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10 Signs You Might Be In A Codependent Relationship

10 Signs You Might Be In A Codependent Relationship

Codependency. Many people are not  familiar with the term codependency and are often not aware that they might struggle with it. Often a term used in recovery circles or counselling sessions, it is not usually talked about or brought up in regular conversations. The actual definition of codependency is excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.

In some way shape or form, everyone is codependent on another to a certain extent.  Codependency becomes unhealthy when it affects your overall mental health and happiness.

I was a part of two very codependent relationships and did not realise it until I wondered why both of my relationships ended the same way even though they were with two completely different people. After I learned about codependency and examined my motives for why I did certain things in relationships, I was able to overcome many of my codependent habits.

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

1. You might not feel complete as a person without that relationship

Often times when you are in a codependent relationship and not aware of it, the relationship can be confused as a Twilight version of true love which is actually not healthy at all. Edward and Bella’s relationship is actually the perfect example of a codependent relationship: If you feel like you cannot function without the other person around or that your life would be over if the relationship ended, that is normally a sign of emotional codependence that is often confused with “true love”. A healthy relationship is when two people that are happy and healthy on their own choose to be together because both of their lives are improved when they are together.

2. You feel the other person cannot function without you around

Many times this is true if you are in a relationship where one person caters to another and truly believes they do so much for that person, they would not know what to do without you. I truly believed that in one of my past relationships. When the relationship ended, that person was just fine without me catering to every need or request they had. Human beings in general are pretty self reliant. When involved in a codependent relationship, many times one person in the relationship is using the other to get what they want and the other is truly convinced they are needed or have to stay in the relationship for the other person. If you have ever thought about leaving a relationship but talked yourself out of it because “they won’t know what to do without me, I have to stay” – that is a clear sign of codependency.

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3. You do whatever you can to maintain peace in the relationship

This might be where the term “walking on eggshells” came from. If you are changing your actions and reactions to try and maintain peace in a relationship or your household due to another person’s outbursts or anger, this is a sign of codependency. Instead of choosing to set firm boundaries of how another person is allowed to treat you, you are actually repressing yourself as a person to try and avoid another person acting out and causing emotional harm. What is important here is what are your true motives in any given situation. Many victims of physical and emotional abuse live this way and it is probably the worst type of codependency.

4. You feel responsible for the other person’s thoughts or actions

You might feel like another person’s actions are a reflection of you. You might also feel that because they made a negative choice or decision, you are a failure. This is often true of parents and their children or people in dysfunctional relationships. In these types of situations it is important to realise that we are responsible for our own thoughts, actions and reactions and no one else’s. If we ever feel emotionally responsible for the choices someone else is making and it brings us anxiety or worry, that is a clear sign of codependency. I felt this way for a long while until I realised that no matter what I do or say, the other person is going to make their own choices even if they are not healthy ones. My only responsibility with another person’s actions is how I choose to respond and what I am willing to accept in the relationship.

5. You allow their decisions and behaviours to emotionally affect you

This is similar to number 4, yet different. This is typically described as a martyr role. If you continually experience anger, worry, anxiety or guilt from another person’s choices, that is a clear sign of codependency. If you worry about another person’s feelings or emotions because of a situation they are going through, that is codependency. When you allow what another person says or does to emotionally affect you, that is not a healthy relationship. When what another person says or does causes you to act out in anger or your addition, that is codependency. I experienced this many times until I was able to take a step back and realise that I have a choice of how I allow someone else’s words or actions to affect me. Often times when codependency is modelled in childhood and growing up, it is harder to break those habits but it is possible. The first step is focusing on yourself instead of the other person and accepting that you are only responsible for you. It is not our responsibility to own other people’s feelings, emotions or decisions.

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6. Your self worth is wrapped up in the relationship

At one time I believed that I was only worth something if I was in a relationship. I was afraid to go somewhere alone for fear of being judged. I believed that I was someone because someone else loved me. I sometimes believed the person I was with was an extension of me. In many ways I had lost my own identity in the relationship and felt almost too emotionally connected to them as well. When you begin to live life for another instead of doing life alongside of someone, codependency can slowly grow and cause an unhealthy balance in the relationship. Once you are perfectly accepting of yourself and who you really are, you can be happy alone or in a relationship. Once you realise that, your self worth begins to grow and relationships begin to improve.

7. You have little or no boundaries with how the other person in the relationship treats you

Sometimes the prospect of being in a relationship where you are not treated the best is still better than being alone. Often times it is easy to stay in a relationship that has turned into a draining one instead of ending the relationship. Many times people are afraid of the unknown or being alone, so they stay.  If you currently deal with any issues like emotional or physical abuse it is time to evaluate and ask yourself if you actually deserve a relationship that is currently causing you harm. We often get in our lives what we allow. If we set hard and direct boundaries with consequences for negative behaviour, we then protect ourselves from further harm and gain the strength to walk away from harmful situations even if it means ending the relationship.

8. You feel that your negative relationship issues are the other person’s fault

This statement is often a hard one to swallow. For true victims of domestic violence, often times the majority is the other person’s fault but we still have the power to stop that behaviour by walking away.  In my relationships, I was not the drug or alcohol abuser so I believed there was nothing wrong with me. I was the victim because that person continued to destroy the relationship because of their actions or addictions. I was a blamer, and I did not want to take responsibility for the part I played in my past negative relationships. I was in a lot of denial about the truth of my past situations. Once I took ownership for the way I acted to every negative situation I was presented with, I was able to slowly change. I eventually realised I had a choice to stay on a roller coaster of addiction with my past partners, or I had the choice to get off. Once I set hard boundaries with the other person as to what I was and was not willing to accept, it became easier. The other person’s refusal to get help or improve their situation ultimately ended the relationship. When I set boundaries it was easier to handle that relationship ending because it was the other person’s choice to choose their addiction over getting help or working on the relationship.

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9. You are extremely loyal in the relationship and often remain in harmful situations too long

This is often found in abusive relationships. With abuse, control is a huge factor in the relationship and along with fear or even threats, often the victim stays because they believe their abuser will follow through with those threats. Other times, it is a negative situation or relationship that may not be that severe. It could be a relationship where many years have been invested and they feel stuck or even believe that their life will always be wrapped up in chaos and negativity. The truth is, we have the power to choose how people treat us. If every woman experiencing domestic violence knew that they had to power to say no, true change could happen. When we invest time and energy into a relationship that is not a positive and enriching one, it is time to move on. Leaving the situation does not always have to be the answer if both parties are truly willing to work on the relationship together by tracking and encouraging positive change.

10. You feel it is your responsibility to “fix” everything for them

I was a fixer. If something went wrong or my partner screwed up, I was there to swoop in and cover it all up or at least do my best to try. Some parents who have children wrapped up in addiction have the fixing problem. For a while, I truly believed I had to stay in the relationship to save that person from their addiction or issues. I often believed I had the power to force people to change their bad decisions, but in fact that was all a lie. I cannot fix anyone but myself. Once I realised that I was harming the situation by allowing that person to continue to make bad decisions without having hard consequences, I stopped fixing and stopped allowing them to continue to act out in their addiction with me around. Instead, I took a step back and focused on myself.  Eventually I realised I had no control or power over the situation and I decided that it was time to get out of the chaotic relationship I had chosen to be a part of. The decision was not easy but it was the best one I could make for my emotional health and sanity.

Featured photo credit: Nick Fuentes via flickr.com

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Wendy Redden

Digital Advertising Account Manager, Music Blogger, Freelance Writer

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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