Do you find yourself using most of your energy on your partner’s needs? Do you feel like your personal needs are not being met in your relationship, no matter how much you do? Chances are you’re in a codependent relationship. Codependent relationships are characterized by a person belonging to a one-sided relationship, where one person relies on the other for meeting their emotional needs. It is a dysfunctional dynamic that is common and much more prevalent than we might imagine, but if these signs of codependency go left unresolved, they become all the more destructive.
A healthy relationship is one that is interdependent when two people come together and don’t sacrifice their autonomy and their values by being with one another. It’s easier said than done, but with some awareness and understanding a codependent relationship can be transformed into a healthy interdependent one. Let’s see how you can go from putting your needs on the back burner to maintaining your independence, while still being in a loving and generous relationship. Sounds easy, right?
How to stop being codependent in your relationship
In order to stop being in a codependent relationship, you have to be able to recognize that you’re in one in the first place. There are several obvious signs that you’re in a codependent relationship so that you can start changing these habits into healthier ones.
Sign #1: You’ve lost your voice in the relationship.
If everything you say doesn’t seem to matter in the relationship – you don’t voice your needs, your wants, and your wishes – then you know your individual needs are not being met. This also means that you’re scared to speak up and be your authentic self, and instead you compromise your needs for your partner’s. Instead of communicating your opinion openly, you justify why your partner doesn’t need to hear what you have to say. “My girlfriend is going through a lot right now,” you may think, “she doesn’t need me to impose on her.”
But this is, in essence, a sign of dysfunctional communication because you are stopping yourself from communicating what you want and what you feel. You might be afraid to be truthful because you don’t want to upset your partner. You may not actually know what you think, feel, or need, which means you need to do a little more inward searching and self-work. And if this is the case, take the time to find out what it is you truly feel, want, and need. Take some time alone to do the things you love, such as journaling, meditating; take a retreat on your own, or some time with just friends to get back in touch with yourself. Don’t choose to not communicate because of fear.
Sign #2: You lose contact with your friends and family.
When you’re in a codependent relationship, you start to spend so much time with your partner that you lose sight of your family and friends. Either that or when you see them, your partner is always with you or feels offended if she’s not invited to things with just you and your friends. Naturally, when it’s the beginning of a relationship you may not be hanging out with your friends as much, but maintaining a good balance between your partner and your friend time is important. When you invest all your time with your girlfriend, then you also in some way seek all of your validation and love from her, which is a recipe for disaster. One person can’t carry all of that weight on their shoulders. Make sure you continue healthy relationships with friends and family that are independent of your relationship with your partner.
Sign #3: You stop doing your hobbies.
When you focus everything on what your girlfriend wants, you start to forget about yourself and the things you like doing aside from being with her. Maybe you’re not playing guitar as much anymore, or you’re not taking those French lessons you were doing before. You’ve stopped exploring the things that fulfilled you. Ironically this will start to make you feel unbalanced, and when you don’t feel balanced, that ricochets into the relationship. Instead of focusing inward to go back to the things you love, you start to feel like your partner can fulfill the things you miss inside, which is a false reality. You want her to fix you, but it’s not up to your partner to fix you. This is the time to stop and reevaluate yourself. Take time alone. Reframe and redirect yourself to the things that you love doing on your own.
Sign #4: You often ask permission from your partner.
These can be simple activities. You start to ask your girlfriend if you can go to the gym because you feel bad about leaving her. You think it’s sweet and loving to ask, but it’s actually not because you are compromising your independence. You need your own life separate from her; you don’t need to be asking her permission to go to the supermarket, to run an errand, to see a friend, or to even take time alone. You justify to yourself that you want her to be included in everything, that this is your way of showing that you love her. But your girlfriend is not your mother, she is someone that should be supportive of whatever makes you happy – however you decide to spend your time on your own, away from her.
Sign #5: You’ve lost your boundaries.
Sometimes when you’re an especially empathetic person you can be prone to codependency because you really feel your partner on a level that is not like most. You feel their pain, you feel their stress as if it were your own. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when you prioritize that empathy over your own feelings, then it is. That means you’ve lost your sense of boundary – where you end and she begins. If you’ve noticed that you’re really taking on your partner’s emotions, traits, and what they’re experiencing to a level where you’re not able to handle your own issues or feelings, then you know you’ve reached an unhealthy place. You’ll know because you’ll feel unhappy. Initially, you’ll try to solve that unhappiness in the comforts of your partner, but the opposite should be the solution — taking the time alone, and taking the time to reevaluate what you love and what you need.
Ultimately, we don’t want to take on the problems of our partner and feel as though we need to fix them. The opposite is also true – we can’t expect our partners to fix our problems if we don’t take the time to show up for ourselves. Give your partner space and yourself the space to feel autonomously empowered. Both you and she should feel like you have the strength to handle your own problems. When you know your values, your values, and your standards are being pushed past the point of comfort, then don’t diminish your voice and watch it all happen before you. Say something, shamelessly communicate what you feel is making you uncomfortable. That is the most loving thing you can do.
2 Codependents in a relationship. Can both people in a relationship be codependent?
The way a person becomes codependent in the first place is because of conditioning. If we were conditioned to abandon our own needs for someone else, then we’re taught that that’s our role and that we should feel guilty about our feelings. We are all born to authority figures — our parents — and as we grow up, we become the space holder for our parents. Mom is allowed to be angry, dad is allowed to be depressed, but you aren’t. When we’re not taught to have a true sense of self because of the enmeshment of our authority figures, that’s when we become puppets in someone else’s lifestyle and in our own romantic relationships.
When we get two codependent people together, two things can happen. Firstly, neither person will make a move because they’re both waiting for the other to reflect back at them. Life has always been a result of people reflecting back to us who we should be at that moment, so why would that change now? In this kind of scenario, there will never be a sense of grounding to the relationship. It will feel like each of you is just holding space for each other because both of you haven’t established yourselves as an individualized person with separate needs and wants.
Secondly, hierarchal roles will be played out. Because you’re conditioned to a dynamic of emotional superiority, one will take on the role of the oppressor in the relationship and the other will be the oppressed. And with that comes a whole lot of resentment. The relationship because a game of winning, a hierarchical battle that falsely creates a way of feeling safe. At its very core, it’s inauthentic.
So it is possible for two codependents to be in a relationship? The short answer is yes, but the longer answer is that it’s unsustainable. One person in the relationship HAS to establish themselves as an independent, grounded core. The only way of doing that is by doing the hard work, which may involve truly losing yourself and everything you may have thought you were. But one person in the relationship cannot fix the other. Only you can change yourself. When one person in the relationship has that core, then codependency stops. If it doesn’t stop, then the relationship will always feel like chaos, like an endless game of role switching. That is not the game you want to be in.
Can a codependent relationship be saved?
Every relationship has a slightly different dynamic, but with greater self-awareness and by taking a step back, a codependent relationship can be transformed into a healthy interdependent one. What couples need to do is learn to talk with one another to make the necessary adjustments so that both people can feel happy being independent and doing the things they individually love. Understand that if you know you have a tendency to be codependent, that this is conditioned and deep-rooted. It means you will have to put in the work to unravel the things you have been conditioned to and you will have to allow yourself to reevaluate who you are.
The first step is seeking guidance and support. If you are in a codependent relationship and need some help, please book a session with us. We are here to help.
As always, remember that you are loved and please share with us your experiences.