9 Ways to Tell If You're a Codependent


Sober Recovery Expert Author

Codependency is a relationship issue that wreaks havoc in many relationships and is more prevalent than most people realize. The term is defined as an unhealthy attachment to another person and has various characteristics.

You may be codependent and not even realize it. Or, you may see the signs but feel powerless to change. If you and your relationship are experiencing some difficulties, it’s a good idea to know if you are struggling with codependency.

Does your relationship seem to be more work than it's worth? Is there unnecessary drama or conflict? If so, chances are you are contending with a codependent relationship.

Here are nine characteristics often linked to codependent behavior.

1. Neediness

If you or your partner are excessively needy, you may be in trouble. Neediness and clinginess tend to cause drama in a relationship. Seeking happiness from your partner will only end up sucking his or her energy dry and keep you feeling lousy.

2. People-Pleasing

If you’re codependent, you love to please people as often as possible. You go out of your way to make others happy because you get such a good feeling from doing so. You’ll go above and beyond even if you are busy or don’t necessarily want to. Approval and affirmation keep you going, but often you will end up resenting others if they do not appreciate all you’ve done for them.

3. Lack of Boundaries

Codependents have a hard time setting and keeping boundaries. It’s tough for them to say no and to stand their ground even when they know they are right. Consequently, they often get taken advantage of because they are so giving, which can affect their emotional life.

4. Little or No Self-Worth

If you or your partner only feel good about yourselves when the other person is affirming, others are defining your self-worth, and this sets you up for disappointment. Sure, a little affirmation is healthy, but relying on your partner to validate you all the time is unhealthy. If you base your life and worth around another person, he or she will never fulfill you.

5. Fear of Abandonment

Do you or your partner go crazy when the other wants to go for a weekend getaway with friends? Do you experience drama or break up? Do you feel abandoned and terrified to be alone?

The fear of abandonment can creep in a relationship and manifest in various ways. If you are staying in the relationship because you are afraid to be alone, you’re exhibiting codependency. If you have an intense fear that your lover will get angry and ultimately leave you because you forgot to lock the door on the way to work, you could be struggling with a deep fear of abandonment.

6. Control and Manipulation

If manipulation and control are going on in the relationship, there are usually also codependent characteristics present. Do you make your partner feel guilty for hanging out with his buddies? Does she manipulate you by withholding sex when you are interested in an outdoor project instead of staying inside with her? Is jealousy running rampant in the relationship? All of these signs point to an unhealthy need for each other.

7. Fear of Conflict

Codependents will do whatever it takes to avoid conflict, even if it means lying or shoving all sorts of emotions away. They’d prefer to seethe or feel distraught inside than have to bring up their issues.

8. Isolation

If you or your partner isolate from friends and family and completely wrap your world around each other, you could be in a codependent relationship. It’s healthy to have at least one or two friends to share life with. When you look towards your partner to fulfill all of your emotional needs, you set yourself up for a world of problems.

9. Taking Things Personally

A codependent person loves it when their partner is happy and will work hard to keep that person happy. So when the partner is sad, the codependent will take it personally. He or she will somehow feel like it’s their fault, and frequently their world will crash down. In reality, the partner could just be struggling with an issue at work or having an internal problem—yet the codependent will assume full responsibility.

Do you recognize you or your partner in any of these characteristics? Codependency traits can undoubtedly create an unhealthy relationship, but the good news is that there is help. With the guidance of a counselor or the 12 Step group Codependents Anonymous, you can break free from codependent habits and create a healthy relationship for you and your partner.

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