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Last Updated on September 16, 2021

10 Signs You Are in a Codependent Relationship (And What To Do About It)

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10 Signs You Are in a Codependent Relationship (And What To Do About It)

Codependency has become a buzzword in our society, stemming from the field of addiction. It remains unclear in the field of Psychology as to what the symptoms of codependent relationships are, how to define it, where it originates from, and what you can do about it.

Read on to learn more about codependency and discover the 10 signs that you are in a codependent relationship and what you can do about it.

What Is Codependency?

Research has attempted to quantify, categorize, and define codependency since it seems to permeate so many different types of relationships and many people worldwide.[1][2] However, because a clear definition ceases to exist, it is difficult to get a true number of how many people struggle with it.

Organizations such as Codependents Anonymous point to codependency being a “disease” and provide a safe place for those struggling in their relationships. However, they make it clear that they provide no clear definition or diagnostic criteria to identify codependency. The one common denominator appears to be that those self-identifying as “codependents” often come from a dysfunctional family and exhibit “learned helplessness” characteristics.[3]

10 Signs You Are in a Codependent Relationship

If there’s no clear definition, how do you know if you are in a codependent relationship? Codependency can be identified by evaluating your own behaviors rather than the behaviors of someone you are in a relationship with. By identifying certain thoughts, feelings, and behaviors you tend to engage in, you can start to identify any trends that exhibit codependent characteristics.

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Here are the 10 signs that you might be in a codependent relationship.

1. It’s Hard to Say “No”

Codependents have a hard time saying “no” in their relationships. They often are afraid of being rejected or abandoned, so they say “yes” to their partners because they don’t have the confidence to say “no.” This can manifest in all areas of the relationship, whether it be financial decisions, co-parenting, delineation of tasks, or sexual intimacy. Codependents will default to being “walked all over” or “bulldozed” by their partner and lack the ability to empower or assert themselves.

2. You Find Yourself Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do

Codependents are afraid of abandonment by their partner. They end up doing things they don’t want to do just to keep their partner from leaving. They are in desperate need of validation, attention, and acceptance by their partner and are willing to do anything to avoid jeopardizing their partner leaving them. They lack the ability to self-evaluate. They hold their partner’s opinions and judgments above their own belief about themselves. This can lead to codependents compromising personal morals and values to gain the approval of a controlling partner.

3. You Feel Compelled to Help Your Partner Solve Problems and Be Needed

Codependents need to be needed. Their entire self-esteem is dependent on bringing value to their relationship partner. If they can be helpful, then they are valued. Codependents will often give way more than expected and try to be “helpful” and solve their partner’s problems. They end up caring more about their partner’s life than their partner does. This leads to their partner judging them even more because a codependent will try harder if they fall short.

4. You Think and Feel Responsible for the Other Person

As codependents try to solve their partner’s problems, they take on the responsibility of their partner’s life. This leads to feeling responsible for everything that happens or doesn’t happen to their partner. This over-involvement releases their partner from taking responsibility for their own life and puts the blame solely on the codependent for anything wrong that happens. Taking responsibility for something that you have no power to change perpetuates the cycle of codependency by creating a feeling of “if I could just do more or do it better, my partner will love me.”

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5. You Tend to Anticipate Your Partner’s Needs and Over Give

Codependents who take responsibility for their partner’s life must be on the alert all the time. They must anticipate their partner’s needs before their partner can ask for anything. This leads to hypervigilance and a hyper response towards their partner. This builds resentment from their partner who is constantly being scrutinized, often leading to withdrawing from the relationship.

6. You Seek to Please Your Partner Before Yourself

Codependents don’t think much about themselves and their own needs. When constantly putting their partner’s needs before their own, their only source of approval comes from pleasing their partner. Oftentimes, a codependent is unaware of what they truly want and feel because so much of their life is focused on someone outside of themselves. Thus, there is no benefit to pleasing themselves. In fact, they feel as though they are being selfish or wasting time that they believe should be spent focusing on their partner.

7. Events and Situations in Your Relationship Feel Controlled

If a codependent’s partner’s needs are not met, a codependent will often be controlled by their partner using coercion, advice, or manipulation tactics designed to evoke helplessness and guilt feelings in the codependent. In this way, the codependent’s role is kept in check by their partner, and the dependency is reinforced.

8. You Desperately Seek Love and Approval From Your Partner

The basic needs of connection and approval when not fulfilled as a child continues into adult relationships with the belief that “if my partner gives me love and approval then and only then I am okay”. This false belief creates a situation where a person gives up their power to their partner.

They don’t believe in their own assessment of themselves and their own value. They don’t trust their own feelings and lack the ability to make good choices for themselves. This allows the partner to make decisions but not take any responsibility for the outcome of those decisions.

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For example, if their partner tells them to quit their job, end a friendship, or stop doing a hobby, it will not affect the partner’s life, but the codependent person’s life will become smaller and less satisfying. This perpetuates the cycle because now the codependent has less to focus on and gives more attention and energy to their partner who becomes the only thing they have left in their world. This increases the desperation to try even harder to make sure that their partner gives them approval. It also creates a distorted belief that no one else will ever love them.

