Codependent Relationship: How To Identify And Come Out Of It

codependent relationship

Are you constantly trying to please your partner? Are you the only one making sacrifices in your relationship? Are you in an abusive relationship but still want to stick on? Then you could be in a codependent relationship.  As unfortunate as it may sound, many of us have been in such a relationship but never realized what codependency was.  We gives you an insight into codependent relationships, signs of a codependent, and ways to get out of those shackles. 

What Is A Codependent Relationship? 

A codependent relationship is one where the person looks for the partner’s approval for their self worth and identity. It can also be as a result of real needs, such as financial support, sharing children responsibilities, etc.  In other words, it is called ‘relationship addiction’. In a codependent relationship, both partners are codependents as both sustain the codependency. However, typically one is the submissive codependent partner and the other is the dominant codependent partner.

  • Experts say that codependency originates from dysfunctional families where the person had experienced an emotionally unhealthy or abusive childhood and grew up trying to satisfy an abusive parent. Such children, when grown up, try to please their partner even at the cost of their own needs and self-esteem. 
  • Originally, codependents were those people who were in a relationship with alcoholics or drug addicts. Such people do not acknowledge that the problem exists; they avoid confronting and try to repress their emotions. That results in emotionally unhealthy behavior. 
  • People, who were emotionally abused or neglected by their parents in their childhood, are more likely to have codependent relationships. 
  • A codependent person tends to attract emotionally unhealthy people, who would exploit the weaknesses of the codependent. 
  • If you are in such a relationship, you are unlikely to realize that you are a codependent person, and as a result, continue to get exploited. 

So, how do you know you are in a codependent relationship?

If your answer is ‘yes’ to most of these questions, then you should seek help to get out of the emotionally unhealthy relationship. 

Symptoms And Signs Of Codependent Relationships 

Submissive and dominant codependent people in a relationship can be in a state of denial about their condition. But if you find the following warning signs in your partner or yourself, then it is time for you to act. 

  1. A codependent person holds an exaggerated sense of responsibility for others’ actions.
  2. Pleasing people is a classic symptom. They derive their self-esteem by trying to please others. 
  3. They have an unhealthy dependence on others. They do anything to hold on to the relationship to avoid the feeling of abandonment. 
  4. They have poor self-esteem. They think they are not ‘good enough’, feel inadequate and insufficient. 
  5. They can’t say ‘no’ to their partner. They say ‘yes’ when they actually want to say ‘no’ and resent later. 
  6. The purpose of a codependent’s life is to satisfy the partner, and does not see life beyond the specific partner. 
  7. They neglect their own needs and put their partner’s needs ahead of theirs.
  8.  They tolerate abusive relationships and put up with the deranged behavior of the partner. 
  9. They experience anxiety more than any other emotion in the relationship. They feel compelled to do something for their partner all the time, and when they don’t, they get anxious. 
  10. They are scared of being rejected and abandoned. They feel insecure about their partner leaving them. They feel depressed or lonely when they are left alone. 
  11. When a codependent has an urge to be independent and wants to part ways, they undergo strong inner conflict. 
  12. They feel ashamed of what’s going on in their relationship, so they hide the fact even from themselves. They are ashamed and guilty of their relationship and hence maintain secrecy about their relationship.
  13. People in a codependent relationship try to change each other instead of working on their negative behaviors. They feel the only way they would be happy is by making their partner listen to them. 
  14. They want to be in control by rescuing and helping their partner. Control helps them feel safe and secure. Some codependents behave bossy to show that they are in control. 
  15. Codependents have trouble with emotional boundaries; they have weak boundaries. They get entangled in their partner’s lives and feel trapped in the relationship. Some have rigid boundaries, making it hard for others to get close to them. 
  16. Codependents cannot communicate well, as they are not aware of their own feelings, wants and emotions. Communication is confusing and dishonest. 
  17. Codependents are obsessed thinking about others due to their dependencies, anxieties, and fears. They are obsessed with over-analyzing the things. Some codependents fantasize about the person they love to avoid the present pain. 
  18. They have problems with intimacy. They doubt that their partner might judge or criticize them and thus fear being rejected or abandoned. Some codependents fear losing control if they get intimate. They tend to deny their own need for intimacy. 
  19. They are extremely reactive. They can cling on to negative remarks for days together. Healthy people dismiss negative criticism as ‘other’s opinion,’ but codependents tend to take it to heart. 
  20. They have the strong urge to feel needed. Their identity depends on that, and when they don’t have anyone to rescue or help, they lose their identity and get anxious. 

Such behavior patterns can be damaging and unhealthy, and cannot sustain over a long time. It only leads to resentment, anger, and frustration. 

Impact Of A Codependent Relationship

“Codependence is the pain in adulthood that comes from being wounded in childhood, which leads to a high probability of relationship problems and/or addictive disorders in later life.” – Carol Cannon, co-founder of the Bridge to Recovery. 

Codependents have relationship difficulties, and the major reason for that is low self-esteem. As a result, their needs and desires are not taken seriously. The effects can be long-lasting and prevent the person from leading a normal life. 

