What is a Codependent Relationship? – Signs, Symptoms and Solutions

Codependent relationships involve two people who are emotionally dependent on each other in an unhealthy way. One person may be overly reliant on the other for their validation or sense of self-worth, while the other may feel obligated to fill this need even though they don’t realize they’re doing it. This does not only happen in romantic relationships, but can also occur in friendships and family relationships.

A common characteristic of codependent relationships is that there would also be a power imbalance between the two parties, where one person has more control over the other’s feelings and decisions than they should.

In addition, codependent relationships tend to be very intense and all-encompassing due to the strong emotional connection that exists between the parties.

Let’s take a look at what makes a codependent relationship, why it is so dangerous, and how to recognize it in your own life.

Why are Codependent Relationships Unhealthy?

Codependent relationships rely on an unhealthy amount of emotional reliance on another person. This can lead to feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and distrust in the relationship.

Codependency creates a power imbalance between two people, with one being overly dependent on the other. This could cause larger issues when it comes to making decisions and resolving disagreements in the relationship.

The codependent partner is more likely to put their own needs aside and prioritize their significant other’s wants and needs over their own, which can lead to resentment later down the line.

When a codependent person finds themselves solely relying their happiness on their partner, it can take away from time for personal growth that could help improve self-confidence and independence within the relationship.

Codependent partners have trouble communicating clearly without taking it personally or becoming defensive. This makes it incredibly difficult for both parties to understand each other’s needs and feel secure in the relationship as a result.

When one partner is constantly trying to “fix” their significant other’s problems or relying too much on them for support without offering any in return, it can become draining for both people involved in the relationship very quickly.

Without true mutual respect between partners, codependency oftentimes turns into manipulation or control as one partner begins to try and hold power over the other out of fear they may be abandoned or rejected. This creates an unhealthy environment which is not conducive to the equal partnership dynamics that are healthy for all parties involved in a relationship.

How Can I Recognize a Codependent Relationship?

There are several signs that you may be in a codependent relationship, such as depending on your partner for emotional support, relying on your partner for financial stability, or feeling like you need their approval before making decisions.

Other signs include feeling like you have no control over your own life or feelings, putting your own needs aside to please your partner, and having difficulty expressing your emotions without fear of judgement from them.

Difficulty establishing healthy personal boundaries

Partners in codependent relationships have very blurred lines between them, making it difficult to establish healthy personal boundaries. It is common for codependent individuals to merge with their partners and lose a sense of themselves in the process.

This can result in difficulty distinguishing between personal needs and wants, as well as feelings of guilt when attempting to assert boundaries or express individual desires.

As codependency often stems from a need for validation from another person, codependent individuals have learned to prioritize the needs of others over their own, which further complicates the ability to set firm boundaries.

It is important for both parties in any relationship to be able to clearly communicate wants and needs while respecting each other’s autonomy.

Feeling overly responsible for the behavior and feelings of your partner

In a codependent relationship, an individual often feels an overwhelming sense of responsibility for their partner. The codependent person tries to take care of their partner in every way imaginable, going above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to meeting the other’s needs.

They also feel responsible for how their partner behaves, speaks, and feels, and that any bad behavior is somehow their fault.

An extreme fear of abandonment or being left alone

Individuals in a codependent relationship often experience an extreme fear of abandonment or being left alone. This can manifest as clinginess, hovering, or needing constant reassurance and validation from their partner.

Partners in a codependent relationship may struggle to find a balance between offering enough support to maintain the connection while still allowing each partner space and privacy.

Fearing that they will be criticized or judged for expressing themselves, they may opt to keep silent instead. This can lead to feelings of loneliness or a sense of emptiness when not communicating with their partner.

Low self-esteem or lack of personal identity that is rooted in another’s opinion of you

In a codependent relationship, one or both partners may lack an individual self-esteem or identity and instead build their self-worth based upon the opinion of their partner.

This can lead to a reliance on the other person for validation and affirmation in order to maintain their sense of self.

Unhealthy behaviors such as placing unrealistic expectations on their partner or trying to control them emotionally in order to receive recognition can be a result of this dynamic.

Excessively accommodating the needs, wants and opinions of others over your own

In a codependent relationship, individuals may become overly accommodating of the needs, wants and opinions of others over their own. They may feel compelled to give up their own personal interests or beliefs in order to please their partner and maintain the relationship.

In the process, the accommodating partner loses a sense of their individual identity, neglecting to express their own wants and needs in order to prioritize those of the other person. This can lead to a skewed balance in the relationship, where one person often feels taken for granted or lost within it.

Taking on more responsibility than you can realistically handle

In a codependent relationship, one may take on more responsibility than can be realistically handled. This often happens when one partner is trying to prove themselves or make their partner happy, and overestimates what they can do.

Codependent partners suffer from increased levels of stress, exhaustion and resentment over time. This happens because their expectations are not met, and they feel unequipped to cope with the weight of the responsibilities.

