurface! 

If you have an understanding partner who’s willing to work through this with you, don’t be afraid of the occasional confrontation!

It’s uncomfortable, even hurtful at times, but you’ll find your issues get resolved much quicker. 

13) You’re afraid of being abandoned by your partner 

Do you often worry that your partner will leave you for someone else?

Do you feel he’ll move on if you don’t overperform in your relationship? 

Here’s the thing…

When you’re secure within yourself, you know your worth. You know what value you bring to the table. If your partner leaves, you can recognize that this doesn’t define your worth. 

But if you suffer from low self-esteem (and as a result, codependency) you’ll struggle with fears of them leaving you over every little argument or mistake that’s made. 

I know how crappy this feels. When my ex hired an incredibly pretty, young girl to work at his cafe, I instantly felt like our relationship was over. How could he not want to leave me for her?

In hindsight, I realize now that this was more about MY feelings of insecurity than him being interested in her (ironically, after spending a week feeling like crap, he fired her for being a terrible waitress!). 

The point is – he was never interested in her in the first place. But I made up all sorts of crazy scenarios in my head, which leads me to my next point…

14) Other women are a big threat to you 

It’s natural to feel threatened by other women if you’re insecure yourself. 

You may find that you start limiting who your boyfriend can and can’t hang out with. 

You may even watch him whenever an attractive woman walks by, just to catch him out if he takes a second glance at her…

This relates to depending on your boyfriend for your sense of self-worth. 

The moment he looks at another woman, you start doubting yourself. 

But in reality, it’s not other women who are a threat to your relationship. It’s you! 

And I don’t say that to be hurtful, but for you to recognize that codependency will push your partner away far quicker than any random woman on the street will!

15) You have a tough time trusting your partner 

The final sign you’re a codependent girlfriend is that you struggle to trust your partner. 

Even if he’s never done anything to make you doubt him, you’ve likely conjured plenty of scenarios in your mind where he’ll leave you or cheat on you. 

This probably causes tension in your relationship; you resent feeling this way, and your partner feels offended that you don’t trust him. 

It’s a tough situation but not one that’s impossible to fix…

So, we’ve covered the top 15 signs you’re codependent, but what can you do about it?

How to stop being a codependent girlfriend: 

Look, there’s no easy fix. I’m going to be straight up, from one former codependent girl to another, you’re going to have to do a lot of inner work and healing. 

If you’ve got a great man on your hands, explain to him how you feel and seek his support. My current partner has helped me massively in being more independent and raising my self-esteem.

But even if your partner isn’t on board and the relationship is too late to save, you can still do this! 

I’m going to share an invaluable resource that helped me understand where my codependency came from:

This free video on love and intimacy

You see, before you can work on your self-esteem, you need to understand where your lack of it originates from. Most of the time it comes from childhood. 

In the video, you’ll explore this, as well as:

  • Exercises on refocusing your attention back onto yourself rather than your partner
  • How to deal with unhealthy expectations 
  • What makes a healthy relationship 

And so much more. But the ultimate message that I took from the free video was learning how to love myself, without being dependent on someone else for my self-worth! 

It was incredibly empowering and the start of my journey to overcoming codependency, so I’m confident it will be a turning point for you too!

Here’s the link once again

You’ve got this!

Can a relationship coach help you too?

If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.

I know this from personal experience…

A few months ago, I reached out to Relationship Hero when I was going through a tough patch in my relationship. After being lost in my thoughts for so long, they gave me a unique insight into the dynamics of my relationship and how to get it back on track.

If you haven’t heard of Relationship Hero before, it’s a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations.

In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice for your situation.

I was blown away by how kind, empathetic, and genuinely helpful my coach was.

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Kiran Athar

Kiran is a foodie, writer and traveler. She considers herself a citizen of the world, who gets her inspiration from the people she meets along her journeys. She's currently living in Spain, where she spends her time writing, watching the shepherds and eating tapas in the mountains of Andalucía.

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