A healthy relationship means two people growing together — instead of into each other. While the purpose of this connection is to find someone who has compatible traits to yours, it’s difficult to follow this concept if you’re compromising your beliefs due to fear of the relationship ending.
Even though many of us have experienced a relationship where we feel slightly off, to lose sight of yourself (and rely on your partner to determine your value) is a toxic connection that can be labeled as a codependent relationship.
What does it mean to be codependent?
If you’re in a codependent relationship, you’ll find yourself basing your self-worth and sense of purpose on your partner’s approval. As you revolve your life around your partner, you’ll enter a dysfunctional cycle of constantly putting his or her well-being over your own and sacrificing yourself for the sake of someone else’s happiness (while receiving very little in return).
It’s safe to say that there’s an extent to how we conform our lives with our partner’s, but it’s incorrect to assume we have to give up who we are in order to fit the mold of who someone wants us to be. To determine if you might be a part of this cycle, read further to discover six red flags that you may be codependent and what you can do to stop living around someone else — and begin the journey of living for yourself.
1. You aren’t able to say no to your partner
Whether it’s your partner asking you to run his or her errands on your day off or order his or her new phone on your lunch break, your answer is yes and your personal schedule is suffering because of it. While compromises must be made in relationships, you shouldn’t need to drop everything in your life to accommodate the wishes of your significant other. By constantly treating someone else’s needs as more important than your own, you’re improving your partner’s life at the expense of lessening the quality and meaning of yours.
What to do:
- Recognize that saying no isn’t selfish and that a partner who wants to see you happy won’t make you feel like it is
- Discover your boundaries — and stick to them
- Create a daily to-do list and commit to accomplishing the tasks
- Be honest — let your partner know that you’re now focusing on the responsibilities in your life and might not be able to do everything you once did for him or her
2. You feel constant anxiety
Anxiety — the common explanation that comes with seeking approval from anyone who isn’t yourself. But how could you not feel this draining emotion? Giving someone control over how you feel about yourself is a back-and-forth pattern of constant relief when your partner reacts positively and overwhelming panic when you realize he or she isn’t satisfied.
In addition to wondering if you’re good enough (and walking on eggshells in hopes that you are), you’re most likely confused by what you want — due to the fact that you’re so focused on what your partner needs. Although relationships have their ups and downs, their overall purpose should reinforce your worth instead of make you question it.
What to do:
- Take a step back and determine where this anxiety stems from
- Confide your feelings to a loved one
- Truly consider your relationship and decide if it’s worth saving (is the anxiety self-driven or is your partner pressuring you?)
- Busy yourself with the responsibilities in your own life
- Realize when the anxiety settles in and filter the negative thoughts
3. You change yourself in attempt to meet your partner’s expectations
Along with continuously trying to please your partner through actions, you might fall into the habit of attempting to satisfy your partner through personal adjustments. Maybe you’re both extremely religious — but you’re the one who converted religions to feel closer to your partner. Consequently, a moral sacrifice such as this one is to blame for why you don’t feel control over your life; it’s difficult to grasp your reality when you revolve it around someone else.
Whereas it’s good to be open to your partner’s hobbies and interests, your beliefs don’t need to be crossed to do so. In general, what makes you different from your partner should be a reason for why he or she is attracted to you — instead of a sign that you must change to be the exact same.
What to do:
- Know and prioritize your beliefs
- Stand by your morals and realize that someone who loves you would never make you give them up
- Differentiate between changing who you are and changing what your hobbies are
- Ask for advice from loved ones
4. You spend all your free time with your partner
The hours of your day that are meant for work are already given to your significant other and the free time you have in-between is no different. While it’s understandable to want to spend time with the person you’re in a relationship with, it’s detrimental if this person represents the source of your confusion.
If you’re already portraying the habits of a codependent partner, you naturally treat your significant other as the center of attention and spending your entire time with him or her will only feed this crippling behavior. In the end, you are your own person and deserve to be in a relationship that’s a healthy balance of focusing on your partner and yourself.
What to do:
- Make plans beforehand with your loved ones and follow through with them
- Designate time during your day to check in with your friends
- Participate in a new hobby (and sign up for those type of classes)
- Create a routine where you give yourself time to unplug and do an activity on your own
5. You act happy regardless of the situation
It doesn’t matter if your partner blamed you for something that was completely out of your control, you apologized and swallowed what you actually wanted to say. And it’s no problem that your family mentioned his or her demeaning manner towards you at dinner, your significant other had a bad day at work. Your list of excuses for your partner’s inappropriate behavior is as long and wide as the smile you put on your face as you say them.
Although your ability to overlook your true feelings can be a positive trait every now and then, it’s currently to blame for the sinking sensation in your stomach and the helpless thoughts in your head. While every relationship has negative emotions, your reaction to pretend yours aren’t happening should be enough for you to consider why.
What to do:
- Communicate with your partner about how you feel
- Look within yourself to discover where this need to please people comes from
- Accept that you don’t always have to be happy — you’re human and there’s nothing wrong with acting that way
6. You feel trapped
At some point during your relationship, you most likely had a moment of clarity where the idea of leaving crossed your mind — just as quickly as the fear of being alone wiped it away. From not wanting to start over to not wanting to let your partner down, your reasons to stay in this relationship are surrounded by the idea that being with someone is better than not being with anyone.
While it’s terrifying to take a step into the unknown, it’s even more terrifying to live your life within the fences that someone else created for you. Some of our greatest moments come from our boldest decisions — your life is meant for you to control because you’re the one person who is guaranteed to never leave.
What to do:
- List your priorities and discover where this relationship falls on the list
- Discover the underlying issues for why you feel trapped
- Seek professional help if it becomes difficult to sort out your thoughts
- Discuss your feelings with your partner
This article was originally published on December 17, 2017.