A wife puts on a smile and covers up for her husband when he drinks too much--again.
A mother makes excuses when her daughter acts up at school--again.
A father pulls some strings to keep his son out of trouble with the law--again.
What’s the common link between these three scenarios? Each one displays classic signs of codependency.
While the term “codependent” often refers to a relationship, it can also apply to dysfunctional families or toxic friendships. The end result is always the same--one person gives, and the other takes.
How do you know if you or someone you love is codependent? In this post, we’ll examine eight key signs of a codependent relationship.
1. Your Life Revolves Around Your Partner
Do you feel as if you’ve given up control of your life? Do your days and nights revolve around trying to care for your partner--or conform yourself to their wishes?
One of the biggest signs of codependency is sacrificing for others while ignoring your own needs. Worse still, people with codependent personalities tend to attract partners that are emotionally needy or unstable.
Thus begins a vicious cycle of you always giving while your partner always takes. You may even feel that your life has no purpose or meaning outside of trying to make your partner happy.
2. You Find It Difficult To Say “No”
The inability to say “no” is another common sign of codependency.
Codependents are people-pleasers. They often have little self-worth and are constantly seeking the approval of others.
If the codependent relationship is with an addict or abuser, this inability to say “no” could be based on genuine fear. You may worry about how your partner will react--verbally, physically, or emotionally.
For this reason, you may find yourself simply agreeing or keeping quiet to avoid confrontation.
3. You Suffer From Low Self-Esteem
Do you always feel like nothing you do is good enough? Do you constantly put yourself down or compare yourself to others?
If so, you’re a prime candidate for entering a codependent relationship. In fact, one study found that low self-confidence was the strongest predictor of codependent behavior.
Codependent people often feel like the victim, especially when their efforts aren’t appreciated. This leads them to try to “control” the other person through shame, guilt, or manipulation.
In most cases, these behaviors aren’t malicious. Most of the time, the codependent person isn’t even aware they’re doing it.
4. You Make Excuses For Your Partner’s Behavior
Like the scenarios cited at the opening, examples of codependency often center around making excuses or covering up for the other person.
Most of the time, the codependent person realizes their partner has a serious problem. This could involve alcohol, drugs, physical or verbal abuse, or run-ins with the law.
Rather than trying to help their partner overcome the problem, a codependent person will cover it up. They’ll lie and say their partner is sick when in reality they’re hung over.
They might even go so far as to blame the addict’s or abuser’s behavior on their own faults. “I made him do it,” or “If I were a better husband, she wouldn’t behave that way” are common things a codependent person may say.
5. You Feel Disrespected Or Devalued
Because many codependent personalities end up with emotionally unstable partners, an unhealthy cycle forms.
The codependent person spends all their time and energy trying to help or change their partner. Their partner, meanwhile, is enabled to continue their pattern of abuse or addiction.
Over time, you may lose your remaining self-respect. This will happen more quickly if your partner belittles your efforts or abuses you physically or emotionally.
You may even feel ashamed of what’s happening in your relationship, but you’re too afraid--or ashamed--to seek help.
6. You Always Feel Anxious Or Drained
Codependent people tend to give and give and give--until there’s nothing left.
If you’re suffering from physical or emotional burnout, chances are you’re in a codependent relationship. Over time, you’ll start to neglect yourself, your work, and other people who are important to you.
Anxiety is also a common emotion when you’re in a codependent relationship. This could range from anxiety over your partner’s moods and behavior to anxiety about your own failings.
7. You’re A Rescuer Or Enabler
Have you ever been described as a knight in shining armor? Is your goal in life to swoop down and save everyone who needs your help?
Interestingly, the five most common characteristics of codependency are:
Strong Belief in Rescuing Others
Strong Belief in the Ability to Change Others
Trying to Control People and Situations
Exaggerated Sense of Responsibility
Depending on Others for Sense of Self-Worth
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with trying to help someone--especially your partner. But if you do so at a great personal cost to yourself, is it really of any benefit?
The problem worsens if you’re involved with an alcoholic or someone with another form of addiction. Your efforts to “save” the person will, in reality, only enable them to continue their self-destructive course.
8. You’re Too Afraid To Leave
One of the final signs of a codependent relationship is that you’re afraid to leave it.
This could stem from a fear of failure. You may feel that you’re “abandoning” your partner and they won’t survive without you.
If your partner is abusive, you could also have a legitimate fear of their reaction if you tried to leave. In either case, the relationship is not a healthy one.
Do You See Signs Of Codependency?
If you see any signs of codependency in your marriage, don’t despair. Codependent relationships can be repaired--as long as both partners are willing to work together.
Many couples have strengthened their relationship with the help of an experienced marriage counselor.
If you’d like to learn more, we invite you to contact us today. We’re here to help you take that first step to getting your relationship back on track.
Sam Nabil was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English, The Washington post, The Boston Globe, Fatherly magazine, Women's health magazine, Cornell university , Yahoo News, USA Today, Marriage.com