7 signs you’re not in love (you’re just codependent)

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This article isn’t going to pull any punches.

If you’re not ready for the real talk that’s coming up, that’s OK. You can navigate away right now, and no one’s going to think less of you.

But I think that if you’re reading an article with a title like this, it’s because you’re curious whether it applies to you.

I think you have a suspicion that it does, so the best thing to do is to take a long, hard look at yourself, be honest, and see if your suspicion actually has anything to it.

After all, codependency is even more than a behavior. It’s a deep part of character, and it’s not something you can just switch on and off like a light. 

It sometimes takes years of work to recognize and eliminate codependent tendencies.

But there’s always a starting point, and yours might be right now.

So, if you’re ready for some brutal honesty, get ready for seven signs you’re not in love – you’re just codependent.

What is codependency?

Many people just pick apart the word ‘codependent’ and don’t really understand what it means from a psychological or behavioral point of view.

You might think that codependency means that you and your partner depend on each other (like cosigning checks), and it doesn’t seem like there’s anything wrong with that, does it?

Isn’t it great to be able to depend on each other?

Yes, it is, but not in the way that codependents do.

Codependency is often defined as feeling extreme dependence on another, feeling responsibility for their feelings and actions, and having an unhealthy devotion to the relationship at the cost of their own needs.

Despite the prefix “co-,” a codependent is usually only one type of person in the relationship. This person is often also called the “giver” and the other person the “taker” or “user.”

A codependent person goes into the relationship to be used because that makes them feel needed. They are usually attracted, then, to people with extreme needs, especially addicts who are so dysfunctional that they can’t take care of themselves. 

They also frequently fall into relationships with narcissists who have excessive needs for admiration and devotion.

All this makes the codependent feel needed, and this feeling is more important than any of their own needs, like self-confidence or being treated with real love and respect.

Signs you’re not in love but just codependent

1) You’re doing all the giving.

Healthy relationships have a balance of give and take.

You might do something great for your partner today, like cooking a fantastic dinner, and they’ll do something for you tomorrow, like taking the kids to their karate lesson.

This also works for emotional give and take.

This week, your partner might be working through a rough time at work, and you’re there to lend them an ear and give support. Next week, when your goldfish dies suddenly, they’re there for you with a shoulder to cry on.

But if your relationship is always based on you doing the giving and them not doing any, this is a big sign that you’re codependent.

Think about it.

No matter how tough it is, you always give your time, attention, and care to them. Do they ever return the favor?

2) Your partner is doing all the taking.

The other side of the coin, when you’re in a codependent relationship, is that the other person is always ready to take, take, take, and drain you of your love and emotion.

Let me ask you a straight-up question: does this sound like love to you?

I know there are relationships out there where one partner really has to depend on the other. 

I have a friend who’s in the advanced stages of MS. He’s wheelchair-bound and has to depend heavily on his wife to take care of his physical needs.

The difference is that he didn’t ask for that. They had a loving relationship before the start of his condition, and he’s not happy not being able to take care of himself. He really appreciates everything she does for him and tells her daily.

That’s love.

But if your partner takes and takes without ever expressing that they appreciate what you do for them, this is a big sign you’re codependent.

3) You define your value through the other person’s needs.

Be honest – what makes you feel good in the relationship you have now?

Most people are going to say things like they and their partners make each other happy, wanted, loved, appreciated, seen, and yes, needed.

But if being needed tops your list, you might be codependent because this is the defining characteristic of codependency.

Rather than feeling your own worth through the positives of your character, your skills, and your strengths, you feel you have value when someone else needs you.

Well, just think about that for a second.

Does that mean if that person goes away or suddenly doesn’t need you anymore, then you no longer have any value as a person?

I think anyone can see that this doesn’t really make sense.

Yes, it’s great to feel wanted and needed, but if that’s all you have in your relationship that’s making you feel good, it’s probably codependence and not love.

4) You live in fear of them leaving.

I get it. 

No one ever wants love to go away.

And I think it’s natural to hope that everything works out.

True love is meant to stay, so if that’s what you have, why would you fear that it’s going anywhere?
If you really live in fear of your partner leaving you, that’s a sign of codependence and not love.

This insecurity is probably based on the way you value yourself within the relationship.

If you think you’re only worth something if they need you, you’ll probably also think that as soon as your partner finds some other way to get their needs fulfilled, they’ll split.

That could be another person or another place to live – whatever it is, you’re left feeling insecure all the time.

I hate to say it, but that doesn’t sound anything like love now, does it?

5) You have low self-esteem.

How do you know if you’re codependent?

One of the big signs is that you have low self-esteem.

This means you measure your value and constantly find yourself lacking. You feel like your own worth, value, and morals aren’t good enough.

Where does this deep-seated feeling come from?

Most codependents didn’t get their needs met adequately as children. This includes the important needs for security, love, and attention. 

When they grow up, they often seek out these things in unhealthy ways because fulfilling these needs becomes more important than anything else.

And because they’re based on external factors, codependents develop a sense of self-based on a perceived external locus of control. They develop a strong need for external validation that makes them want to feel needed. 

6) You don’t feel like you can make good decisions.

I mean that you feel unable to make decisions in the context of the relationship.

This is related to some of the other signs we’ve already seen, such as having low self-esteem and not feeling in control.

Why do codependents feel such trepidation when it comes to making decisions?

First off, they lack the self-esteem that helps them believe in their ability to make good choices.

Second, they always want to please their partners, so for them, having to make a choice means risking making the wrong one and provoking displeasure. They fear that if they choose wrong, they won’t be able to please.

And finally, they fear choosing the right thing only to displease their partner, who wants to take the credit.

To the codependent, there’s just so much perceived risk that they can suffer decision paralysis.

When you really love someone, it doesn’t make you feel this way. 

You can make decisions by simply thinking about which options would make them happy, but if it doesn’t, you can feel secure in the fact that you were motivated by trying to do right by them.

7) Your partner is abusive.

Look, it’s clear that if your partner abuses you, they don’t really love and appreciate you.

This holds true for any kind of abuse, whether it’s physical, verbal, or emotional.

The American Psychological Association defines abuse as “interactions in which one person behaves in a cruel, violent, demeaning, or invasive manner toward another person.”

So, if your partner treats you in any of these ways repeatedly, they’re not giving you love and respect.

If you think you’re being abused, you can find help and support at www.thehotline.org.


I know you want to believe it’s love, but it’s not always that easy.

You have to look at your patterns and these seven signs you’re not in love; you’re just codependent and decide for yourself.

Just remember that you have real value, and you deserve real love, too!

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