Overlooking or making excuses for mistreatment in relationships and/or not seeing red flags early on

In codependent relationships, one may overlook or make excuses for mistreatment, as well as fail to recognize red flags early on.

This often happens when one partner feels a need to please the other and/or fears being without them, so they try to minimize any conflict and pretend that everything is fine. This can lead to increased levels of emotional and physical abuse over time.

Overcoming Codependency

The first step towards overcoming codependency is understanding what it looks like in your own life. Once you identify the unhealthy behaviors within yourself, you can start working towards breaking those habits.

This will require setting boundaries with yourself and with others, learning how to communicate effectively with others, developing healthy coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety, and seeking out professional help if needed.

It will also involve practicing self-care by spending time doing things that make you feel good about yourself and engaging in activities that bring joy into your life.

Identify and address the root causes of codependency in both partners.

Identifying and addressing the root causes of codependency in a relationship requires careful self-examination and honest communication between both partners.

It’s important for each partner to identify their personal triggers, as well as any patterns or behaviors that may indicate an unhealthy level of codependent behavior.

Both partners in a codependent relationship need to work together to create healthier boundaries and expectations, while ensuring that they are expressing themselves authentically without fear of judgment or rejection.

Additionally, it’s important to focus on building individual self-esteem, self-awareness, and self-care practices outside of the relationship to foster growth and prevent any further harm caused by codependency.

Acknowledge when you are feeling controlling, enmeshed, or overly dependent in a relationship and practice being mindful of that.

Taking time to pause and observe your thoughts and feelings without judgement is the first step towards recognizing the underlying causes of codependency.

Being mindful of these triggers allows you to be better equipped to communicate them with your partner, which is essential for making progress towards resolving the issue.

Additionally, practicing self-reflection and consciously choosing healthier behaviors can help both partners learn how to break free from the cycle of codependency.

Re-establish healthy boundaries within the relationship and define realistic expectations for both partners.

Establishing healthy boundaries within a codependent relationship is key to breaking free from patterns of unhealthy behavior. Communication between both partners should focus on clarity, with each partner expressing their needs, emotions, and expectations in a respectful and non-judgmental manner.

It’s also important to outline realistic expectations for both partners and ensure that they are aligned with any established boundaries.

Setting clear boundaries helps create a foundation of trust and security in the relationship, allowing both parties to be honest without fear of repercussions or criticism.

Finally, working together to adjust any rigid expectations as needed can help both partners maintain healthy communication dynamics and foster a sense of mutual respect.

Work on building self-esteem, self-awareness, and self-care practices outside of the relationship to foster individual growth and wellness.

Working on building self-esteem, self-awareness and self-care practices outside of a codependent relationship is essential for individual growth and wellbeing.

Making time to practice healthy coping skills like meditation, journaling, or mindful eating can help improve emotional regulation.

Additionally, engaging in activities that make you feel connected to yourself such as yoga, painting, or exercising can be great tools for increasing awareness and boosting self-confidence.

Learning how to identify feelings and expressing them appropriately is also key to developing healthier relationships with others.

Taking time to prioritize your wellness and build immunity against codependency will lead to greater freedom and fulfillment in all aspects of your life.

Increase communication between both partners and take responsibility for your own feelings without blaming the other person for them.

Open communication is key to understanding each other’s needs, setting up realistic expectations and boundaries, and ultimately allowing the relationship to grow in a healthy manner.

Taking an active role in self-care can help build resilience in moments of difficulty, enabling both partners to communicate their feelings more effectively without placing blame.

Through increased communication and taking ownership over one’s emotions, partners can strengthen their bond as they support each other through individual growth.

Recognize your triggers and learn how to regulate your emotions in healthy ways without resorting to behavior that is damaging or unhealthy for yourself or the other person in the relationship.

Recognizing triggers and learning how to regulate emotions in healthy ways is an important part of managing a codependent relationship.

This can include self-soothing techniques like taking deep breaths, getting outside for some fresh air, or engaging in calming activities such as listening to music or reading.

Additionally, learning how to express one’s feelings without being confrontational or aggressive can help both partners manage difficult situations without resorting to behavior that is damaging or unhealthy for either party.


Codependent relationships involve an imbalance of power and control between two people. One partner may be overly dependent on the other for approval, love, or understanding while the other partner may provide all this without receiving any of these things in return.

Other signs include a lack of trust, constantly seeking validation from the other person, difficulty making decisions without consulting with the other person first, fear of abandonment if the relationship ends, inability to express emotions freely or openly to one another, and feeling guilty when asking for help or support.

These patterns can create an unhealthy environment where both parties feel trapped in their roles.

Codependent relationships can be incredibly damaging if left unchecked because they can lead to feelings of resentment, low self-esteem, fear of judgement from others, and an inability to make decisions without consulting someone else first.

However, these types of relationships don’t have to define our lives if we’re willing to work on recognizing unhealthy patterns within ourselves and making changes accordingly.

With patience and dedication, we can all learn how to break free from codependency and create healthier relationships with ourselves as well as with others.

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