Relationships are complicated and, although they bring great joy, they also bring challenges. Often, there are things you don’t understand about yourself until you’re involved in an intimate relationship, and one of those things is codependence. Although most relationships experience a mild to moderate level of codependence at times, truly codependent relationship are unbearable and personal growth is almost impossible. Codependency is based on a feeling that you cannot exist or be happy without the other person.
Codependency may appear to be a close, intense love. However, on a psychological level, you’re giving your power or complete control to another, limiting your ability to develop your own interests and beliefs. Essentially, you cannot exist without your partner; you constantly need their reassurance and validation for everything and become their shadow. You’re no longer a partner – you’re an appendage.
If this sounds like the relationship you’re currently involved in, here are a few warning signs to be aware of and how they compare to a healthy relationship.
Codependency: You blame others (mostly your partner) for your unhappiness. If you’ve given someone else your personal power then you’re frustrated when they don’t fulfill your needs.
Healthy relationships: You take responsibility for your own happiness and understand that others can’t truly make you happy. Your reactions and choices determine how you’ll feel.
Codependency: You can’t live without the other person. It sounds sweet to hear this or say it, but it’s actually dangerous and unhealthy.
Healthy relationships: In a healthy relationship, you have freedom to grow and become the best version of yourself you can be. This allows you to develop resilience. You don’t want to go through life without your partner, but if something happened, you would be able to survive.
Codependency: You’re more like a parent then a partner. You can’t have a normal relationship if you’re the one in charge of your partner’s self-care. This victimizes both partners; one gives up their power and the other grows resentful of their partner for not taking care of themselves.
Healthy relationships: In a healthy relationship, both partners leave their parents and are whole people looking for a whole partner.
Codependency: You try to control outcomes and situations because your relationship is based on a fear of being alone. Codependency happens when one or both partners is afraid of losing each other and being alone. This is the couple who needs to do everything together; they may appear to be very close, but it’s a closeness based on fear and a need to control.
Healthy relationships: There is freedom to move and think on your own within the relationship. You can develop hobbies or attend events without needing your partner’s participation.
Don’t be surprised if you see you and your partner in a few of the examples. Having a fear of losing your partner and taking extra care of your partner when they are under duress is normal. However, if you begin seeing more signs of codependency, consider going on a marriage retreat or to counseling to bring independence back into your relationship. The hallmark of a healthy relationship is feeling free to learn about yourself and your interests within a secure loving relationship. –Mary Jo Rapini