What Does A Codependent Relationship Look Like? 5 Questions To Ask Yourself
Codependent relationships are some of most destructive you can be in — because you don't always know how to tell if you're in a codependent relationship in order to change it. It can happen slowly and, the truth is, you often miss the signs because people don't have a great understanding of what codependency actually is.
"Codependency has become a buzzword, and people sometimes misunderstand what it means to be codependent. It is important to remember that in a healthy relationship, it is absolutely OK to depend on your partner," Holly Daniels, PhD, LMFT, clinical systems director at Sober College, tells Bustle. "Humans are biologically wired to be in relationships, and relationships work best when two people are able to trust one another, lean on one another, and comfort one another. In a healthy relationship, there is a balance between each partner’s ability to be independent and their ability to enjoy mutual support with the other partner. In some relationships, however, one or both partners value the relationship much more than they value their own health and well-being. This is called codependence."
But it's not just about spending too much time together — although that can be part of it. It's a more deep-rooted issue that comes down to your own insecurities and the type of attachments that develop in your relationship. And Daniels says you may be able to tell if you're prone to codependence by taking a look back at your childhood.
"Codependence isn’t something you just fall into — it is a dynamic that stems from insecure attachment — a pattern of relating that is formed early in our lives," Daniels says. "The number one way to know if you are likely to engage in a codependent relationship is to look back at your childhood and see if you had healthy or secure attachments with your parental units. If your parents were able to model for you a healthy balance of being able to rely both on other people and on yourself, you probably won’t fall into codependent patterns. But, if you didn’t have the healthiest of relationships with your parents, you might be prone to codependence."
But being in a codependent relationship doesn't necessarily mean you're insecure or submissive. "You might be the codependent person in the relationship, or you may be in a relationship with a codependent person," Daniels says. You may be in a relationship where your partner is dependent on you.
If you want to figure out whether or not your relationship is codependent, you need to ask yourself the tough questions. Daniels suggests that you ask yourself the following:
1. Do You Or Your Partner Need Constant Assurance?
The first thing Daniels said you should look at is your fear of breaking up. She said you should ask yourself: "Are you or your partner always worried that the other will break off the relationship? Do either of you need constant assurance that you are loved?" Needing to be constantly reassured is a sign something is amiss.
2. Do You Test Each Other?
"Do you or your partner come up with little tests to get attention from the other?" Daniels says. "Do you or your partner act flirtatiously with people outside of the relationship to make the other jealous, or threaten to leave just so you can be begged to stay?" Testing each other is another sign that you need reassurance — you're constantly making your partner prove that they want to be with you (or they're making you prove it).
3. Do You Make Excuses For Each Other?
Be honest: "Do either of you make excuses for the other’s bad or disrespectful behavior, or avoid direct conversations about the state of the relationship?"
If you treat each other badly and then cover for each other, then it's a sign that you're not really facing what's going on in your relationship.
4. Do You Define Yourself By Your Relationship?
Daniels says you should ask yourself: "Do you or your partner define yourselves by the relationship? Do you have difficulty being alone?" If your relationship is not just a part of who you are, but all of who you are — that's not healthy.
5. How Intense Is Your Relationship?
Ah, the old relationship drama. You might not see fighting a lot as a sign of codependence, but it can be. "Is there a lot of tension or intensity in your relationship, and do either of you secretly enjoy the ‘drama’ of frequent breakups and reunions?," Daniels asks. It could mean that you might be too reliant on each other and the relationship.
Now, you don't have to check off every box in order to have a codependent relationship. "If you answered 'Yes' to even a few of these questions, you are probably in a codependent relationship," she says. It may be tough to admit, but it doesn't mean that your relationship is doomed. If you can acknowledge that your relationship is unhealthy, then you should bring it up with your partner. See if you can work through it together and get to healthier place — or if it's time to move on.