When in a relationship, we all lean on our partner from time to time, but what is the difference between a healthy relationship and a codependent one? This month is National Codependency Awareness Month Lovehoney has teamed up with a relationship expert to reveal just what a codependent relationship is, the signs to look out for and tips for avoiding them.
What is a codependent relationship?
Ness Cooper, a relationships expert at TheSexConsultant, states: ‘When you look into relationships, most will have some form of consensual codependency as a natural and consensual part of their relationship dynamic. When codependency dominates the relationship and couples fall into a very one-sided dynamic, it’s then when it becomes unhealthy as often those involved lose their identity.’
‘A healthy relationship dynamic needs to be able to allow room for not just the couple’s joint identity but each individual’s self-identity too. Most relationships will have moments where either individual is needed. The other individual fulfils that partner’s need, but often in unhealthy codependent relationships, the needs that need to be fulfilled become very one-sided and control other aspects of the relationship.’
‘When someone falls into an unhealthy codependent relationship, the individual self can become lost, and this can affect the individual’s ability to communicate their needs and even consent in situations. This can in term act negatively on other areas of an individual’s well-being as there is no room for them to look after these needs positively as they are always fulfilling the other person’s needs and wants.’
What is the main cause of codependent relationships?
Ness Cooper explains: ‘When an unhealthy codependent relationship forms, it is often seen as one person controlling the other in the relationship. It’s hard to say what has triggered this need for control, and it will often vary from relationship to relationship.’
‘It could be a person is reacting to their past where they lost control, and haven’t yet worked out a way of gaining autonomy independently in a healthy way themselves yet, controlling the relationship in this method may be the way they think things should be to gain this form of safety and autonomy, when in fact it often just results in a different type of toxic relationship.’
‘Some individuals may fall into unhealthy codependency as a way of making sense of fear that their relationship is being challenged or as a way to try and work through things after finding out that a partner has been disloyal. In a way, they may be trying to keep the relationship alive but lose the importance of a trusting relationship dynamic during the process. Often when our relationships are threatened, we can react drastically, and it’s very easy to fall into a toxic coping method.’
‘Sometimes we can think someone is in an unhealthy codependent relationship, but they are in a consensual relationship where one person has more control over another, such as consensual BDSM relationships. However, it could be that if you find yourself in an unhealthy codependent relationship, you n a relationship with someone who has narcissistic personality traits. Often these types of people need to be in control of everything.’
What are the signs of a codependent relationship?
- Being too pushy and challenging boundaries often.
- Requesting things repeatedly even when you have said you’re uncomfortable with them
- Controlling schedules of where, when, and who you meet
- Stating what you can and can’t do
- Constantly checking up on you even when you’ve just popped out on a task they’ve asked you to do
- Not allowing you to have your own social life
- Lying to get their way
Five tips to avoid codependency in a relationship
Ness suggests the following five tips to ensure you avoid codependency in your next relationship.
Stick to your boundaries
If you’re dating and the person you’re with makes you question your boundaries and deep inner beliefs while expecting you to conform to theirs, then it may be a sign that you’re not a good fit.
They put you down often
People who like to engage in unhealthy codependency will often start taking control of the situation early on with comments that will put you down, such as criticising what you wear or even the types of food you pick during your date nights.
Listen out for lies
Suppose it’s more than just a slip of the tongue and happening regularly, mainly when used to control other parts of your relationship. In that case, they may be trying to initiate an unhealthy codependent relationship.
They blame you for things
Often when trying to fulfil a partner’s requests when in an unhealthy codependent relationship, they will see wrongs in your efforts and blame you for these, rather than when in a healthy relationship, thank you. This further lowers self-esteem and can make it more challenging to leave the relationship even early on.
They check in on you too much
If you’ve just left the house even to do a task they’ve asked, you may find your phone already buzzing with them asking about how long you’ll be. This also puts you in a panicked taste where you feel pressured and rushed to live up to their expectations.
There are times when relationships require more dependency, such as sudden illness and disability. To avoid these situations becoming unhealthy, try to maintain an individual self, and connect positively with your partner.