A codependent relationship is not a functional relationship. If anything, experts say it’s one of the most dysfunctional relationships there can be.
Essentially, a codependent relationship means there’s one person who’s completely dependent on the other.
And while it’s important to trust and rely on your partner, it’s not healthy to need them to meet all your needs – to the point where you don’t have a life outside of them.
Why is it so damaging to be in a codependent relationship?
Because one person ends up sacrificing everything to please their partner.
While the other person (known as the enabler – and is often either a narcissist or an avoidant), takes advantage of the giving nature or struggles with the severe imbalance of power.
Let’s explore the 6 types of people who are most likely to get into codependent relationships – and how you can work to avoid it.
1) People with no hobbies outside of their relationship
Good relationships often start with having shared interests and world views. And it’s completely normal and healthy to spend lots of time with your partner.
However, maintaining your independence is the best way to avoid getting into a codependent relationship.
And people who don’t have their own hobbies are – unfortunately – more likely to end up in codependent relationships than people who do.
When you don’t have your own hobbies, you start to rely on your partner to do everything with you. And when they don’t want to do something, you may not do it.
Or you may give up all your own interests to engage in their interests – which is just as unhealthy.
Why? Because it can lead to one or both people becoming codependent in the relationship.
Ways to prevent codependency due to a lack of hobbies:
- Find things you enjoy doing
- Try different hobbies – even if you have to do them alone
- Make time to do the things you enjoy
2) People with anxious or avoidant attachment styles
Another type of person who can end up in a codependent relationship is someone with an anxious or avoidant attachment style.
People with anxious attachment styles only feel as safe as their last interaction with their partner.
So, even if their partner tells them they love them every day of the week, but then doesn’t say it one day, it can trigger the anxious person into thinking their partner doesn’t love them.
Every anxious person will have a different set of triggers. But they are generally described as insecure in relationships, which can make them come across as “clingy”.
People with avoidant attachment styles are very different. They fear rejection the most and tend to withdraw in their relationships. And the closer someone gets to them, the more they pull away.
The anxious is often more likely to cause the issues (due to their need for closeness).
But both can end up in a codependent relationship if their attachment style isn’t understood by both partners and worked on.
You’ll rarely find a person with a secure attachment style getting into a codependent relationship.
Ways to prevent codependency due to attachment style:
- Learn about your attachment style (for both partners)
- Consider couple’s therapy
3) People who struggle to make friends
My brother’s ex-girlfriend always struggled to make friends. At one point, she fell out with all her old friends completely and couldn’t make new friends as an adult.
Sadly, this meant she needed all her validation from my brother – for years and years and years.
Because she never went out anywhere and didn’t have anyone other than him to text, she started to rely on him to meet all her social needs.
And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with needing validation from your partner (or wanting to go out with them regularly) – they shouldn’t be your sole support network – according to experts.
Otherwise, you’re on the path to a codependent relationship – where all you do is rely on them to meet your physical, social, intellectual, mental, and spiritual needs.
Ways to prevent codependency from a lack of social support:
- Maintain your own friendships
- Attend social events (like via Facebook groups)
- Start a new hobby (like a running club, Pilates class, or something creative)
- Make efforts with people you work with
- Reach out to old friends
- Connect with your partner’s partners
4) People with limited family support
When someone doesn’t have any support, it can make them long to be loved. And this can lead to them getting into a relationship with someone for the wrong reasons.
I.e., they need the relationship because they want to be loved – rather than seeing the relationship as an extra to their already-fulfilling life.
And someone to love and be loved by.
This can lead to a codependent relationship for two main reasons.
Firstly, when you get into a relationship because you crave love, you may not ever be satisfied with the person you’re with – nor will they be with you.
Because when someone needs to be loved, rather than wants to share a life with someone out of mutual affection, it can quickly cause a relationship to break down.
Secondly, you can end up attracting the wrong type of person – like a narcissist. Who, in relationships, can become very controlling when someone needs them.
Ways to prevent codependency due to a limited family network:
- Maintain a strong social network outside of the relationship
- Work on finding happiness being single and in a relationship
- Enter into relationships for the right reasons
- Work on your own trauma and triggers
5) People with overbearing families
On the other end of the spectrum, people with overbearing families can be just as likely to get into codependent relationships as those with no family network.
Some families can get a little too involved in their kid’s or sibling’s lives. And even though their hearts are in the right place, it can have a damaging effect.
I have a friend who’s the youngest of four sisters. Throughout her entire life, her sisters have been her main support network.
They used to pay for her to go places, for her dinner, for her holidays, and for any social event she went to. They used to book her appointments for her hair, dentist, doctors, and anything else she needed.
She even used to live with them rent-free for a period – rarely cooking meals or contributing to any housework. And not because she wasn’t willing to – her sisters genuinely wouldn’t let her do it.
When she got into a relationship in her mid-twenties, it became very codependent. Because she’d never done anything by herself, she needed her boyfriend’s help with everything.
And sadly, it didn’t lead to a successful relationship – and it didn’t end well, either.
Ways to prevent codependency due to having an overbearing family:
- Identify the issues and how they affect you
- Set better boundaries with your family
- Talk to your family members about your new boundaries
6) People who are inexperienced in relationships
When I got into my first serious long-term relationship at 21, I would’ve been so angry at anyone who called me naïve.
But in my late twenties, I could see very clearly that I was naïve back then.
And not because I was young or foolish. Just because I didn’t have the experience I needed to retain my independence and get into a healthy relationship.
Because sadly, even if you are an independent, confident person – the wrong relationship can turn you into an insecure, anxious, codependent person.
Especially if you get into a relationship with a narcissist or someone with a conflicting attachment style (shoutout to the anxious-avoidant trap).
Of course, not everyone who hasn’t dated anyone before will become codependent in a relationship.
But it’s true that the more experience you have with love, the better you’re able to retain your independence and create a healthy relationship (and get out of toxic ones early enough).
Ways to prevent codependency due to inexperience in relationships:
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do. Learning to love and discovering what you need from a relationship is something only you can do.
But learning what codependency is can help.
So can following the other tips in this article to maintain your own independence outside of the relationship and find happiness in being single.
Codependent relationships are not caused by one person. As the age-old saying goes, it takes two to tango.
Both partners are responsible for what happens in the relationship when it comes to codependency.
And both people need to work on their traumas, triggers, attachment styles, and self-confidence to ensure they maintain a healthy relationship.
So both partners need to work on maintaining their independence and life outside of the relationship – plus a life together – if they want things to work.
Which realistically, shouldn’t be overly difficult when you’re with the right person.
Because when you’re not right for each other, or if you both struggle with boundaries, validation, insecurity, communication, and abandonment, it can lead to a codependent relationship.