How to Know You're in a Codependent Relationship

In a healthy relationship, the needs of partners are equally met. There is balance, love, and respect received and given by each person. There may be times when one person has to give more than the other, perhaps through difficult times.

However, as long as the balance returns, you can maintain a healthy relationship. Unfortunately, when that balance tips too much or too long, you may find yourself in unhealthy relationship territory.

One sign of an unhealthy relationship is codependency. Wondering how to know you’re in a codependent relationship? It may not be obvious at first, but knowing the signs is the first step in identifying a codependent relationship.

What Is a Codependent Relationship?

In a healthy relationship, both or all partners have equal amounts of power. The partners get an equal voice in major decisions that affect the relationship; both partners give equal amounts of energy, time, focus, or money to the other person.

However, a codependent relationship has a power imbalance. In a codependent relationship, one partner is often giving more of their resources, such as time, energy, focus, or money to the other person. The partner on the receiving end may be taking advantage of these resources either unconsciously or consciously.

Codependent relationships are not only limited to romantic ones. Codependency can happen between a boss and a worker, coworkers or colleagues, friends, or family members.

The imbalance of power in codependent relationships leads to one party’s wants and needs always being taken care of or prioritized over the others. It can be difficult to identify because it can be seen as being supportive or taking care of someone.

While wanting to support or take care of your partner is important in a relationship, if you’re not receiving the same energy back, it can be detrimental. You may lose sight of your own values and needs, which can lead to a breakdown of the relationship and losing sight of yourself.

How to Know You’re In a Codependent Relationship?

Codependent relationships can be difficult to identify because most feel like they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing: supporting and taking care of their partner. Usually, neither partner has malicious intent, so it can be difficult to identify the power imbalance. However, there are signs you can look for.

Codependent relationships can be difficult to identify because most feel like they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing: supporting and taking care of their partner. Usually, neither partner has malicious intent, so it can be difficult to identify the power imbalance. However, there are signs you can look for:

You Want to Change Them

Everyone has differences and managing the difference between you and a partner is key to a healthy relationship. If you’re hoping to change your partner, their preferences, habits or behavior you may be in trouble. 

You Feel Like You Need to Change for Them

If you are forcing yourself to match a partner’s preferences or lifestyle even if you don’t like it, that’s a sign of codependency. If you believe that changing yourself will improve how your partner behaves. If your partner assigns you for being responsible for their behavior and you feel like you need to change to meet their preferences, this can become unworkable. 

You Want to Save Them

If you’re taking on more of a caretaker role, you should take caution as it could mean you’re in a codependent relationship. Many codependent people take on those who are struggling financially, with addiction, or with their mental health because they feel like they can save the other person.

You Don’t Take Time for Yourself

If it feels wrong to be without your partner, that might be a sign of codependency. You might find it hard to do the things you love or do things for yourself. You may also cancel plans of your own or with friends to spend time with your partner to ensure you maintain a connection.

You Can’t Explain Your Feelings

In a codependent relationship, you’re often focused on another person so much that you aren’t processing your feelings about the relationship or how you’re feeling. You’ll have difficulty explaining how you feel about the relationship and often can’t separate the positive from the negative.

You Have Anxiety Being Away From Them

Despite negative feelings, people in codependent relationships have trouble not being with their partners. You may feel anxious when you’re away from them or don’t hear from your partner. You may also have trouble spending time alone because you’d rather focus on someone else.

You Feel Like You Ask for Too Much

In a codependent relationship, there is an imbalance of power. One person is giving more than the other in multiple aspects of the relationship. When the person who takes on more of the mental, physical, or financial burden asks for something or speaks up, they may be told they’re too demanding.

You Get Negative Reactions When Setting Boundaries

Boundaries are important in all kinds of relationships, but especially romantic ones. If bad behavior intensifies when trying to set boundaries, that could be a sign of a codependent relationship. Poor behavior or crossing boundaries will only create distress for both parties in the relationship.

Can You Change a Codependent Relationship or Should You Leave?

Often in a codependent relationship, you can tell something isn’t quite right, but you can’t put your finger on why. But if you realize that you’re in a codependent relationship, is there hope that things can change or should you end the relationship?

Unfortunately, there is no single answer to this question. The answer lies in each individual relationship. It will take effort from both partners to work toward a healthy and balanced relationship.

Seeing a therapist or speaking to family and friends can help you get an outside perspective on the relationship. It’s also important to examine your values to see if they line up with your current relationship.

Setting boundaries is also an important part of any healthy relationship. If your partner doesn’t respect those boundaries, it might be a sign that the relationship isn’t working.

Better, Healthy Relationships

Relationships can bring joy to our lives. Your romantic relationship can be who you feel closest to; with whom you share all parts of your life. Unfortunately, not all relationships, romantic or platonic, can be beneficial.

Unhealthy relationships can take many forms and abuse doesn’t only have to be physical. Verbal and emotional abuse can be just as damaging. Ultimately, ending the relationship can improve your self-image and help you take care of yourself.

If you’re struggling in a relationship or on your own, counseling may be beneficial. Make an appointment to speak to a licensed therapist today.