5 Signs of a Codependent Relationship

Codependent Relationship
PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou/Getty Images

Successful and long-lasting relationships are built on mutual trust, understanding, compassion, support and open communication. But sometimes you may find yourself in a relationship that comes up short in many of these important areas. In fact, you may not even realize that you’re part of a dysfunctional and detrimental relationship in which you have a codependent connection with your partner.

What Is a Codependent Relationship?

In the most basic sense, a codependent relationship is one in which two people rely on each other in order to complete themselves, and they typically lack autonomy, independence and/or self-sufficiency. In fact, couples who are in codependent relationships often come to depend on each other to the point that it becomes emotionally, mentally and physically harmful, unhealthy, and unsafe.

Warning Signs of a Codependent Relationship

In order to determine if you’re involved in a codependent relationship with your partner, it’s important to recognize the clear-cut indicators of mutually dependent relationships. And from there, you can take steps to resolve these issues in ways that are mutually beneficial to you and your partner. 

1. Your Life Revolves Around Your Partner

If your existence has come to mean that your life’s worth fully depends on your partner, you’re in a codependent relationship. For example, if you find that your happiness levels are totally based upon your boyfriend or girlfriend and his or her presence in your life, then your relationship is far from healthy. While your partner should definitely bring you joy and pleasure, he or she shouldn’t be the sole source of contentment in your life. Your mate should complement you, not complete you.

2. The Relationship Isn't Balanced

In a healthy relationship, you and your partner should both be equals. It shouldn’t be the type of relationship in which you have to act like a parent, servant or child. The relationship you have with your partner should be one where you’re both individuals who are able to give and take the same amount. However, if you’re doing all of the mothering and nurturing or your partner is the one treating you as though you’re weak and helpless, this kind of unbalanced relationship is actually detrimental to you, your partner and your connection.

3. You’re Turning a Blind Eye to Bad Behavior

In many codependent relationships, it’s not uncommon to find that one partner takes on the role of an enabler. For instance, if you’re ignoring or facilitating your partner’s destructive actions, even when you know his or her behavior is actually harming your partner and possibly yourself, you’re involved in an unsafe and codependent relationship. Remember, if you’re compromising your own ethics, values, and principles to please and appease your partner, then your relationship is compromised on many different levels.

4. Your Emotional and Physical Health Are at Risk

If you’re in a relationship where you find yourself being tormented, insulted or abused mentally, emotionally and/or physically, it’s time to get out of this dangerous relationship immediately. If you continue to stay with your partner even when your needs, safety, and self-worth are put on the back burner, you’ve fallen into the codependency relationship trap.

5. You Feel Stuck

If you’re in a codependent relationship, you may feel as though you can’t ever leave your partner. You may have come to rely so heavily on this person in the emotional, spiritual, physical and even monetary sense that you’ve convinced yourself that losing this person would divest all meaning from your life. But it’s important to recognize that no person or relationship should be the sole source of satisfaction in your life, and if you’re feeling trapped, it’s a sign your relationship is blocking you from true happiness.

How to Improve or Leave a Codependent Relationship

In some cases, it’s possible to stay with your mate and change the circumstances surrounding your codependent relationship. One step is to look for hobbies, interests, and activities outside of your partner and find meaning in other pastimes that don’t involve your mate. In addition, you should also look to spend more time with your friends, family and the other people who are important to you. If you search for happiness and contentment in other aspects of your life, you’re likely to find it.

However, there will be circumstances in which breaking free from a codependent relationship means breaking up. If your partner has abused you in the past and/or refuses to get help for self-destructive behavior, you owe it to your own health, happiness, and safety to move on from this person. Look internally, recognize your own self-worth and appreciate the fact that you’re definitely able to depend on yourself.