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The Warning Signs of a Co-Dependent Relationship

We often hear about co-dependent relationships but it’s not always clear exactly what they are and how we can spot the warning signs of a co-dependent relationship. The term codependency was first used nearly 50 years ago to describe unhealthy relationships involving excessive control or compliance, often with one partner lacking self-sufficiency and autonomy. Negatively reinforcing behaviours can make a person reliant on another for happiness and they often reinforce these responses with overtly caring behaviour.

How to spot a co-dependent relationship

These relationships are usually very one sided and can have a very negative impact on a person’s long term happiness, creating feelings of anxiety, exhaustion and depression.

These questions can be used to spot a co-dependent relationship:

  • Is your partner’s approval vital for your happiness, identity and self-worth?

  • Do you support your partner’s behaviour at the cost of your mental, emotional or physical health?

  • Do you often feel anxious?

  • Do you overlook unacceptable or destructive behaviour from your partner to appease them and avoid conflict?

  • Do you feel you make a lot more sacrifices than they do?

  • Do you neglect your friends, family or hobbies?

  • Are you always the caregiver?

  • Do you feel like what you do is rarely good enough?

  • Do you or your partner often display passive-aggressive traits?

  • Do other people often find your behaviour with your partner shocking?

  • Is your mood dictated by your partner’s?

  • Do you blame yourself when your partner is unhappy?

  • Do you go out of your way to hide any of your partner’s behavior from others?

  • Do you have trouble pinpointing your own feelings or thoughts or feel as though they aren’t important?

What to do if you see signs of a co-dependent relationship

If you see these signs of codependency within yourself or your relationship, you’ve taken an important first step. Learn to identify these behaviours and think about how they make you feel. Try setting more boundaries with your partner and try to find happiness as an individual through time with family, friends or hobbies. This will help you move towards a healthy dependence.


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