It's so easy to give your all to your relationship when you're really, really invested. If you're an especially giving type, you'll enjoy going out of your way to make your partner feel completely loved, wanted, and secure. While there's absolutely nothing wrong with being a devoted partner, experts say there is a such thing as giving too much love. So how do you know if you're in a codependent relationship or if you're simply devoted?
"There is a fine line between healthy relationships and those that are codependent," relationship coach, Jenna Ponaman, CPC, ELI-MP, tells Bustle. "When the line is crossed, the outcome is so severely different."
When you're in a codependent relationship, it can be very intense. You may have a ton of ups and downs. But no matter how many times you try to separate, you can't seem to quit each other. The codependent partner will put a ton of time and energy into the relationship because they want to make sure that their partner is happy. More often than not, they see their relationship as being the center of their universe.
As Jalesa Tucker, relationship expert with the One Love Foundation tells Bustle, it's easy to mistake codependency for love. So here are some signs that your love for your partner may actually be codependency.
1Your Relationship Is Very Unbalanced
"Codependency can be controversial," Jane Reardon, licensed therapist and founder of RxBreakup, tells Bustle. "But in the broad sense, it is a very one-sided unhealthy relationship in which one partner excessively provides and sacrifices their individual desires and needs to please their significant other." In even the healthiest relationships, a perfect balance is pretty hard to achieve. For instance, if one person is going through something, their partner may need to step up a bit. Showing your partner a little more love and support when they're going through a tough time is totally common. But if your relationship is all give and no take a majority of the time, that may be codependency. As Reardon says, your sacrifices need to be reciprocated if you're in a healthy and loving partnership.
2Your Partner's Pain Becomes Your Own
If you love someone, you obviously don't want to see them get hurt. You may even empathize with their pain and struggles. But if you're taking on your partner's pain and burdens as if they were your own, Reardon says that may be a sign of codependency. "While it’s always a plus to be a good listener and to support your partner through the rough patches, if the scales start tipping from the weight of your partner’s emotional woes (that don’t let up), you can quickly move into feeling the life sucked out of you," she says. It's hard to help someone if you're stuck in the same bad space.
3You Feel The Need To Rescue Your Partner
Some like to romanticize the idea of "rescuing" their partner. They think if they stick it out and be supportive, their partner will magically see the light and change for the better. But as Reardon says, this idea of love actually sets you up for being in a codependent relationship. Instead of helping someone with an illness or addiction, she says the other partner becomes an "enabler" since they're always there.
4You Let A Lot Of Things Slide Because You're So "Understanding"
There's a big difference between being an understanding partner and one who's making excuses. If your partner snaps at you once because they're going through something, and you let it slide, that's being understanding. But if your partner is consistently unreliable and you brush it off by telling yourself that's just how they are, that's codependency. "Partners in a healthy relationship take responsibility for themselves," Reardon says. "They become responsible for their internal material and how that may be effecting their behavior, within the relationship," she says.
5You Will Do Anything And Everything For Your Relationship
One of the most obvious indications of codependency is extreme paranoia, usually that a partner will leave, Caleb Backe, Health and Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "This fear also presents itself in the form of obsessive doubt and jealous outbursts," Backe says. If you love someone, you hope that they reciprocate your feelings enough to want to stay with you. But if you're codependent, you will actively do all you can to satisfy your partner's needs for the sake of the relationship. "Some often tolerate and even justify unacceptable behavior, believing that it’s a worthwhile sacrifice," Backe says.
6You Have A "We" Before "Me" Mentality
"When you are really happy with your relationship you can become so emotionally invested in it that you no longer do anything on your own," Tucker says. That's why she says it's so easy to mistake codependency for love. When you're codependent, Tucker says you may change the way you relate to your partner. "You replace 'I' with 'we' and begin to rely on them for affection, self-worth, and emotional support," she says. "In healthy relationships, both partners put equal effort into the relationship and feel comfortable doing things, like going out with friends, independent of each other."
7You Love And Accept Them For Who They Are, Including All Of Their Toxic Flaws
When you love someone you should love and accept them for who they are. But if you're codependent on your partner, you may miss the little toxic red flags of them manipulating your time or placing unrealistic demands on you. But as Licensed Professional Counselor, Julie Williamson, tells Bustle, if they're doing this especially at the beginning of the relationship, they may be showing signs of codependency themselves or even a personality disorder.
So if you're in a codependent relationship, what should you do? As Williamson says, it's important to really take a step back, realize what you're doing and figure out what you want in your relationship. Sometimes seeking professional help to work out any attachment issues may be necessary. Being codependent doesn't necessarily mean that you don't truly love your partner. It just means that you're looking to them for some kind of emotional fulfillment that you can't get by yourself. When you do that, you may be setting yourself up for a toxic dynamic.
"A great myth that we often believe is that if we just keep loving the person or 'helping' them with their issues, they will change," Williamson says. "Research does not support this, and we have to be careful that our desire to 'help' is not actually a sign of our own codependency."
If you have to bend over backwards to get even the slightest bit of affection, just ask yourself, is that really what you want? You deserve to be in a relationship where your partner is just as devoted to you as you are to them. If you really want to, you can have that.