Healthy relationships require give and take. Each person genuinely seeks to support the other, while still maintaining their own interests and personal sense of self.
In a codependent relationship, however, you forget where you end and the other person begins. It’s a dysfunctional relationship with a major imbalance of power. While codependent relationship patterns are common among people with substance use disorder, they can also emerge when no drugs or alcohol are present.
The first step to breaking free from a codependent relationship is recognizing that you’re in one. Take a look at five classic signs of codependency:
Most of us want to be liked, and to make other people happy. These are good desires. But these desires cross into unhealthy territory when you feel like you can’t say no to someone else—when you feel you have no choice but to do things for them, with no consideration for yourself. Consider this deep-seated need for approval a red flag. When the urge to keep someone else happy comes at the expense of your own needs, it can be a sign of codependency.
2. Lack of Boundaries
Boundaries are an essential feature of every healthy relationship. Clear boundaries include recognizing, respecting, and reinforcing each individual’s right to their own feelings and autonomy. This involves understanding that you are not responsible for someone else’s happiness. In a codependent relationship, however, one person may be manipulative and controlling, while the other is compliant and subservient. One person doesn’t recognize boundaries, and the other doesn’t insist on them. If you feel guilty or anxious about doing something for yourself, it can be a sign of imbalance in the relationship.
3. Low Self-Esteem
Having good self-esteem doesn’t mean having a big ego—it simply means you have a healthy view of yourself and your place in the world. But in a codependent relationship, you may feel you have to meet someone else’s needs and get their approval in order to feel a sense of purpose. You may define yourself in relation to the other person, having no idea who you are without them. Or, if you’re on the other side of the power equation, you may be overly dependent on the other person to meet your needs and validate you. If your self-worth depends on what the other person thinks of you, you may be in a codependent relationship.
4. Difficulty Recognizing and Expressing Emotions
Healthy relationships involve expressing feelings openly, directly, and calmly, and demonstrating compassion for the other person. But in a codependent relationship, you may be so focused on the other person that you don’t take time to process your own feelings and emotions. You can’t communicate your needs because you don’t know what they are. Or if you do know, you may be reluctant to express your needs and desires because you don’t want to upset the other person. If your mood always reflects how the other person feels, rather than your own emotions, the relationship may be codependent.
5. Need for Control
In a healthy relationship with another adult, you recognize that they are capable of managing their own life. You accept their choices even if you don’t like them. In a codependent relationship, however, you may believe the other person cannot take care of themselves and needs you to step in. You assume the role of caretaker, offering unsolicited advice and trying to control what they think, feel, or do. If you have a habit of making decisions for the other person—or trying to fix, rescue, or manage them—the relationship may be codependent.
If you recognize signs of codependency in yourself and in your relationships, help is available. With treatment from qualified mental health professionals, you can break the cycle of codependency and enjoy mutually beneficial relationships.
If you’re unsure whether you need treatment for codependency, reach out to Beachside Rehab at 866-714-4523. Our caring admissions counselors can help you determine the therapy options that may be right for you.
Photo by Charlie Foster on Unsplash