You don’t have to be a slave to attachment issues. Learn some signs of codependent relationships and how to deal with them!
If you’ve ever had trouble getting your life back on the rails because you ignored school and work to dive headfirst into being 100% available for someone else, you could have a thing for codependent relationships.
Some people have codependent attachment patterns—they only feel satisfied if they make massive sacrifices for their partner. Folks in codependent relationships seemingly use all their time and effort to make significant others’ lives easier, no matter how hard it makes their own!
You might have little interest in work, maintaining other relationships, or doing things that are important to you when not in a relationship. It’s normal to be clingy and attached to some extent in a healthy relationship.
But when it starts affecting life in negative ways, an attachment can become a codependency.
This is not a death sentence for every relationship unless the partnership is actually toxic! Instead, it can be viewed as an opportunity to recognize what’s happening so that a person (and their partner) can both change and improve!
Before we talk about some coping skills for codependent relationships, let’s learn a little more about this exceedingly needy sitch.
What is codependency?
Codependency is a behavior pattern in which the only self-worth comes from putting others first. In relationships, a desire to take care of the other partner becomes problematic and starts affecting other parts of an individual’s life.
The origins of codependency start at a young age. It’s common for people in codependent relationships to have a difficult childhood history, which may include:
- Learning that their needs are less important than parents’ needs
- Being taught that it’s selfish to think about themselves instead of their parents
- Living with family members who are chronically ill and require care
- Repressing the feelings and emotions associated with physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
Because this relationship pattern establishes itself early in life, it’s common to end up in the same types of relationships as an adult. When individuals learn that they can please the people around them by neglecting their own needs, a sense of self-worth develops around tirelessly helping without any reward (except being needed).
This can cause a gap in emotional development, leading to unhealthy behaviors as folks support partners at their own expense.
Signs of codependent relationships
Sometimes it’s hard to recognize that you’re in a codependent relationship because the pattern feels so natural. A partner may be reacting within the relationship the same way that parents (or childhood caregivers, etc.) showed a codependent person.
But the first step in how to deal with codependent relationships is recognizing them. And you can put your relationship to the test by learning what a codependent relationship looks like. It's a smart idea to seek professional help if you have this fear. But experts say that you may be in a codependent relationship if any of these sentences are true:
- You get no happiness outside of your relationship.
- You know your relationship is dysfunctional, but you’re afraid of changing it.
- You’re supporting your partner at the cost of your own well-being.
- Your friends and family have mentioned that you need to develop some independence.
- You’re used to feeling stressed out about your relationship.
How to deal with codependent relationships
If you recognize the signs and suspect a relationship is a codependent one, great work! Identifying the pattern is the first part of healing.
The next part is a lot of self-work, and a professional—such as a therapist—can be crucial. You might wonder how some of the steps advised by experts help the relationship since they're all focused on you.
But that’s the point, fam!
Codependency is a relationship pattern that often develops early in life, which means individuals probably spent a lot of years having no idea what makes them tick outside of a romantic (or parent-child) relationship.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker Sharon Martin outlines the following changes:
- "Instead of denying your own needs, prioritize self-care."
- “Instead of compulsively trying to fix or take care of others, let others make their own choices.”
- “Instead of seeking approval from others, value yourself.”
- “Instead of judging and criticizing yourself, practice self-compassion.”
- “Instead of people-pleasing, develop a stronger sense of self.”
- “Instead of being a martyr, ask for help.”
- “Instead of letting people take advantage of your kindness, set boundaries and be assertive.”
What if you can’t turn off the second-guessing and relationship fears?
Relationships are tough when codependency makes its presence known. The toughest part might be knowing that you have these patterns but feeling powerless to make a change.
You do have the power to break the cycle of codependency, even if it seems like an obstacle you can’t climb. First, there are resources available to people who live with codependency:
- Codependents Anonymous (CoDA), a support group with local branches across the nation
- Licensed counseling from someone who understands codependency, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, marriage counselor, or family therapist
If you think you are in a bad relationship or have a pattern of being in codependent ones, seek out the help of professionals and the support of trusted family and friends. They can give you an outside perspective.
But if you are just having regular ol’ relationship issues, we’ve got some other—less-serious but still kinda serious and useful—blogs for you. Check these out:
- I Got 99 Problems, but None of Them Are Live-in Relationship Problems
- Be More Present: Mindfulness in Relationships Is a Game-Changing Secret