Does it seem as though you are always making sacrifices in your own life in order to make your partner happy? What are you receiving (if anything) in return? Don’t be afraid if this sounds familiar to you because many people can find themselves enmeshed in a codependent relationship at some point in their lifetime. Recognizing it and taking proactive steps to fix or end the relationship will define you in a whole new light.
What Is a Codependent Relationship?
Before any repairing can take place one must understand the meaning of a true codependent relationship. Psychologists and experts define it as a pattern of behavior in which you are dependent on the approval of someone else for your own happiness, self-worth and identity.
An apparent sign of codependency happens when the sense of fulfilled purpose in your life comes mostly through making extreme sacrifices to satisfy your partner’s needs and make them happy.
“Codependent relationships signify a degree of unhealthy clinginess, where one person doesn’t have self-sufficiency or autonomy,” says Scott Wetzler, PhD, psychology division chief at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “One or both parties depend on their loved ones for fulfillment.”
Anyone can be a codependent and some research suggests that those who had parents who emotionally abused or neglected them in their developmental years are more likely to enter codependent relationships than those with stable, healthy home lives.
“These kids are often taught to subvert their own needs to please a difficult parent, and it sets them up for a long-standing pattern of trying to get love and care from a difficult person,” says Shawn Burn, PhD, a psychology professor at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
“They’re often replaying a childhood pattern filled with development gaps,” Wetzler says.
Answer these questions to Know if you’re in a Codependent Relationship:
Are you unable to find satisfaction in your life outside of a specific person?
Do you recognize unhealthy behaviors in your partner but stay with him or her in spite of them?
Are you giving support to your partner at the cost of your own mental, emotional, and physical health?
“Individuals can also assume they are in a codependent relationship if people around them have given them feedback that they are too dependent on their partner or if they have a desire, at times, for more independence but feel an even stronger conflict when they attempt to separate in any way,” says psychologist Seth Meyers.
“They’ll feel anxiety more consistently than any other emotion in the relationship,” Meyers says, “and they’ll spend a great deal of time and energy either trying to change their partner or … trying to conform to their partner’s wishes.”
What is the impact of a Codependent Relationship
It is unhealthy to give up your own identity, desires and needs in order to satisfy the needs of your partner.
“You can become burned out, exhausted, and begin to neglect other important relationships,” Burn says. “And if you’re the enabler in a codependent relationship — meaning you promote the other person’s dysfunctions — you can prevent them from learning common and needed life lessons.”
How to Change a Codependent Relationship
Ending the relationship is not always the answer. Setting appropriate boundaries between partners, spending time alone following your own desires and seeking out your own happiness is a good beginning. Talking and setting goals for your relationship can also greatly improve the codependent dynamic.
“It’s also important to spend time with relatives, friends, and family to broaden the circle of support,” she says. “Find hobbies of your own. Try separating for certain periods of time to create a healthy dependence on one another.”