There’s an old song from the ’80s called “Addicted to Love” by Robert Palmer. It outlines the subject of needing to be loved. There are basic human needs such as food, shelter, and love, but people often think that they require one person’s love. That’s where it gets tricky. You don’t necessarily need the romantic love of another person. Yes, we need love and nurturing from parents and caretakers when we’re young, but our needs change once we get older. We want people to love us, and it’s a delicate balance because we do need a support system. If you depend on one designated person for love and support, you’ll likely be disappointed time after time. This dependence might strain the relationship. That’s how being addicted to love gets into the area of codependency. So, let’s talk about what codependency is, why it should be avoided, and how to stop being codependent in your own life.
What Is Codependency?
Codependency is a term that isn’t used in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) because it’s not a medical diagnosis. It is a term used frequently in the realm of psychology. Codependency has a broad definition. In layman’s terms, the best way to describe it is a type of relationship where two people are intertwined, and one person’s sense of value and self are directly related to the other person. The person may often feel guilty about their life outside of the relationship and will continue to make choices solely for the other person’s happiness. Codependency can occur between friends, family, or romantic partners. This article focuses on romantic partners in codependent relationships.
Why Codependency Isn’t Healthy
Codependency may seem healthy, but it’s not. The reason that codependency can be detrimental is because it doesn’t allow people to seek happiness on their own. When you are codependent, you want others to validate you and make you happy. And that may lead to disappointment. It’s 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 tend to gravitate toward codependent relationships. Here are some of the common personality types/roles:
People who are “fixers” or like to help others often end up in codependent relationships because they feel valued in these dynamics. They’re helping another individual, which is something that satisfies their search for value. While helping others is great, a healthy relationship can’t be built on this alone. It’s important that you search for confidence and self-worth within yourself. People are drawn to codependent relationships because they get satisfaction from being needed. That’s the role of the “helper” in a codependent relationship.
In codependent relationships, there is both a helper and one that’s being helped. The “helped” person has needs and is seeking to be fixed or coddled. Instead of looking to fix themselves or finding mental health recovery through therapy or medication, they’re looking to their partner to fix their problems. This is not optimal because that person is their partner, not their therapist or psychiatrist. A person who wants to be helped through a codependent relationship will likely be disappointed because they aren’t getting well or getting to where they want to be. The individual in this role must seek stability and help on their own.
Is It Okay To Love Being Loved?
The short answer to this question is “yes.” 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 care and love for themselves as well as each other. It’s 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?
What is love? Love is an intense, emotional feeling where you have a sense of affection for someone else. When you love somebody, you care deeply about them, their feelings, and what happens in their life. You want to see them achieve their emotional and life goals. Codependency is a learned behavior that negatively affects a person and other people. Codependent individuals rely on other people to get approval for their behavior. They often avoid confrontation because they don’t want to leave the relationship, and they feel abandoned if their partner chooses to take care of themselves instead of them.
A codependent person that is a “helper” has the drive to help the other person and often sacrifices themselves in the process. There’s a fine line between codependency and abusive relationships. Sometimes codependent relationships can become toxic or abusive. That dynamic can happen in relationships involving someone who has a substance use disorder and a caretaker, for example, but there are many ways that codependent relationships can play out.
Codependency And Substance Abuse
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 is common in codependent relationships.
Codependency After Childhood Abuse
If you were neglected as a child, you might seek approval from other people because you didn’t get that approval when you were younger. Approval-seeking behavior is a hallmark of codependency. It’s 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.
Now that you understand codependency a bit better, let’s answer the question, “How do you know if you’re in a codependent relationship?” Here are the 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 rely on others for validation and confidence, this is likely 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 with codependency is the fear of losing the other person. It is a concern because you’re so interconnected with your partner that if you lose them, you feel like you’ll lose yourself. Ask yourself, “Am I able to function on my own, or do I need this other person in order to accomplish this?” Keep in mind that this is about emotional neediness, not caretaking or financial support. 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 remember to love yourself first.
3. Can I imagine living life without my partner? Will I survive?
With codependency, there’s 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’s painful to lose someone that you love, but you’re not going to waste away without them. People are hereto enrich our lives, not sustain them. You can help people, and those around you can support you too. You are beautiful the way you are and don’t need a superhero to save you.
Learning To Be Okay By Yourself
It’s important to learn to enjoy being alone. In life, we all have relationships that we cherish, but it’s a myth to think we need to be with someone to be happy. Remember that the most important thing is to work on yourself, gaining or maintaining stability, and loving yourself. That doesn’t mean that you need to love everything about yourself. We all have things we need to work on, but it’s 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 counseling can be just as effective as traditional face-to-face therapy.When it comes to couples, one study found that video-based counseling allowed many couples to feel a greater sense of control and comfort through the use of technology. Participants went on to say that connecting with their therapist via video allowed them to focus more intently on the therapeutic process, and the environment allowed them to share their feelings in a way that left them feeling less judged.
If you are interested in the support of a therapist, consider working with a BetterHelp counselor. The therapists at BetterHelp care deeply about your feelings and can help develop personalized strategies to boost self-esteem and improve self-awareness in ways you can apply to your love life. You can find comfort knowing that every BetterHelp provider is fully licensed, in good standing, and has gone through an intensive review process by another licensed clinician. Read these reviews of 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, and 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.”
Search the network of online therapists at BetterHelp, and learn how to determine if you’re in a codependent dynamic or okay by yourself. Online therapy is a great place to work through your relationship issues and learn to cope with emotional challenges.
Other Commonly Asked Questions
What does codependency feel like?
How can I tell if Im codependent?
What are the five core symptoms of codependency?
What is considered a codependent relationship?
Do I love him or am I codependent?
What are 10 characteristics of a codependent person?
How do I break my codependency?
How do codependent relationships start?
Can two codependents be together?
What are some codependent behaviors?