Are you in a dependent or codependent relationship?
If you are concerned that you might be in a codependent relationship, chances are that you are right. Codependent means many different things to people, and there is no one specific correct definition. In all codependent relationships, there is usually one person with an anxious attachment style and one who enables that pattern. Rarely do two people with a codependent attachment style end up together, but it can happen. No matter which role you play in the dynamic, you will have a role in fixing it. If you feel anxious about your connection with your partner, overly attached, dependent on the other person to be happy, or crave a high level of intimacy that is rarely achieved, then you have probably developed this style of attachment.
Codependency is all about putting the other person before yourself to an unhealthy degree. This is a problem because it is not sustainable. Neither person in a codependent relationship is actually getting their needs met, and so the relationship fails. People who struggle with codependency will have the same pattern over and over again in all relationships, until they work to change it.
What does codependency look like?
If you have become dependent on your partner in an unhealthy way or have an anxious attachment style, it may manifest in different ways. No two codependent marriages or relationships look exactly the same, but there are some common characteristics and patterns. A person who is codependent does not usually seem dependent at a glance. They will appear caring, loving, connected, compassionate, and extremely empathetic. They want to take care of their loved ones. Not bad things, right? It’s what is underneath all of that and how it negatively impacts the person that’s the problem.
A codependent person will only be happy when their loved one is doing well and is happy with them. They will place such a high value on intimacy and sex that it is difficult to fulfill that desired connection. They will put their own needs aside to try to make others happy. They always want to help and save the day no matter how negatively it impacts them. The more their partner pulls away, is emotionally unavailable, or displeased, the more their anxiety goes up. There’s always a direct correlation between their mood and how their partner feels. Many times, when a person has developed a codependent pattern, they are so wrapped up in how others are feeling that they cannot even identify their own feelings and needs. The focus has been on others for so long, they lose themselves.
What are the symptoms of codependency?
If you or your partner are wondering if you have become codependent, there are a few questions that you can ask yourself. All of these are common signs of a codependent relationship:
- Do you feel you need to take care of your partner because they can’t do it themselves?
- Do you feel that your happiness comes from making your partner happy?
- Are you constantly trying to please others, but it’s never enough?
- Does your self-esteem get boosted or take a hit based on how often you are intimate?
- Do you put your partner’s needs ahead of your own?
- Do you feel empowered when your partner needs you?
- Have you been accused of trying to fix your partner?
- Can you identify your partner’s feelings more easily than your own?
- Do you feel like you can never do enough or be good enough?
- Do you avoid or feel guilty for doing things that are just for you?
- Do you continue helping others even when you get frustrated or resent it?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you will want to look into changing your pattern. Chances are that you have an anxious attachment style or codependent tendencies that are negatively impacting your self-esteem, your happiness, and your ability to have healthy relationships.
How do you treat unhealthy attachments or codependency?
You can participate in either individual counseling or couples therapy to address codependency and learn to have healthy relationships. You don’t have to continue the pattern of codependency. The key to changing these patterns is to change your thoughts. This can be done in numerous ways. It will be hard work, but the results are worth the effort. The therapeutic approach needs to be multi-faceted to be effective, and should include the following areas:
- Identifying codependent patterns and thoughts
- Creating a new voice that contradicts the negative thoughts
- Learning to set boundaries for self and others
- Building self-esteem
- Developing mindfulness
How do we reestablish independence within our relationship?
If you are married or in a long-term relationship, you will want to focus on changing the codependent pattern with your spouse/partner. Healthy, sustainable, long-term relationships need to have a clearly defined sense of self within the relationship. You need to know who you are apart from your partner, and have your own sense of identity. Autonomy has to be maintained in order to have the kind of relationship that adds positive things to our lives. Learning how to separate yourself while staying connected to the one you love will take some time and work. If you and your spouse/partner decide to work on your pattern of codependency together, you can expect a great deal of change to occur. Not only will you be working on all of the areas of codependency, but you will also be addressing how to support one another through this process without crossing the line to enabling the negative behaviors. You will learn to identify the negative thoughts and patterns that you have established, and how to replace them with healthier, positive habits which are sustainable.
It may be a long journey to get to where you want to be, but you will start noticing positive results from the very beginning. Take the first step by identifying that you may be in a codependent relationship and decide to change it.