12 ways to recognize if you’re in a co-dependent friendship

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Codependency is one of the more toxic dynamics you can find yourself stuck in.

And it’s not something exclusive to families and lovers—even friendships can become codependent, too!

It pays to know how to recognize if you’re stuck in one so you can make necessary adjustments. 

Here are 12 ways you can figure out if you’re in a codependent friendship:

1) It was friendship at first sight!

The beginning of your friendship was intense. One might even say that it was too strong, and way too fast.

You felt an immediate connection—a connection that has you wanting to be BFFs with them on the spot.

They have so much in common with you that it’s almost insane. You’d say that you like Techno music and they’ll say “OMG, me too!”. You’d say people who hate “woke” people are annoying and they’d gasp and say “Totally agree!”

Yet while this is cool, chances are that this is a sign that you’re in an unhealthy friendship

There’s a chance that you’re all lonely and you wanted to be friends so badly that you fixated on your similarities while disregarding your differences. 

You see, people with unhealthy levels of dependency tend to exaggerate and force connections…and maybe it’s your case.

2) They see you as their lifeline

…or vice versa.

You have a kind of friendship where you help each other—emotionally, socially, financially, and more.

One of you is always offering help, while the other is always asking. And while it’s perfectly normal for friends to help one another (hey, that’s what friends are for), there’s a point where it’s plain EXCESSIVE.

Yesterday, they asked for help with their research paper. Today, they borrowed $50. Tomorrow, they’ll surely think of how else they can “maximize” the friendship.

3) One of you feels clingy, while the other one feels smothered

If you’re the clingy one, you constantly want to be 100% super duper BFFs 24/7.

You NEED regular chats and updates or else you feel like they don’t care about you. If they won’t reply fast, you start to panic and ask them “Hey, is everything okay with us?”

If you’re the one who feels smothered, not only does this turn you off, it makes you feel like you’re a bad friend for not caring too much.

This guilt would make you do whatever the clingy one wants to keep the peace…but resentment builds as time goes by.

4) Saying “No” feels like a crime

They say “A friend in need’s a friend indeed.” And the codependent friend takes this very, very seriously.

They’ll use this as a measurement of how much you value them. The more you say “yes”, the more they’ll feel that your friendship is special. 

They’ll borrow your things, stay over, and expect you to do them favors big and small. To be fair, most of them are willing to return the favor—and more.

But when you say “No” and mean it, they feel like you’re breaking the first commandment of friendship…and they’ll find it hard to get over with.

They might even say manipulative things like “I thought we’re friends!” or “I’d do anything for you but you can’t even do this simple thing for me?”

5) There are so many rules

If you’re in a codependent friendship, then you’d be aware of how that friendship isn’t anything but simple—there are just so many shoulds and shouldn’t.

By this point, in fact, it almost feels like a chore of some kind—like you’re “investing” on “building” a long-lasting relationship that should last a lifetime.

Rules are made or implied and followed religiously.

One of you will say “Hey, we should hang out every Friday no matter what, ok?” And the others would promise to do so.

The ones who break this rule will of course have to explain why they can’t spend just “a bit of time” for their friendship. 

And then there are rules to how you should communicate, how you should help each other, how you should share what you have, and so much more.

6) Your friendship is high-maintenance

You spend way too much time with your friends. You hang out in real life and online to do things together like it’s a full-time job.

If you don’t show up, you’re considered as someone who can’t maintain a friendship.

But not only does it require your time, it requires your emotional space, mental space, and even your money.

It’s becoming more and more difficult for you to spend time with other people. And you can’t even start new hobbies because you shouldn’t keep canceling dates with your friends.

7) You start to copy each other

 “If I jump, you jump”, said Jack Dawson from Titanic but also all the codependent people. They want to always do things together, and so as a result, they start to think alike.

You might think you have a unique opinion on things, but they’re basically rehashed versions of your friends’.

This is when codependent friendships happen—when you start to feel like you’re all just one person.

Think Mean Girls, The Heathers, and Jawbreaker.

8) You act like lovers/family, not friends

You know you’re in a codependent relationship when you start saying things such as “friends are family”.

No, friends can be very, very close friends. But family? Probably not. Saying so will put too much pressure on your friendship that you start to feel like it’s a duty.

Friendship is more free. Even the strongest ones ebb and flow and even become dormant for some time. So saying it should be like family is like saying you have no choice but to PERFORM as a family or else.

Friends are friends. Family is family. Sure there will be friends who FEEL like family, but you shouldn’t expect or impose this kind of dynamic on anyone.

9) It’s either you’re a “good” friend or a “bad friend”

You can’t just be a good friend who’s tired. Or a good friend who’s going through something. Or a good friend who’s busy.

If you’re not performing like a “good friend” should, you’re a “bad friend”—it’s really just black and white, all-or-nothing for a codependent friendship.

The codependent friend gets so hurt once you stop functioning as their BFF/ hero/ cheerleader/ partner-in-crime. Because then, they’d start thinking “Aren’t friends supposed to be there for each other through thick or thin?”

If you fail their “good friend” meter, you’re out—you’re a “bad friend.”

10) You can’t be happy if they’re miserable

Or you can’t be miserable if they’re happy. 

You always have to match their moods or else you’ll be seen as someone uncaring (or even mean!).

When they’re sad, it’s like you’re walking on eggshells. You feel like you can’t share good news…and you even feel guilty for just smiling or laughing at a joke you overheard.

And if you’re sad and they’re happy? They’d feel like you’re not supportive of their happiness…and you’re in fact a little bitter.

It won’t even cross their mind to ask “Is she okay?” because codependent people tend to be self-absorbed.

It’s like their moods matter A LOT, while yours doesn’t AT ALL. 

11) You feel guilty when you make new friends

They won’t outright say it—they might even act cool—but when you make new friends, they start acting indifferent towards you. They might even distance themselves.

They might jokingly ask “So…are we still friends or you have new friends now?”

They find it unthinkable that most people can remain best friends while creating new ones. 

It’s almost like, to them, you’re betraying your friendship because they truly believe you only have so many friends you can have at once.

12) You feel like you SHOULD share everything

They would get upset and throw a fit if you forgot to share an important life update with them.

Because of course how DARE you get into a relationship or win a contest without sharing the good news with them FIRST!

And in fact, how dare you “hide” things when they’ve always shared everything about themselves freely.

So they make a big deal over feeling betrayed and will question your friendship.They’d start thinking you’re a snake.

But it’s not just limited to life updates. 

You feel like you have to share your thoughts, your secrets, your traumas, your private life, and even your apartment (even if you really don’t want to). 

There’s no such thing as healthy boundaries in a codependent friendship.

Last words

Codependent friendships are every bit as harmful as romantic codependency.

In fact, they can be often more harmful simply because of how so many people overlook them.

That’s why if you ever suspect that you might be stuck in a codependent relationship, pause. Try to take the time to understand why this is so…and learn to reset the friendship so it could become much healthier and more sustainable.

Please bear in mind that this might be difficult—your friends might get hurt when you start to change. This is not entirely their fault. We’re conditioned by TV shows and books and movies that friendships should be 100% or nothing at all.

So before you do anything, have an open discussion with your friends that although you love them with all of your heart, you also have to ensure you’re not being codependent

If they’re really your BFFs, they’ll not demonize you for it and would even thank you for taking care of your friendship.

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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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