Human beings are wired for connection. This means that we are inherently programmed to seek relationships of any and all sorts. Why, then, are so many of our relationship’s codependent?
According to Melody Beattie, who wrote “The Codependent Guide to the 12 Steps” and “Codependent No More,” a codependent person can be defined as anyone who has let another person’s behavior affect them, and a person who is obsessed with controlling their behavior.
Codependency can manifest in many ways. We have codependent relationships with people, with money, with status, with a job, and with validation from others. An easy guide to identifying if something is codependent is asking yourself, “Is my self-worth and self-esteem contingent on something outside of myself?”
For most people, the answer is going to be “yes.”
Let’s now look at 5 key signs that you may be involved in a codependent relationship.
1) Your state of contentment, worth, or esteem is contingent on your partner.
This means that unless your partner is giving you attention, you feel less-than. It also means that you can only be happy if your partner is happy, and when they are sad or in pain, you also feel that same level of pain. There’s a fine line between genuine empathy and caretaking. Are you feeling with them, or feeling for them?
2) You are trying to stifle or change parts of yourself to meet your partner’s needs.
Compromise is important in relationships. But it’s no longer a compromise when you feel as though you have to change an inherent part of yourself. Are you telling yourself the narrative that you’re “too much” or “not enough?” If this is the case, you may be trying to force an inorganic relationship.
3) You try to change or control your partner.
You can’t be in love with someone’s potential. Are you trying to change your partner, or are they trying to change you? We do not have the power, as humans, to change another human. We can communicate boundaries and communicate our needs, but what the other person involved does with that boundary is their responsibility, not ours.
4) You have to ask permission or get the approval of your partner before doing something.
This can be borderline abusive, depending on the scenario. Interdependence means you both are whole individuals, with your own autonomy, that can come together and share a life. Codependency means that my actions, thoughts, and beliefs are so intertwined with yours that I cannot tell the difference.
5) You wouldn’t know who you are without your partner.
Coming back to the narrative “You’re my other half,” this is quite frightening. What would happen to you if the relationship ends? If your partner passes away? We must always maintain a healthy foundation of self that is not contingent on our significant other.
If you can relate to any of these, then your relationship has some codependent tendencies. The reality is that the vast majority of relationships will. But fear not! Seeking guidance in these arenas can help your relationship to become much more fulfilling, mutually beneficial, and interdependent.
The Codependent Guide to the 12 Steps – Melody Beattie
Braving the Wilderness – Brene Brown
Hannah Rose, MS, NCC, ACRPS, LCPC is a therapist, writer, and public speaker. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Goucher College in 2012 and continued her studies at Johns Hopkins University, where she received her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in 2015.