A codependent person’s life revolves entirely around their partner’s. Their identity becomes absorbed into the whole of the relationship. They risk losing sight of who they are as an individual. Their self-worth is totally contingent on their partner’s approval, and they’ll do whatever it takes to please them—even if it makes them miserable and renders them unrecognizable to family and friends.
But actually realizing you’re in a codependent relationship is another matter altogether. It’s good to know what to look out for—and how to make the necessary changes to save yourself.
What are the signs of a codependent relationship?
- Your partner is critical and controlling—and you comply to keep the peace: This is a classic telltale sign of narcissistic abuse. Narcissists thrive off being pleased and pandered to, while codependents are generally people pleasers by nature. This creates a seemingly inescapable cycle. Beware anyone who puts you down, dismisses you, or diminishes your worth. If you’re constantly going to inordinate lengths to win your partner’s approval, and at great expense to your happiness and wellbeing, it’s worth stopping to think: What am I doing to win my own approval?
- You hate saying ‘no’: You generally fear or feel guilt or anxiety at the prospect of having to reject your partner’s wishes. You may pretend to agree with them because it just seems easier in the moment. This loss of self can lead to a sense of dissociation, disconnecting you from the relationships with family and friends.
- Your relationship is a one-way street: The co- in codependency can be a little misleading. You may think it implies the overreliance flows equally from both parties. But it’s more often the case that one partner needs the other, who in turn depends on the feeling of being needed. Codependents regularly put their partner’s needs above their own, and exert pretty much all the effort in the day-to-day maintenance of the relationship. They may even feel uncomfortable being on the receiving end of an uncharacteristically kind gesture, not knowing how to respond. But of course, a healthy relationship comprises continual acts of reciprocal love and affection. If you lack self-esteem, your endless drive to please your partner may feel altruistic, but it’s probably just denial.
How do I get out of a codependent relationship?
- Get to know yourself: Codependents sometimes struggle with a sense of who they are, because their identity has for so long been tied to their partner’s. It’s therefore vital to take time for yourself, exploring who you are and what you want. Being true to yourself is difficult at first, but making a list of all your best qualities and all your interests you’d like to nurture is an excellent place to start.
- Break the trauma bond: A codependent relationship may not be love, but manipulation. You feel stuck; you feel you can’t survive without them. This addiction to their approval is often compounded by a process called intermittent reinforcement, whereby your partner is sometimes kind, sometimes cruel, and the pattern is entirely unpredictable. A codependent person is highly susceptible to this behavior because they just want those around them to be happy. A manipulative person is cognizant of this, and uses their good nature against them. If this so-called trauma bond carries on long enough, the recipient experiences self-doubt. Maybe their partner calls them crazy, gaslights them. The only way out of this cycle is complete detachment from the situation. Cut contact. Surround yourself with those who truly hold your best interests at heart. You may need to seek professional help to understand how the trauma bond has harmed you, how to undo its deleterious effects, and how to one day love again—only this time with an attachment that’s healthy, not codependent.
- Learn to say ‘no’: Despite the immense pressure you feel in the moment, there’s not actually any overriding, objective, cosmic reason for you to submit to your partner’s every demand. If you don’t want to go along, refuse. Tell them you’re not interested. It’s difficult, especially at first, but it’s an incredibly powerful way to take some power back into your life.
You are worth more than this
No one deserves to be in an unhappy relationship, especially one in which they’re put down, degraded, or made to feel small. You deserve better. And if you need a little extra advice, we can help.
Maclynn International is a boutique, multi-award-winning introductions agency with offices in New York, California, and London. We’re world-renowned for bringing together highly compatible singles, and our matchmakers are eminent relationship experts in their own right. So if you think you might be in a codependent relationship or are struggling with the aftereffects of one, we’re here to listen. Get in touch today, and let’s set you on the path to meeting that special someone you truly deserve—and who deserves you.