Pop culture loves to idealize codependency. Think about any romantic comedy, popular TV series or hit song and you'll probably find that codependency is masked as a romantic ideal. (You know, ideas like, “He completes me,” and “I can’t live without her.”)
In reality, codependence is not something to celebrate. Codependent people were often abused or abandoned in their childhood. Because memories and feelings from early childhood are stored in our subconscious, as adults, we often have little way of knowing or recognizing that they’re there, let alone that they're driving our behavior in romantic relationships.
Here are some clues to help you figure out if you might be struggling with codependency issues in your relationship. (And remember: you can let go of codependency.)
1. You spend more time worrying about your partner than you do taking care of yourself.
Do you find yourself worrying all day about how his or her presentation went, rather than focusing on the presentation you have to prepare for? Are you re-playing a fight in your head over and over again, such that you can't get anything else done?
If you find yourself spacing out all day to the point where you forget about your own needs, but are still finding it within you to think about your partner, this might be a sign you’re codependent. While it’s normal for people to think of their partners often, obsessive thinking could be a warning sign, especially if it comes at the expense of self-care.
2. You believe that it is your partner who makes you happy.
There is a huge difference between being happy around your partner, and your partner making you happy. If you find yourself falling into this line of thinking, stop and take moment to examine your life. Are you doing enough things for you? Does anything else make you happy?
If not, and if s/he’s the one whom you’re only happy around, then this may be a sign you’re codependent. And even though this phrase is quite universal, and seemingly innocuous, it can actually be very dangerous. If you believe one person holds the power to make you happy, then you're surrendering control of your emotions to another person.
3. You struggle with control issues in the relationship.
Do you take control over a lot of things? Or do you feel accustomed to letting your partner do so?
Well, if one person is constantly trying to control the other person and activities the two of you do together, then this could be a sign of codependency.
In short, one person thrives off of the other’s weakness, thus allowing for manipulation to enter the relationship (even if this is subconscious). People in relationships like these tend to repeat the same patterns; this is because this is where each person feels comfortable. But feeling comfortable versus feeling truly happy can be two totally different things, and it’s important to know the difference (and, if necessary, take appropriate steps towards self-healing).
4. You feel incomplete without your partner.
If you know you feel insecure and incomplete without having your partner in your life, chances are s/he’s doing something for you to help you feel better about yourself. Getting away from codependency means you fully love yourself for you, and you don’t need anyone to complete you. If we are using our partners to help us feel better about ourselves, this is a sign it’s time to get help.
If you think you might be struggling with codependency issues, find a therapist, coach, or support group to help identify behaviors and patterns, and help get you on the road to self-healing. Reach out! Help is out there. All you have to do is start looking.