Here are some of the consequences of being codependent in a relationship: 

  • Poor self-esteem and insecurity make a codependent person non-assertive in their relationships. 
  • As they try hard to please their partner all the time, they feel exhausted and emotionally drained out. As a result, they neglect other important relationships. 
  • Sacrificing one’s own needs and identification to satisfy the partner’s needs has negative long term consequences such as anxiety, identity crisis, and self-blame. 
  • They cannot stay alone. It creates terrible anxiety and stress in them, which can manifest in medical conditions such as high blood pressure, ulcers, and heart problems. 
  • Codependency, when not fixed, can lead to problems such as drug addiction, alcoholism, and eating disorders. 

Being in a codependent relationship negatively affects the other areas of your life. But you can come out of it when you work on it relentlessly. 

How To Stop Being Codependent In A Relationship 

Codependency can be changed only if you realize that your behavior is faulty; otherwise, you might just end up exhibiting the same pattern in other relationships.  So, how can you break this pattern of codependency in a relationship? First, the faulty beliefs have to be broken. Let’s see how you can do that:

1. A codependent person feels that they should make their partner happy at the expense of their own happiness. When the person constantly tries to make someone happy the focus is shifted away from one’s own happiness. They neglect their dreams and desires. 

How to break this? 

Shift focus on to yourself. It is easier said than done, but a codependent person has to start thinking about himself/ herself.

2. Codependent people tend to believe that they are responsible for their partner’s happiness. So, when the partner is not happy, they blame themselves for it. They are constantly focused on meeting the partner’s needs. 

How to break this? 

The codependent has to understand that their partner’s happiness is not in their control. What they can control are their own emotions and feelings. You need to reflect deeply on where your relationship is heading and tell yourself that you are not responsible for your partner’s happiness. You have to be responsible for your own thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

3. They feel obligated to stay in the relationship. Feelings of ‘who will take care of her, oh, she might be lonely if I am not there’, might consume the codependent person. Such thoughts are reinforced by the partner. 

How to break this? 

The codependent person may not be able to think about the future, but they can think about the issues on hand. You can introspect something on these lines: 

“Are my decisions making me happy?” 

“Is this what I want in my life?”

“Is this the best thing for me?” 

You might feel overwhelmed while changing your behavior, but be persistent with change, because you will be counteracted by the ‘change back’ behavior of your partner. When a couple is codependent to each other, for a codependent partner to change in that relationship, it would greatly help her/his codependent partner to change as well in order to break out the dysfunctional relationship cycle. 

You might get tempted to go back to your old ways, and have peace with your partner. But resist that temptation. Recovery might be difficult but not impossible. 

Codependent Relationship Recovery 

Remember that it is only your willpower that will help you come out of the situation. Once you realize the consequences of codependency, make it your mission to come out of it: 

  • The first step is to be committed to change and communicate with the difficult person to establish if there are also positive steps for changel. If not, let go of the difficult person from your life. 
  • Develop self-esteem and learn to say ‘No’. Your self-esteem depends on who you are and not on what you do. 
  • You should be in a comfortable space where you stop spoon-feeding your partner. You should focus on taking care of yourself. 
  • Build effective boundaries, you should know who is responsible for what and refuse to do things that are your partner’s responsibility because that is not your job. 
  • Make your needs a priority and work on changing your actions and thought process. Be kind to yourself. 
  • Challenge your faulty beliefs and self-destructive thoughts. Understand that self-esteem comes from within and not from the other person’s approval. 
  • Don’t stop yourself from getting into relationships because of the fear of rejection.
  • Take help from others – talk to your friends and family, or go for professional counseling.

In spite of your efforts if you think that your relationship is pulling you back, then it is time to come out of such a relationship. Here’s how you can do that. 

How To Get Out Of A Codependent Relationship

Here is what you can do to come out from a codependent relationship: 

  1. Freedom of choice: The first thing to do is to know your choices. You need to understand that you have a choice to walk out of an unhealthy relationship. You are free to end a harmful relationship. Be confident and move on. 
  2. Spend time away from your partner: It helps you focus on what you want from your life. It gives you the time to know if you can be happy without your partner. You realize that there’s life outside of your partner. 
  3. Be calm: When you tell your partner that you want to end the relationship, he/she might get angry, flustered, and aggressive. But you need to remain calm and put across your point. 
  4. Talk to your partner: It will be challenging to discuss the matter with your partner because they might be in a state of denial. They could think that the problem lies with you and not them. If your partner doesn’t want to change, you may have to break up to save yourself. 
  5. Pursue your hobbies: This is the perfect time to pursue your hobbies. Take a break from your partner and do what you enjoy doing like working out, cooking, traveling and more. 
  6. Be informed: Codependency is complicated, and you need to understand the condition in its various forms. Read books on it, talk to a professional and develop your understanding of the problem. 
  7. Take responsibility: It’s easy to fall into the vicious cycle of blaming your partner for your codependent behavior. But you need to realize that you are responsible for your actions and feelings. If you are giving in constantly, then you need to stop blaming your partner for it. Take some time out for yourself, which is absolutely necessary and alright. 

Everything is not lost in a codependent relationship. If your partner loves you unconditionally, then they can help you to come out of this problem. See a counselor together, and seek support from your partner. But if your partner is not cooperative or is the root cause of your problem, then come out of their clutches and begin your life afresh. 

Have an experience to share? Let us know in the comment section below. 

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