Most people will agree that a relationship should be equal, with both give and take. In your relationship, do you find yourself always bailing your partner out and making excuses for them? Do you always put them first, even at the expense of your own physical and mental health? Do you need their approval and need them to need you? If you’re reluctantly nodding your head, and recognizing these things in yourself, then you could be in a codependent relationship.
So, what is a codependent relationship?
It isn’t a bad thing to want to make your partner happy and it isn’t a bad thing to do nice things for them, but it is bad if you never stop to think about yourself and your own wellbeing. If your partner is a severe alcoholic, even abusive, yet you pretend to yourself and everyone else that everything is okay, whilst still doing everything you possibly can to make them happy, then you’re probably stuck in a codependent relationship. It doesn’t even have to be an abusive relationship, you might simply feel anxiety at the thought of leaving them or only feel happy when you are with them. Quite simply, a codependent relationship is one where you are dependent on someone else’s approval to enable your own sense of worth and identity.
It might be that other people in your life have noticed and are concerned for you but every relationship is different and only you can answer whether or not you are truly happy in your relationship, or if you deserve more. Sometimes it’s easy to settle for less than we deserve because we don’t believe in ourselves, or we don’t think we’ll ever meet that Mr. Right. You might have had bad experiences but the first step to moving on and being happy is recognizing that you are in a less healthy relationship than you need or deserve.
So, what can you do about it?
You might think ‘Why would I want to do anything about it?’. After all, one of the possible signs of being codependent is only being happy when you are with them, which doesn’t sound so terrible really. However, you might start to neglect your friends, family, work and everything else in your life that should mean something to you. Hopefully it doesn’t happen, but if you and your partner break up, don’t you want a life that you can return to, with people who love and support you. Even if you don’t break up, isn’t it nice to have a confidante who you can share everything with; your mum, sister or even your best friend from college. If you don’t have that network of people, you could easily feel trapped and alone, and those are the kind of feelings that can easily lead to depression if you aren’t careful. So, remember you are an individual as well as part of a couple – you can have your own hobbies, your own friends and your own life. You might be happier with your partner but it doesn’t mean you can’t be happy with the rest of your life too.
It’s okay to be a little dependent on your partner and be there for them when they need you but keep it at a healthy level where you are still capable of looking after yourself too. It’s important to set clear boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not, and be honest with yourself when you do it- what can you really cope with? You don’t have to break up instantly, but if your partner is not willing to make these changes then ask yourself if they really care about you for the right reasons, shouldn’t they want you to be happy too?