When you’re in a relationship, you want people to describe it like #relationshipgoals—not #codependent.
You can be in a codependent relationship with anyone (siblings, parents, coworkers, friends), but when we’re talking romantic relationships, it means that “you rely on the other person for happiness and approval. You become so wrapped up in them, you lose yourself. Your needs are determined by your partner,” says New York City psychologist Dale Atkins, Ph.D., co-author of The Kindness Advantage.
Codependent relationships often involve one partner trying to control the other. “You’re looking to feel in control for yourself by attempting to control someone else,” says Jane Greer, Ph.D., New York-based relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship.
It’s definitely a dysfunctional place to be in. “One person is doing the loving and caring in the relationship, and the other is taking, taking, taking and not giving back,” says Atkins.
If the six signs below totally sound like you, it might be worth scheduling time with a therapist to discuss whether your relationship is really working for you:
1. YOU’RE TAKING TOO MUCH RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR PARTNER
Of course, in any relationship, you want to care for your partner. But taking on too much responsibility for their well-being is another sign of codependency. “In order to feel in control and ‘okay,’ you look to manage and take care of your partner’s behaviour,” says Greer. She gives the example that if your partner is drinking, you’ll always be the one reminding them not to drink or cleaning up any problems they may get themselves into.
2. YOU GRAVITATE TOWARD “PROJECTS”
Everyone has a type, but you may tend to date people who need help. It’s all in an effort to take responsibility for people and rescue them, notes Atkins. This is why codependent people are often attracted to those who have addictions, like drinking or gambling. You may also put yourself in peril to help them, via taking on gambling debt, dipping into your savings to support them, or getting into a car with them when you know they’re a reckless driver.
3. YOU NEVER GET YOUR WAY
Let’s say you feel like staying in, but your partner wants to go out and hit the bars. In a healthy relationship, you might reach a compromise—you’ll stay in tonight, but make plans to go out tomorrow. In a codependent relationship, your partner might cut you down (“God, you’re so boring, this is why you have no friends”), causing you to cave (“Fine, we’ll go out, it doesn’t matter anyway”). While it seems like a minor problem, it may be one of the many examples of how your needs aren’t acknowledged or valued.
4. THEY’VE TOLD YOU YOU’RE A “NAG”
If you feel like you always have to keep close tabs on your partner and tell them what not to do, you may be co-dependent, says Greer. Try taking a step back and let them make their own decisions. How does that feel? Impossible because you know they’ll mess up?
5. YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PARTNER AS “IMMATURE”
If your partner is resisting being a responsible adult and you’re taking care of them—paying the bills while they avoid getting a job, for instance—your relationship may be codependent. The key tip-off: If you bring up the problem (why aren’t you sending out more resumes?), you get barked at, says Atkins. You may also find yourself making excuses for his or her behaviour to your friends.
6. YOU “ONLY FIGHT ABOUT ONE THING”
While this sounds like it’d be a good thing—you’re in relative harmony except for when “xyz” comes up—it’s another sign of codependency. You may find yourself saying things like “he/she/our relationship is perfect except for when they…” If you’re always angry at certain behaviours and your arguments centre around one fight or issue in particular (and tend to blow up), it may be time to reevaluate your relationship and what it’s doing for you, says Greer.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.
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