Am I Codependent?

Are you codependent? If you think that you might be, here are some behaviors to look for and steps to take to break free.
Trapped in relationship

In a healthy relationship, equal partners support each other in many ways, organically and with love. Yet, there’s a difference between being supportive of someone and being codependent. Codependency is a complex and often misunderstood psychological condition wherein one person excessively relies on another for validation and a sense of self-worth.

This all-consuming dependency generally involves some underlying form of dysfunction (such as abuse or addiction) and can profoundly affect an individual’s life and relationships. Any relationship can be codependent, such as familial or friendships, but it is most often associated with romantic relationships. And while it’s challenging to pinpoint codependency definitively, there are signs that can indicate it’s an issue.

People pleasing

Trapped in a relationship

Codependent people have a strong need for approval, often prioritizing other’s needs, feelings, and opinions over their own and neglecting their own lives in the process. They may go to great lengths to please others, even at the expense of their own well-being, and feel that if their partner isn’t 100% happy, then it must be their fault.

Desire to care for others

Codependents often support another person financially and/or emotionally and will do anything to make sure they are comfortable and happy. They feel they must maintain a constant focus on their partner’s wants and needs so that their partner doesn’t experience discomfort, robbing the codependent’s ability to focus on their own wants and needs.

Losing friends

Codependent people tend to focus so much on the other person that they don’t have time to spend with friends and family. Or they obsessively talk about that person so much that they drive others away.

Loss of sense of self

A codependent’s personality tends to depend on the other person.  With their focus solely on their partner’s likes and dislikes, the codependent person might lose the ability to make decisions for themself. Or they may feel that the other person is so important that they must keep their thoughts and opinions to themself in order to be liked.

Difficulty setting boundaries

Codependents often struggle to assert themselves and can find it challenging to say no, even when they feel overwhelmed or exploited.  They sacrifice what is best for their own well-being in order to keep their partners happy.

Low self-esteem

Low self esteem

A codependent’s desire to feel important to their partner leads them to look for external validation. Since they rely on others to define their value, they can feel unworthy of love and attention if they don’t meet their partner’s expectations. This compulsion is driven by a lack of self-esteem.

Fear of abandonment

Codependents tend to cling to relationships out of fear of being alone, even if those relationships are unhealthy or even toxic. The constant need for external validation can create a cycle of dependence, resulting in a deep-seated fear that the other person might leave them. This fear can drive a codependent to tolerate mistreatment. In fact, most of what a codependent does in a relationship is intended to make sure the other person doesn’t leave. 

Inability to walk away

Similarly, codependents also feel they aren’t able to leave a relationship because they worry about what will happen to the other person. They are bound by an imaginary sense of obligation and overwhelming guilt at the idea of not being in their partner’s life.  They need to stay connected, in spite of what it costs them – emotionally and/or physically.

Breaking Free

Woman breaking free

While codependency can feel all-consuming, it’s really just a set of beliefs and patterns of behavior. Once someone becomes aware of these patterns and beliefs, they can take proactive steps to break free from codependency and build healthier relationships.

Prioritize self-love

By treating themselves with kindness and understanding, codependent people can begin to let go of self-blame and embrace a more positive outlook on life. Key aspects of overcoming codependency involve setting boundaries, practicing assertiveness, and engaging in activities that nurture personal growth and well-being. By learning to value themselves, separate from others’ opinions, codependents can begin to move away from the cycle of validation-seeking behavior.

Seek professional help

Therapy can be a valuable tool in addressing codependency. A good therapist can help individuals develop healthier coping mechanisms, as well as explore the causes of their codependent patterns, challenge negative thought patterns, and cultivate greater self-awareness.

Build a support network

It’s important for individuals to recognize they are not alone in their struggles. Groups such as Al-Anon and CoDA (Codependents Anonymous) are 12-step recovery programs designed to help people develop functional, healthy relationships. Modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, the meetings are a good way to connect with others wanting to move beyond their personal histories and develop positive relationships with themselves and others.

Friends, family, and peers can also provide invaluable support on the journey towards recovery. Connecting with those who understand and empathize can help codependent people feel less alone and more empowered to make positive changes.

So, if you find yourself in a codependent relationship, try to live your life for yourself regardless of your partner’s happiness. While it may seem overwhelming, know that through self-care, therapy, and support from others, it is possible to overcome codependency and create a life filled with love, authenticity, and emotional well-being.

Read Next:

12 Ways to Put the Spark Back Into Your Relationship

Navigating a Relationship with a Possessive Partner

What Does Gaslighting in Relationships Actually Look Like?


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