Codependent behaviour is a dysfunction within a relationship that is one-sided. What are the signs of a codependent relationship?
The main symptoms are one-half of the relationship relying solely on the other to provide almost all of their emotional needs and self-esteem. In more extreme cases, this can lead to one-half of the relationship enabling and even supporting the other’s irresponsible or addictive behaviours.
There are a number of symptoms to look out for when dealing with a codependent relationship. Here are five of the key symptoms so that you can figure out if you are in a codependent relationship or not.
1. Weak Boundaries
Every relationship needs some kind of boundaries in place so that both parties can have their own freedoms whilst still enjoying the relationship. Boundaries set out what is yours and what is someone else’s. Primary examples are money and possessions, but other examples are your feelings, opinions, and needs.
Codependent relationships tend to have weak boundaries. The codependent can feel as though they are responsible for how the dependent feels or their problems. This can even go to the extent of financing their reckless behaviours.
2. Sacrificial Caretaking
It is natural in a relationship to care about the other person and want to take care of their needs. But if a relationship is codependent, this can turn nasty. As a result of the poor boundaries, the codependent can begin to put the needs of the dependent at a higher priority than their own. This can leave them emotionally strung out and wounded, and can even cause financial difficulties and low work performance.
3. Moulded Opinions and Low Self-Esteem
Another consequence of the weak boundaries is the fact that the codependent can begin to simply believe what is being told to them. Boundaries allow you to separate people’s opinions from the truth, but the weaker the boundary, the harder this is to do. This can lead to low self-esteem if the dependent lashes out, or if the codependent does not feel as though they are providing enough support and love for the dependent. This feeling of not being good enough can make you feel inadequate and unlovable.
4. Controlling Behaviours
Everybody needs control in their lives so that they don’t live in constant chaos, but codependents need more. Control gives them the opportunity to limit any potential risk and gives them a way of ignoring their feelings. This can filter into relationships because they need people to act in a certain way so that they can be assured that everything is okay. This is not usually meant in a bossy or manipulative way, it is simply an expression of the lack of control they really feel.
When you love someone, the last thing you want to do is admit if there is a problem because they don’t want to face it. Their compulsions and denial have worked thus far and they’re not willing to see the consequences of what is happening. They will deny their feelings and needs to the point that they are unsure what their feelings and needs may even be. This happens because they are much more focused on the feelings and needs of other people.
Codependents may not be very accepting of help and will make an effort to show themselves as autonomous. But in actuality, they are much more vulnerable than they seem.
Codependent relationships can be difficult and can have some serious consequences if something doesn’t change. The good news is, though, that a relationship doesn’t need to end in order to break the cycle of codependency. It just needs to change.
Begin by setting clear boundaries.
The main issue of a codependent relationship is the fact that there are no clear boundaries in play. Set clear boundaries as to what you are willing to share and what you would like to remain yours. This is the first step in breaking the cycle, which can make a huge difference.
Be aware that it can be difficult to break old habits. So don’t be afraid to speak up when you feel that a particular boundary has been broken. This way, you stop it happening again in the future.
Be Honest and Open Communication Channels.
Codependent relationships lack in communication because the codependent is quick to sacrifice their own wants and needs in favour of the dependent’s.
Often times the dependent won’t realise how the codependent is feeling. That’s why opening up channels of honest communications of thoughts and feelings can make a huge difference. Allowing the communication to flow can help you change the relationship for the better. It will also help you create a healthier balance of the needs of both of you.
Take Care of Yourself.
Everyone needs their own time. Going above and beyond for someone, whilst simultaneously ignoring what you want and need can really leave you lying in the wayside. Turn your attention to what you would like to be doing and what you need. Create a space for you to do the things you enjoy, assess your work situation and build a plan to build back the areas of your life you have neglected. Being a more rounded individual can help you to become more equal in your relationship.
Sometimes a codependent relationship cannot be easily solved between the couple themselves. Reaching out to professional help and organisations can help the codependent to learn more about respecting themselves and how to ask for that respect within a romantic relationship. Although it can be scary to reach out for help, it can ultimately be very rewarding in the relationship itself.
Although it can be easy to say, ‘Get out,’ when someone is in a codependent relationship, working towards a solution for both parties can help them both learn and grow so that these behaviours are non-existent in the future.
By Francesca F.