8 signs you’re in a codependent relationship (and it’s making you both unhappy)

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Ever feel like your relationship is a rollercoaster you can’t get off? Like you’re so intertwined with your partner that you’ve lost sight of where they end and you begin? 

I’ve seen a close friend go through this, and trust me, it’s like watching someone drown inch by inch. 

The scariest part? You might not even realize it’s happening to you. 

That’s why it’s crucial to recognize the signs of a codependent relationship. 

Understanding these red flags is the first step toward reclaiming both your happiness and your partner’s. 

Ready to turn things around? Let’s get started.

1) You can’t imagine life without them

Does the thought of a day — let alone a life — without your partner sends you into full-on panic mode? 

It’s not just that you love spending time together; it’s that the idea of being apart feels like losing a limb. 

While it’s natural to miss your significant other, if you find it hard to function or even think clearly without them, you might want to take a step back and reflect

This level of emotional dependency goes beyond just love; it becomes a need for the other person to feel complete, which is a heavy burden for anyone to carry. 

So how do you start untangling this emotional knot? Carve out some “me-time” and rediscover hobbies or interests you might have put aside. Believe it or not, creating a little distance can actually bring you closer. 

A strong relationship is built on two individuals who can stand alone but choose to stand together. 

Finding joy independently doesn’t mean you’ll find less joy as a couple — in fact, it often works the other way around.

2) You’re always putting their needs before yours

You find yourself always going the extra mile for your partner, even at the expense of your own needs and well-being. 

It feels like the right thing to do; after all, isn’t love about sacrifice and selflessness? 

But wait — constantly putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own isn’t love; it’s losing yourself in the relationship. 

Over time, this pattern can lead to resentment and burnout, as you start feeling more like a caregiver than an equal partner. 

So what’s the fix? It’s time to put on your own oxygen mask first. Take a step back and start setting healthy boundaries. 

It’s not selfish to prioritize your own well-being; it’s essential. 

And once you start caring for yourself, you’ll find you have even more love to give, enriching the relationship rather than draining it. 

3) You feel responsible for their happiness

Is the weight of your partner’s happiness on your shoulders? Does every mood swing they have feel like a direct reflection of your worth or ability as a partner? 

This is a common thread in codependent relationships. Instead of two individual sources of happiness coming together, you’ve become the caretaker of their emotional well-being. 

It’s an exhausting role that often leads to frustration and disappointment because — let’s be honest — no one has that much control over someone else’s emotions.

So here’s how you can shift gears. For starters, try to separate your own self-worth from your partner’s emotional state. Their happiness is their responsibility, just as yours is your own. 

Then, give yourself permission to step back. This isn’t about neglecting someone you love; it’s about allowing them the space to find their own happiness. 

It’s surprising how liberating it feels to release that sense of responsibility, and it’s incredible how much healthier the relationship can become when both parties are empowered to take charge of their own emotional lives.

4) You keep quiet to keep the peace

Ah, the silent treatment. Not the cold shoulder kind, but the type where you muzzle your own opinions or concerns to avoid rocking the boat. 

It might feel like you’re keeping things smooth, but what you’re really doing is smoothing over your own identity. 

You’ve become a peacekeeper in your own life, defusing your own feelings as if they’re ticking time bombs. 

The irony? By always choosing peace over honesty, you’re setting the relationship up for future conflicts that could have been avoided. 

It’s crucial to remember that your voice and feelings matter. A balanced relationship thrives on open communication and mutual respect. 

The next time you find yourself biting your tongue, question whether the peace you’re keeping is worth the piece of yourself you’re giving away. 

Starting to express yourself authentically might feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s the first step toward a healthier, happier you — and a stronger, more loving relationship.

5) Your self-esteem is tied to the relationship

Does the sun seem to shine brighter when your partner showers you with compliments? And does your world crumble when you feel like you’ve let them down? 

If your emotional climate is dictated by the state of your relationship, you might be sacrificing a crucial part of your individuality: your self-esteem. 

Instead of deriving your sense of worth from within, it has become entangled with someone else’s view of you. 

The result? Emotional highs and lows that are as unpredictable as they are draining.

Switching up the narrative involves a radical act: starting to value yourself, independent of anyone else’s approval or love. 

This means investing in yourself — your hobbies, your friendships, your growth — so that your self-esteem isn’t a variable in the equation of your relationship but a constant. 

6) You feel unfulfilled but can’t pinpoint why

So everything looks perfect on paper, right? You’ve got a partner who loves you, you spend tons of time together, but somehow, something’s missing. 

It’s like eating a meal and never feeling full, no matter how much you consume. 

This lingering sense of unfulfillment often happens when you’re neglecting your own needs and passions for the sake of the relationship.

Here’s the catch: what’s missing isn’t something your partner can give you; it’s something only you can provide for yourself. 

It’s the passion project you’ve set aside, the friends you’ve drifted away from, or the personal goals you’ve shelved. 

Start by rekindling your relationship with yourself. Dive back into the activities that light you up and make you feel alive. 

The beauty of it? When you’re more fulfilled as an individual, you bring that zest and passion back into your relationship, making it more satisfying for both of you.

7) You make excuses for their behavior

You find yourself often justifying your partner’s actions to friends and family, even when deep down, you know they crossed a line. 

“Oh, he didn’t really mean it like that,” or “She’s just stressed from work, that’s all.” 

It’s like you’ve become a PR agent for your relationship, spinning negatives into positives, or at least into neutrals. 

When you consistently excuse their behavior, you’re not only dismissing your feelings, but you’re also setting the stage for an unhealthy dynamic.

Take off those rose-colored glasses for a moment and face the reality. A relationship thrives on mutual respect and understanding, not on justification for hurtful actions. 

A change in perspective is in order. Instead of making excuses, open the lines of communication. 

Discuss the issues honestly, and set boundaries where necessary. If something’s not right, it’s okay to call it out. 

8) Your social life revolves around them

Remember the last time you went out with friends without your partner tagging along? Or enjoyed a hobby that didn’t involve them? 

If you’re struggling to recall, it’s a sign that your social life has become a joint venture, where your partner is not just a part, but the whole. 

It’s sweet to share experiences, but when your world starts to orbit entirely around them, it’s like you’ve put all your happiness eggs in one relationship basket.

Imagine your life as a colorful tapestry; it should be woven with different threads — family, friends, work, hobbies, and yes, your romantic relationship. 

If you remove those other threads, the fabric becomes weak. So, start re-weaving those missing pieces back into your life. 

Make plans with friends, revisit old hobbies, and create a life that’s rich and varied. 

You’ll not only feel more fulfilled, but you’ll also have new stories and experiences to bring into your relationship, keeping it fresh and invigorated.

Reclaim your happiness: Break the cycle and find balance

If any of these signs resonate with you, take it as a wakeup call, not a life sentence. 

Relationships are fluid, always open to change and improvement. The key is to recognize the unhelpful patterns you’ve slipped into. 

Remember, codependency doesn’t just affect you; it takes a toll on your partner and the relationship as a whole. 

The good news? Once you’re aware, you can make different choices. 

Take steps to reclaim your individuality while nurturing a healthier, more balanced relationship. 

It might be uncomfortable at first, but enduring a bit of discomfort is a small price to pay for a lifetime of happiness. Both you and your partner will thank you for it.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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