Dependence can strain a relationship and potentially lead to codependency. People who struggle with codependency in relationships may have difficulty setting boundaries and expressing their own needs and wants. A codependent relationship generally includes two people, the “helper” and the “helped,” who are deeply intertwined. The helper may rely on the helped to provide them with value and bolster their sense of self, while the helped may rely on the helper to take care of all their needs. It can be possible to experience healthier relationships and to be happy on your own, and an online therapist can help you learn to let go of codependency.
What Is Codependency?
Codependency is a term that is not typically used in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) because it’s not considered to be a medical diagnosis. It is, however, a term used frequently in the realm of psychology.
This article focuses on romantic partners in codependent relationships.
Why Codependency Might Not Be Healthy
Codependency may seem healthy, but it typically is not. The reason that codependency can be detrimental may be because it often doesn’t allow people to seek happiness on their own. When you are codependent, you may want others to validate you and make you happy, and that may lead to disappointment. It can be healthier to independently seek out things that make you happy, and then have a partner who adds joy to your life. Different types of people may tend to gravitate toward codependent relationships. Here are some of the common personality types and roles in this type of relationship:
People who are “fixers” or like to help others might end up in codependent relationships because they may feel valued in these dynamics. Helping another individual can satisfy their search for value. While helping others can be great, a healthy relationship typically can’t be built on this alone. It may be important that you search for confidence and self-worth within yourself. People are sometimes drawn to codependent relationships because they get satisfaction from being needed. This is generally the case for the role of the “helper” in a codependent relationship.
In codependent relationships, there is often both a helper and a person being helped. The “helped” person usually has many needs and may seek to be fixed or coddled. Instead of looking to fix themselves or finding mental health recovery through therapy or medication, they might look to their partner to fix their problems. This may not be optimal because that person is their partner, not their therapist or psychiatrist. A person who wants to be helped through a codependent relationship will often be disappointed because they usually aren’t getting well or getting to where they want to be. The individual in this role must generally seek stability and help on their own rather than expecting to receive everything they want and need from their partner.
Is It Okay To Love Being Loved?
In general, it is okay to love being loved. You deserve to be in a relationship where your partner loves you deeply. However, you don’t need to be involved in a codependent situation. Codependent dynamics often aren’t true love. In a loving relationship, both people normally care for and love themselves as well as each other. It can be important to define what love is so that we can better understand how to avoid codependency and rely on interdependence or independence instead.
What Is Love, And What Is Codependency?
Love can be defined as an intense, emotional feeling where you have a sense of affection for someone else. When you love somebody, you may care deeply about them, their feelings, and what happens in their life. You may want to see them achieve their goals.
Codependency can be a learned behavior that may negatively affect a person and others. Codependent individuals may rely on other people to get approval for their behavior. They might avoid confrontation because they don’t want to leave the relationship, and they may feel abandoned if their partner chooses to take care of themselves instead of them.
A codependent person who is a “helper” may be driven to help the other person and might sacrifice themselves in the process. There’s often a fine line between codependency and abusive relationships. Sometimes, codependent relationships can become toxic or abusive. That dynamic can happen in relationships involving a person with a substance use disorder and a caretaker, for example, but there are many ways that codependent relationships can play out.
If you or someone you love is involved in an abusive relationship, please reach out for help immediately by contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
Codependency And Substance Use
People with substance use disorders may have trouble being honest. Those in a codependent relationship with someone who has a substance use disorder may find that their partner is deeply invested in the relationship and will do anything to keep it—including telling lies. That’s not to say that all people living with substance use disorders are dishonest, but this behavior may become common in codependent relationships.
Codependency After Childhood Abuse
If you were neglected as a child, you might seek approval from other people because you perhaps didn’t get that approval when you were younger. Approval-seeking behavior can be a hallmark of codependency. It may be important to recognize when you are engaging in codependent behavior and learn how to cope. If you’re having trouble understanding codependency and why it is present, you can speak to a therapist online or in your area.
Are You In A Codependent Relationship?
Now that you may understand codependency a bit better, let’s answer the question, “How do you know if you’re in a codependent relationship?” Here are a few things to ask yourself:
1. Do I rely on my partner to feel good about myself?
If the answer is “yes,” you might be codependent. If you’re having difficulty finding good things about yourself and relying on others for validation and confidence, this can be another sign of codependency.
2. Can I take care of myself, or do I rely on my partner to do things because I’m afraid of losing them?
One of the deep-seated challenges of codependency can be the fear of losing the other person. It can be a concern because you can become so interconnected with your partner that if you lose them, you might feel like you’ll lose yourself. Ask yourself, “Am I able to function on my own, or do I need my partner to accomplish this?” Keep in mind that this question generally pertains to emotional neediness, not caretaking or financial support. It can be helpful to remember that you are a unique and powerful human being who doesn’t need to attach yourself to anyone else to be happy. You can enjoy relationships with others, but they will often be more rewarding when you love yourself first.
3. Can I imagine living life without my partner?
With codependency, there is often a deep fear of not being able to function without your partner. The reality is that as human beings, we can sustain ourselves and function without specific interpersonal relationships in our lives. It can be painful to lose someone you love, but you’re not likely to waste away without them. People are generally here to enrich our lives, not sustain them.
Learning To Be Okay By Yourself
It can be important to learn to enjoy being alone. In life, we may all cherish relationships, but it is often a fallacy to think we need to be with someone to be happy. Remember that the most important things can be to work on yourself, gain or maintain stability, and love yourself. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to love everything about yourself. We all may have things we need to work on, but it can be important to know that you have what it takes to improve.
A great place to start learning to love yourself is in therapy. Research shows that online therapy can be just as effective as traditional face-to-face therapy. When it comes to couples, one study found that video-based therapy generally allowed many couples to feel a greater sense of control and comfort through the use of technology.
If you are interested in the support of a therapist, consider joining an online therapy platform. A licensed therapist can help you develop personalized strategies to boost your self-esteem and improve your self-awareness in ways you can apply to your love life. Plus, you can attend sessions at a time that fits your schedule from any location with an internet connection.
Read these reviews about BetterHelp therapists helping people like you:
“I met with Shaun for about two months. She was a good listener and sounding board for me during a very difficult time. I appreciated her ability to name some of my behaviors as codependent or unhealthy. She also always created room for me to come to my own conclusion as to how to solve my problems. I tended to do most of the talking, but Shaun’s created a safe space and provided valuable input.”
“Rick has been such a blessing in my life. Rick worked first with me in couples counseling and after realizing I needed to separate from my husband, he remained my counselor individually. He has helped me work through so much of my issues of codependency and heartbreak. He has always been honest with me; every time I leave a session with him, I genuinely feel heard and understood. I highly recommend him if you are struggling in a toxic relationship with a partner or yourself.”
Frequently Asked Questions
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