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Are you co-dependent in your relationship?

By Lea Rose Emery

When you picture a happy relationship, you probably imagine a couple cuddled up on the couch or going for walks in the park — or celebrating big milestones. Spending quality time together is such an important part of a relationship — developing trust, creating memories, and building a life together. But sometimes all of this relationship-building can get out of hand. Your relationship should be something that makes your life better – not something that consumes your life and starts to define who you are as a person. When a relationship becomes codependent, it's definitely gone too far.

The truth is, it can be a slippery slope between spending a lot of your time together and suddenly finding that you have become dependent on each other — the line between a healthy, close relationship and an unhealthy one isn't always as clear as we'd like it to be.

So how can you tell if your relationship is codependent? Here are some signs to look out for.

1. You feel uncomfortable when they're not around 

One of the great things about being in a strong, healthy relationship is that there's a foundation for living the rest of your life. You have this solid grounding that makes you feel more confident as you go out and do things as an independent person, outside of the relationship. If, however, you find that you feel incredibly comfortable and happy with your partner, but not when you're out on your own, then that can be a problem. 

Sometimes the issue is really clear. You feel anxious, worried, or even unwell if your partner isn't present — there’s an obvious effect on your mental health. But codependency can also be more subtle. It might just be that you don't feel 100% confident without them there or that you realize you don’t know what to say or how to interact with people. If your sense of self has become that tied up in your relationship, then you need to take a step back and try to reclaim some of your independence.

2. You’ll do anything to keep the relationship going  

Being in a codependent relationship isn’t just about spending a lot of time together or needing each other — it’s also about the lengths you go to to keep the relationship happy. Or, at least, to keep it going.  If you find you avoid confrontation, put all of your needs to one side, pretend that the relationship is happy even when it isn't— all those little things people do to act like unhealthy relationships are actually working — that can be a major sign of codependency. You've become so reliant on the relationship that you — and maybe your partner — are willing to do anything, even though you deserve better. In the most serious cases, this might mean putting up with toxic or even abusive behavior. 

3. They make you feel guilty for leaving them 

Don't assume that codependency will always come from you. Sometimes codependency is a two-way street, sometimes it's just one way. You might notice that your partner makes you feel guilty if you go out and spend time with your friends — or do anything without them. If you feel like you're not allowed to live your life, focus on succeeding at work, or even spend time with your family, then your partner might be codependent with you. They may get angry, they may silently guilt-trip you, they may start an argument — none of it is OK. And by putting up with it, you’re still participating in, and a part of, the codependency. 

4. Your friends have noticed a shift 

Sometimes, our friends noticed that our relationship is going wrong before we do. If you always assume that your partner is invited to events or you only socialize in a pair, there's a good chance your friends have become annoyed. Maybe they've said something to you, maybe they've just slowly drifted away — but if your friends have given up on socializing with you solo, then that's normally a sign that something is off in the relationship. If you're not sure, asking friends and family if they think it's normal can be a good starting point.

5. You can't imagine life after a breakup 

OK, it's totally normal to find the idea of breaking up with your partner horrible, gut-wrenching, even difficult to imagine — but there is a huge difference between feeling like a breakup would be a disaster and genuinely not knowing how you would go on without the relationship. 

No matter how much you love your partner, no matter how strong your relationship, life goes on. If you really feel like you don't know how you would live your life without your relationship, then it’s important you take a step back. Maybe you just need to reconnect with your autonomy, maybe you need professional support — but start trying to get your independence back. 

Having a close, intimate relationship is great — but having an insular, dependent relationship is not. For some of us, it’s not easy to walk the line between the two. Having your own hobbies, friends, and just emotional space is so crucial. If you find that you don’t have that — or don't like the idea of that — it’s time to reconsider your attitude toward your relationship. The strongest relationship have room for independence. 


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