Updated: Jun 5
Relationships are about give and take. Sometimes, you need your partner to be there for you, and other times you might need to be the one to offer a shoulder to lean on. If you or your partner are going through a particularly difficult time, you might rely on each other more than usual. However, there’s a difference between that type of situation and a codependency in your relationship.
While many people in relationships are happy to live independent lifestyles, that isn’t the case for everyone. Codependent relationships can be unhealthy, damaging to your mental health (as well as your partner’s), and often signifies an underlying issue.
Not sure whether you’re experiencing codependency in your relationship? Let’s look at some of the common signs.
A Lack of Self-Esteem
It’s not uncommon for codependent relationships to develop because one–or both–partners have low self-esteem. If you feel like you need the approval of your partner to feel good about yourself (or vice versa), it can create constant tension in your relationship.
Unfortunately, low self-esteem can lead to the dependent individual controlling the relationship. Their insecurity causes their partner to constantly meet their needs and validate who they are. It’s exhausting for everyone, and it’s rare that the individual with low self-esteem ever feels content.
Some individuals tend to be people-pleasers more than others. However, there are situations where pleasing is taken to extremes.
In a relationship, a people-pleaser thinks they need to keep their partner happy and content at all times. If you’re a people-pleaser, you’re likely also putting your partner’s happiness and well-being above your own. That might not seem like a bad thing on the surface. However, it can become tiring for the partner quickly. Your physical and mental health could suffer as a result.
A Lack of Communication
Strong communication is a crucial component of any successful relationship. If someone is serving as a caregiver in a relationship, they’re likely not expressing their needs and wants. This can create tension and set the underlying tone for communication.
The dependent individual might be so concerned with keeping control that they don’t express themselves honestly. Unfortunately, a relationship built on holding things back or not being completely honest with each other isn’t sustainable. Open communication isn’t just a suggestion; it’s a necessity.
No Sense of Self
It’s not uncommon for the person taking on the caregiver role in a codependent relationship to lose their sense of self. They might not recognize who they are without their partner, making them somewhat dependent.
Having a strong self-image is important, not just in a relationship but also in life. Losing your identity in your relationship, whether it’s because you’re trying to find it in your partner or because you’re giving everything you have to your partner, is a slippery slope.
Can a Codependent Relationship Change?
Codependency doesn’t automatically mean a relationship is doomed. More often than not, the dependent person is dealing with something that goes deeper than your relationship itself. For example, if you’ve had self-esteem issues your whole life, when did it start? Did you experience trauma as a child? Have you been in negative or harmful relationships before? Getting to the root issue(s) is the best way to understand codependency in a relationship, so you and your partner can start to make changes.
If you know you want to stay together and make your relationship work, one of the best things you can do is attend counseling or therapy. Feel free to contact me for more information, and take comfort in knowing that there is hope for healing in your relationship.