couple cheating infidelity

(Credit: RODNAE Productions from Pexels)

Table of Contents

A codependent relationship starts, often, with Passion. You “know” this is the one – your person. They are supportive, encouraging, considerate, and invested. Or so it seems.

Then, one day, you have a moment of clarity and realize you are living your partner’s life. How did this creep up on you? You realize you’re in a codependent relationship – exactly what you thought this relationship was not when it started.

Would you recognize the signs of being in a codependent relationship? Let’s look at some of the common beliefs about these situations and break down which are fact and which are fiction:

1. A defining characteristic of a codependent relationship is an imbalance of power between the participants.

Fact

Initially, contributing to the other person’s life may make you feel powerful. After a while, though, your partner isn’t giving you the recognition to which you feel you are entitled. They may even resent all your “help.” You try harder – talking and talking and talking, trying to fix it. You’re getting resentful, unhappy, and intensely frustrated.

2. Your partner needs you to help them understand how to flourish in the relationship and in life.

Fiction

If you’re in a codependent relationship, you’ve placed yourself in the role of caretaker. Very often, one of the partners is actively addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex, food, or some other addictive substance or behavior. Your person may be having trouble at work or school or is having financial problems. You try to guide them to see the problems and find optimal solutions.

You may be right, but don’t expect your partner to appreciate or follow your guidance. You’ll find that you’re the only one trying to change.

3. You take long breaks from the relationship, trying to find some restorative peace.

Fiction

If you’re in a codependent relationship, you’re sticking closer and closer to the other person rather than doing things you enjoyed before you met them. You feel excessive guilt about doing anything for yourself.

Couple fighting, man sad, upset, stressed
A codependent relationship starts, often, with passion. You “know” this is the one – your person. They are supportive, encouraging, considerate, and invested. Or so it seems. (© Prostock-studio – stock.adobe.com)

4. It’s difficult to know how you feel about the relationship.

Fact

You’ve lost sight of what’s positive and negative about the relationship. You’re so focused on the other person that you don’t know what you feel, especially when you experience a “high” from satisfying your partner. You don’t even realize that your self-esteem is waning.

5. You regularly cancel plans to be with your partner.

Fact

You’re spending less time with family and friends. You cancel plans at the last minute because your partner desperately needs you right now or you’re afraid you’ll break your connection to your partner.

6. When you’re apart, you appreciate the time away from your partner’s neediness.

Fiction

If you’re in a codependent relationship, you feel anxious when you don’t hear from them often while you’re apart. You’ve become reliant on your partner for validation. Are you constantly checking your phone or imagining worst-case scenarios? This is especially easy when your partner is actively using alcohol or other drugs.

broken heart woman
If you’re in a codependent relationship, you feel anxious when you don’t hear from them often while you’re apart. (Credit: RODNAE Productions from Pexels)

7. You hesitate to speak up about your own needs.

Fact

You wonder if you ask for too much. You may hesitate because you’re fearful of being too demanding or being shut down. Your partner may be gaslighting you – causing you to question your perception of reality.

8. As you’re heading for home, you’re hoping your partner isn’t there.

Fiction

If you’re in a codependent relationship, you have trouble being alone. So much of the place you call home has become about the other person that it no longer feels like home to you.

9. When you try to set healthy boundaries, they may threaten to leave or leave the home or relationship.

Fact

Your partner’s unhealthy, selfish behaviors escalate. It’s clear that their needs take precedence over yours. This leads you to have extreme feelings of resentment or regret.

Senior couple breaking up
If you’re in a codependent relationship, you have trouble being alone. (© Vasyl – stock.adobe.com)

Can a codependent relationship ever become fulfilling? Should you even try? It’s a tall order. Here are some tips:

  • You need an outside perspective. Ask family or friends if they’ve noticed changes in you or if the relationship seems good. It’s also a good idea to see a professional therapist or counselor. It is important for you to learn about yourself and avoid future codependent behavior and relationships.
  • Couples counseling may or may not be useful. The person getting what they want may not be receptive to change. Focus on changing you, not your partner.
  • What are your values? Write them down. Are you honoring your values within the relationship?
  • Are you giving attention to other relationships? How well-peopled our lives are is strongly correlated to our mental health.
  • Set healthy boundaries. It’s difficult but vital.

If there is physical or verbal abuse, get help immediately and leave the relationship.

About Dr. Faith Coleman

Dr. Coleman is a graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and holds a BA in journalism from UNM. She completed her family practice residency at Wm. Beaumont Hospital, Troy and Royal Oak, MI, consistently ranked among the United States Top 100 Hospitals by US News and World Report. Dr. Coleman writes on health, medicine, family, and parenting for online information services and educational materials for health care providers.

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