4 Signs You Have a Codependent Partner (And What to Do About It)

Is Your Partner Codependent? Look Out for These Red Flags

When it comes to building a healthy relationship, it’s safe to say that balance is one of the defining features. It means that both people are making an equal effort to hear each other out, meet each others’ needs, and occasionally, make sacrifices or strike compromises when there’s a disagreement. When there’s an imbalance, relationships can sometimes veer into codependent territory. And it’s all too easy to find yourself in a one-sided relationship without even realizing it.

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Needless to say, codependent relationships can be emotionally destructive for both partners — no matter how much they love and devotion they have for each other. Because it goes without saying that relationships rely on a dynamic of give and take — and that simply can’t exist when one person is suppressing their needs and sacrificing too much.

“For the codependent person, it’s a problem because they lose their sense of self when they’re in a relationship,” says Dr. Erika Martinez, psychologist and founder of Miami Shrinks. “They’re likely to experience anxiety, depression and concerns related to their self-worth. The way that these issues show up tend to negatively affect the relationship. For the non-codependent partner (assuming they’re relatively psychologically healthy), they often complain that the person they fell in love with is no longer there.”

If you’ve ever noticed that your relationship feels imbalanced, read on for some common signs that your partner is codependent.


They Always Put the Relationship First, No Matter What


According to Mental Health America, people who are codependent tend to suffer from low self-esteem, and as such, they may rely heavily on the relationship to make them feel fulfilled. Because of that, you may notice that your partner puts a majority of their energy into the relationship, and making sure you’re satisfied and fulfilled. Making your relationship a priority is totally normal. However, if your SO appears to put it above everything else at all times, that could be a red flag.

“Partners who are codependent often go to extreme lengths to please their partner, even to the point when it is majorly inconvenient – behaviors such as skipping important work events or canceling plans with friends to be with their partner,” says licensed clinical social worker Melanie Shapiro.

Just as a codependent partner may put your relationship over others, they may also feel dejected when you opt to spend time with your friends or family over them. Shapiro notes that they may struggle with being alone, too.

And given that the codependent’s top priority is making sure their partner is happy, Dr. Martinez adds that they often lose sight of self-care.

“Codependents can become very disconnected from their needs when they’re in a relationship,” she explains.


They’re Super Indecisive All the Time


If your partner struggles to answer even the most trivial questions — like “where should we go for dinner?” or “what do you feel like watching on Netflix?” — that can be a sign of codependency. For example, Dr. Martinez notes that a codependent partner may respond with “I don’t know,” or “Whatever you want is fine.” This is because a codependent person is solely interested in keeping their partner happy, so they become uncomfortable voicing their own preferences.


They Never Argue With You


It goes without saying that when it comes to conflict, most of us would prefer less rather than more in our relationships. That said, an occasional argument here and there isn’t only to be expected — it’s actually healthy. So, when was the last time your partner expressed that they disagree with you? If you’re scratching your head because you can’t think of a single instance, that could hint at the possibility that they’re codependent. A codependent person makes an active effort to avoid rocking the boat because they fear that disagreeing with you could threaten the state of the relationship.

“The goal is to be agreeable no matter their thoughts and opinions so as not to jeopardize their partner’s love and affection,” explains Dr. Martinez.

In fact, a codependent partner might avoid contentious topics entirely — and according to Dr. Martinez, this can lead to a breakdown in communication.

“Talking about the hard things will just die off, and it’ll feel like the partners are just roommates or ships in the night,” she says.

In a similar vein, a codependent partner may have an extremely difficult time saying no to you. According to Dr. Martinez, this is because codependents tend to have a poor sense of personal boundaries.


They Always Need to Know Where You Are


Does your SO feel the need to constantly check in when you’re apart? That not only suggests that they don’t feel secure in the relationship but can be a sign of codependency as well.

“Your partner may get super anxious and feel insecure when you do simple things separate, like go to work or go to a family function,” says Shapiro. “They may start to get paranoid about things that are not linked to the reality of the situation.”

It’s worth noting that it’s normal to check in with your partner once or twice if you’re not seeing them all day, or if they’re out of town on a business trip. But if you’ve proven yourself to be a trustworthy partner, and they’re basically blowing up your phone while you’re enjoying a night out with the guys (and getting agitated when you don’t respond ASAP), that can suggest codependency.

If these signs are starting to sound eerily familiar, don’t stress. The first step is to acknowledge the role that you’ve played in enabling this dynamic to form. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to talk to your partner. Set aside some time to open up a dialogue about what you’ve been noticing. But there’s no need to bring the word “codependent” into the conversation — at least not yet. Putting a label on your partner’s behavior may put them on the defensive, making it very difficult to open up and be vulnerable with you about their feelings. Rather than using the term “codependency,” Dr. Martinez advises honing in on specifics.

“I always tell people to start by identifying the observable behaviors that the codependent person is performing, and getting curious,” she explains. “Ask questions like, ‘I’ve noticed that you’ve been letting me make a lot of the decisions about what we eat, where we go, who we hang out with. Before, you used to have an opinion about these things. What’s changed? I’d like to understand.’ Show them that having an opinion, disagreeing, spending time with friends or meeting their own needs is OK with you.”

Shapiro adds that once your partner has been able to acknowledge their role, you can encourage them to make decisions, set boundaries and rediscover their own individual interests, and support them in nurturing their friendships and other relationships.

“Model the kind of behavior you would like them to have,” says Shapiro. “That means being trustworthy, doing what you say you are going to do and providing security so they know you will continue to be there for them, even if you aren’t together all the time.”

You can also gently propose the possibility of counseling, if your SO is open to it, or even offer to go with them. Sometimes, a couples’ therapist can provide some unbiased feedback and advice that may prove helpful in changing the unhealthy dynamic.

Remember: Codependency isn’t necessarily a fixed dynamic. It’s totally possible to have a healthy, happy relationship — provided you’re both willing to put in the effort to make some changes. As they say, it takes two to tango, and that’s definitely true in codependent relationships. So, if you’ve determined that your partner is codependent, rather than viewing it as a concerning problem or a threat, view it as an opportunity for both of you to grow — and ultimately, to achieve a greater sense of trust, individuality, and yes — balance.

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