Very often when we really love someone it is easy to overlook their flaws; domineering and controlling personalities may be written off as caring or concerned partners, alcoholism or substance abusers may be considered to be party animals or recreational drug users but in actual fact the line is often a thin one and one partner can have a tendency to be co-dependent without even realising it thus directly or indirectly allowing nasty, abusive, controlling or addictive behaviour.
What exactly constitutes a codependent relationship? A codependent relationship is at the root of it highly dysfunctional relegating one person to be the caretaker and the other person a user who constantly takes advantage. Although these relationships are common with substance abusers, it also happens when one person is used to being kind, caring or empathetic indirectly enabling the other to misbehave or manipulate the situation in a myriad of ways.
The tendency for one to become a caretaker frequently originates from a child being raised in a family where they are required to constantly cater to a parent’s needs and to placate them in order to make life easier for the rest of the family. The caretaker is often the oldest child and he or she may frequently repeat the pattern in their own relationships.
Codependency is not good for either partner. It allows one partner to sink deeper into addictive or nasty behaviour while forcing the other partner to completely forgo her/his own wants and needs in order to care for the other.
Being overly accommodating in order to please people
Although it is quite natural to want people around us to like us, there’s a difference between being nice and going to extreme lengths to the point of becoming a doormat. People pleasers have a hard time saying no and often feel guilty for their own wants and needs.
A person who is in a codependent relationship cannot establish boundaries of any kind. In normal circumstances having boundaries means respecting the other person’s right to his or her own feelings and autonomy. This results in your partner being able to be controlling and manipulative and the co-dependent person having to be subservient and compliant.
In a codependent relationship neither partner has good self esteem because one person would constantly be needing approval while the other wants to be seen as helpful or having a purpose in serving the partner.
Constantly having to ‘look after’ your partner
A big sign that you have this is when you constantly feel obliged to take care of everyone all the time. This stems from a childhood of stepping on eggshells around a parent who needed constant attention for whatever reason. So the concern comes not from love but from a sense of guilt or fear.
Internalizing criticism and taking things personally
When pleasing others has become second nature, you find yourself internalizing or defending yourself constantly. It also means you have no capacity to figure out your own wants and needs.
This also results in poor communication as it’s hard to express yourself when you aren’t able to recognize who you are or what your needs maybe beyond constantly pleasing and placating your partner.
Dependency and wanting to be needed
A co-dependent person needs to be needed no matter how nasty controlling or manipulative the other person is. They feel validated in being able to withstand or appease the partner and this is in fact a recipe for disaster and not uncommon in many relationships.