If you love someone, you set them free. There is much truth to this adage. Love sets you free, it doesn’t bind you. But when a person’s happiness, his needs, and his life, and even his identity revolves around another person and he forgets all about his own needs and his own life, maybe it’s time to take a step back. These could be signs of a codependent relationship.
What is a codependency?
Maybe this describes you. Or maybe this describes your partner. In a codependent relationship, two people are so invested in each other that they can’t function independently anymore. In such a relationship, one person is usually more passive and indecisive. The other partner, however, takes a more dominant role, enjoys being the ‘caretaker,’ and acts as an enabler.
The passive partner depends upon the other for approval for his or her self-worth and identity. The enabler, on the other hand, often enables the partner’s addictive behavior, forgetting their own self and their own needs. Generally, the people in such a relationship often act in this manner subconsciously and unknowingly.
Codependency is often called a ‘relationship addiction.’ It is an unhealthy trait since many people with codependency have a tendency to end up in mutually destructive and/or abusive relationships. Thus, it is important to recognize the signs and realize that this is something that can be resolved.
Signs of a codependent relationship
- When your relationship lacks boundaries, it’s a sign of codependency. It is important to recognize and respect boundaries in a relationship. It is important to realize that one partner is not responsible for the other partner’s mood or happiness. Everyone has a right to his or her feelings and autonomy.
- In such a relationship, generally, both partners have low self-esteem. One partner always needs the approval of and validation from the other. The second partner feels a sense of purpose and worthiness only when they are of service to others.
- Self-denying behaviour in a relationship often points to codependency. A codependent person forgoes his or her needs and prioritizes others’ well-being over their own. Many a time, the person feels guilty or anxious even thinking about being assertive and vocal about their own needs.
- Excessive people-pleasing is indicative of low self-worth and low self-esteem. While we all want other people to like us, trying to please everyone all the time is an unhealthy habit. It is important to learn to be able to say no when it is needed.
- A person who is codependent derives his or her self-worth by seeking validation from others, or by pleasing others all the time. This results in him or her reacting to situations rather than responding consciously and proactively. Such a person internalizes criticism and gets defensive easily.
- There is a correlation between substance abuse and codependency. Codependency may arise when a person is in a relationship with someone who has an addiction. This could be an addiction to a substance or it could be a behavioral addiction like shopping or gambling. The ‘caretaker’ is the one who usually enables such behaviour.
- There is a lack of effective communication in a codependent relationship. The ‘caretaker’ often denies his or her own needs. Even if such a person wants to express his or her needs and wants, they are hesitant about doing so out of guilt or even fear that that the partner might leave.
These behaviors and tendencies are often a result of being raised in a dysfunctional environment. These tendencies often play out on a subconscious level. Realizing the signs is the first step. These toxic tendencies need to be brought to light and being aware of them is essential.
Counseling may prove helpful. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been proven effective in helping people find meaning in their own lives independent of others. Take time out for yourself and do things that you once enjoyed to reclaim your identity. Good luck!