9. You Pretend Circumstances Aren’t as Bad as They Are

When a person no longer believes their own feelings and defers to their partner’s opinion,s they can no longer trust their own views and experience. They believe that they are the problem and that if things are bad, they are the reason for it being that way. They minimize reality to avoid having to make changes. If they can pretend things aren’t so bad, then they don’t have to do anything different. After all, if there is no problem then there is no reason to fix it.

The other thing that happens is a codependent will experience time differently. If it is not happening right now, then it never happened. The feeling is “if I am fine now, then I have always been fine and that problem didn’t really happen” or  “it must be my imagination or overreaction.”

The codependent will convince themselves that they even agree with the problem to avoid conflict or change. “It must be okay for my partner to stay out all night and not call or quit their job for the 3rd time this year or spend money and not pay the bills.” Again, this perpetuates the cycle and the codependent will work even harder to pay for everything except being treated badly because they believe that is all they deserve.

10. You Don’t Trust Yourself, Your Feelings, Your Decisions, and Default to Your Partner

Ultimately, codependency is learned in childhood. There is a disconnect between what a person feels and what they have been told to think about their feelings. They are told over and over again that their feelings are not to be trusted in very subtle but consistent ways. They have heard things like “you are too sensitive,” “you shouldn’t feel that way,” “your feelings are ridiculous,” or “no one else feels that way.”

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They believe that there must be something wrong with how they feel and not that there is something wrong with what they are being told. The core of the issue is that there is no authenticity or truth in these messages, and the main point of getting the message to not trust your feelings is to give up your power and keep you off balance.

If someone doesn’t trust their feelings or their worldview, they must default to someone else who they believe is more capable and more knowledgeable about what is best for them.

What Should You Do If You Experience These Signs?

If you experience any of these signs or realize that you are in a codependent relationship, there are many things that you can do.

First, try to find areas of your life that have small emotional risks and start becoming very conscious about what you are feeling, and use those feelings to make small decisions. For example, ask yourself what color of shirt you feel like wearing today or whether you prefer an apple or a banana.

Connect with the feeling first—become conscious and curious. Why do I feel like wearing red? Where did that feeling come from? Now that I am wearing red, does it still feel like it fits with the original feeling? Learn to trust your feelings again. Also, notice how often you don’t say what you really feel or simply don’t tell the truth. Codependency and lying are partners. If lying is the problem, then knowing the truth is the solution, and becoming aware of the problem of lying is the beginning of the way out.

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You can also try journaling. You will be amazed at how much connection you have to your inner wisdom and truth that you lose as you say words you don’t mean or don’t even say out loud, which you can preserve through writing. Moreover, meditation can also be a powerful tool to help rewire your brain to learn to trust yourself again. Lastly, find someone you can trust or a therapist to get a clearer reflection of any distorted thinking patterns that keep you stuck in codependency.

More Articles About Codependent Relationships

Featured photo credit: freestocks via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Ray Kadkhodaian

CoFounder of Couples Synergy and the Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center

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Last Updated on January 5, 2022

How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

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How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

We all lose our temper from time to time, and expressing anger is actually a healthy thing to do in our relationships with others. Expressing our differences in opinion allows us to have healthy conflict and many times come to an agreement or understanding that works for everyone. However, there are times when anger can become overwhelming or damaging, and during these times, it’s important to learn how to deal with anger.

Expressing anger inappropriately can be harmful to relationships, both personal and professional. You may express too much anger, too often, or at times that are only going to make things worse, not better. In this article we will look at anger management techniques that will help you better control your emotions.

Let’s take a deeper look at how to deal with anger.

Expressing Anger

Anger is a natural and normal part of almost any relationship. This includes relationships with your significant other, kids, boss, friends, family, etc. Anger provides us with valuable information if we are willing to listen to it. It clues us in to areas where we disagree with others and things that need to be changed or altered.

Unhealthy Ways to Express Anger

Here are some common yet unhealthy ways to express anger that you should avoid:

Being Passive-Aggressive

This is a term many of us are familiar with. Passive-aggressive behavior happens when someone is angry but uses indirect communication to express their anger.

Some of the more common passive-aggressive behaviors include the silent treatment, making comments about someone behind their back, being grumpy, moody, or pouting, or simply not doing tasks or assignments that they should.

This is a passive-aggressive person’s way of showing their anger. It’s not very productive but extremely common.

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Poorly-Timed

Some people get overwhelmed and express anger in a situation where it can’t really do any good.

An example would be getting angry at one person in front of a crowd of people. All that does is make people uncomfortable and shuts them down. It’s not a healthy way to express anger or disagreement with someone.

Ongoing Anger

Being angry all the time is most often a symptom of something else. It’s healthy and normal to express anger when you disagree with someone. However, if someone is angry most of the time and always seems to be expressing their anger to everyone around them, this won’t serve them well.

Over time, people will start to avoid this person and have as little contact as possible. The reason being is no one likes being around someone who is angry all the time; it’s a no-win situation.

