Has someone remarked that you seem to be in a “codependent relationship” with your partner, and you’re trying to figure out whether they were just being snarky, or if there was any validity to this comment? It’s true that the word codependent is kind of a buzzword lately, and it’s also true that no romantic partnership is ever going to be perfect. If your relationship is indeed codependent, though, that means the two of you are toxic together — and, most alarmingly, your dynamic could spiral into abuse (per Medical News Today). So, how can you figure out if that comment was just psychobabble, or a legit reason to be concerned?
The main question to ask yourself is whether you feel like your self-esteem and identity are determined by your partner. “In a codependent relationship, you tend to rely on the other person for happiness and approval,” Dale Atkins, PhD, a New York-based psychologist, told Women’s Health. “You become so wrapped up in them, you lose yourself. Your needs are determined by your partner.” This might mean you are a caretaker, tending to your significant other’s needs as if they were a child — or, on the flip side, you need to check in with them for approval before making any decisions, and feel like you don’t even register opinions or emotions without their feedback.
Children of abusive parents tend to gravitate towards codependent relationships
So why would anyone end up in a relationship with someone where their own sense of identity is lost — where they either are controlled by an abusive, demanding partner, or are so weighed down by the other person’s neediness that they can’t live their own life? This might be how “love” was modeled to you as a child, according to Dr. Holly Daniels, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles. “The reason you develop an insecure attachment style is because you probably didn’t have secure attachments with your parents,” Daniels told Time. Mom or Dad might have either been withholding of approval and affection —teaching you to be anxious that you don’t deserve love — or they trained you to be “avoidant,” which means to avoid emotions at all costs, Daniels explained.
The bad news: even if you break up with your codependent partner, you’ll probably be drawn to someone just like them again, because your childhood wired you that way. The good news? Psychotherapy can help you work through the root of your codependency and insecure attachment style — and may even be able to help you rescue your current relationship, so that’s it balanced, healthy, and empowering (per Psychology Today).
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