Healthy Ways to Express Anger

What about the healthy ways[1] to adapt? When learning how to deal with anger, here are some healthy ways to get you started.

Being Honest

Express your anger or disagreement honestly. Be truthful about what it is that is making you angry. Sometimes this will entail walking away and thinking about it for a bit before you respond.

Don’t say you’re mad at something someone did or said when it’s really something else that upset you.

Being Direct

Similar to being honest, being direct is a healthy way to express anger.

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Don’t talk around something that is making you angry. Don’t say that one thing is making you angry when it’s really something else, and don’t stack items on top of each other so you can unload on someone about 10 different things 6 months from now.

Be direct and upfront about what is making you angry. Ensure you are expressing your anger to the person who upset you or you are angry at, not to someone else. This is very counterproductive.

Being Timely

When something makes you angry, it’s much better to express it in a timely manner. Don’t keep it bottled up inside of you, as that’s only going to do more harm than good.

Think of the marriages that seem to go up in flames out of nowhere when the reality is someone kept quiet for years until they hit their breaking point.

Expressing anger as it occurs is a much healthier way of using anger to help us guide our relationships in the moment.

How to Deal With Anger

If you feel angry, how should you deal with it right at that moment?

1. Slow Down

From time to time, I receive an email at work that makes me so angry that steam is probably pouring out of my ears.

In my less restrained moments, I have been known to fire off a quick response, and that typically has ended about as well as you might imagine.

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When I actually walk away from my computer and go do something else for a while, I am able to calm down and think more rationally. After that happens, I am able to respond in a more appropriate and productive manner. Doing things that helps you learn how to release anger can make an uncomfortable situation more manageable before it gets out of hand.

2. Focus on the “I”

Remember that you are the one that’s upset. Don’t accuse people of making you upset because, in the end, it’s your response to what someone did that really triggered your anger. You don’t want to place blame by saying something like “Why don’t you ever put away your dishes?” Say something more like “Having dirty dishes laying on the counter upsets me—can you work with me to come to a solution?”

When you are accusatory towards someone, all that does is increase the tension. This doesn’t usually do anything except make your anger rise higher.

3. Work out

When learning how to deal with anger, exercise is a great outlet. If something happens that angers you, see if you have the opportunity to burn off some of the anger.

Being able to hit the gym to get a hard workout in is great. If this isn’t an option, see if you can go for a run or a bike ride. If you are at work when you become angry and the weather permits, at least go outside for a brisk walk.

Besides working some of your anger out through exercise, this also helps to give your mind a chance to work through some ways to address what it is that upset you.

4. Seek Help When Needed

There are times when we could all use some help. Life can be stressful and overwhelming. It’s perfectly fine to seek some help from a mental health professional if it will help you get back to a healthy balance.If you find that you are angry all the time, it might be a good idea to go talk to an expert about learning to control intense emotions. They can give you some sound advice and ideas on how to get your anger to a more manageable and healthy level.

5. Practice Relaxation

We all seem to lead incredibly busy lives, and that’s a good thing if we are loving the life we are living. That being said, it is very beneficial to our physical and mental well-being to take time out for relaxation.

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That can mean spending time doing things that help us calm down and relax, like being around people we enjoy, practicing deep breathing or listening to music. It could be making time for things that help bring us balance like a healthy diet and physical activity.

Many people incorporate techniques such as yoga and meditation to calm their minds and release tension when learning how to deal with anger. Whatever your choice is, ensure you take time out to relax when warning signs of anger start to bubble up.

6. Laugh

Incorporating humor and laughter on a regular basis will help keep anger in check and help you get over a bad mood and feelings of anger more quickly. This isn’t part of formal anger management techniques, but you’ll be surprised by how well it works. Remember, life is a journey that’s meant to be enjoyed fully along the way through healthy emotion. Make sure you take time to laugh and have fun.Surround yourself with people that like to laugh and enjoy life. Don’t work at a job that just causes you stress, which can lead to anger. Work at something you enjoy doing.

7. Be Grateful

It’s easy to focus on the bad in life and the things that cause us negative emotions. It’s vitally important to remind ourselves of all the wonderful things in life that bring us positive emotions, things that we easily forget because we get caught up in the whirlwind of day to day life.

Take time out each day to remind yourself of a few things you are grateful for in order to help you learn how to release anger and invite in more positive feelings.

Final Thoughts

Life can be overwhelming at times. We seem to have constant pressure to achieve more and to always be on the go or motivated. People we are around and situations we are in can cause stress, anger, and negative emotions. At times, it can seem to be too much, and we get angry and our emotions start to get out of control.

During these times, keep in mind that life is an incredible journey, full of wonder and things that bring you joy. When you find yourself angry more often than is healthy, take time out to remember the good things in life—the things that we seem to forget yet bring us so much positive energy and emotions.

Use some of the tips included here to help with how to deal with anger and better control your emotions.

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More Resources on Anger Management

Featured photo credit: Andre Hunter via unsplash.com

Reference

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