10 signs your partner is codependent

The CWCodependent relationships can be detrimental to both people.
  • Codependency is when one partner feels an excessive emotional reliance on their partner.
  • Textbook signs of codependent personalities are people-pleasing, low self-esteem, and always needing to be in control.
  • According to codependency expert, Darlene Lancer, codependency is a disorder of the self.
  • Clinical psychologist Dr. Jennifer Rhodes said the key to a strong relationship is healthy interdependence.

Maintaining a healthy relationship is hard. Many times, issues that may cause problems later, manifest themselves without a couple even realising. Codependency is one such issue. “Codependency is excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner,” Dr. Jennifer Rhodes, a clinical psychologist, told INSIDER.

According to Darlene Lancer, a marriage and family therapist and author of “Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You,” a person can become codependent because of how they were raised. “Dysfunctional families or growing up with an ill parent is likely to create codependent behaviour,” she said. Of course, being raised in a dysfunctional family by no means guarantees you will be codependent later in life, but for some, it can create this pattern.

Signs of a codependent partner are not always obvious to spot. According to Dr. Rhodes, oftentimes, the codependent behaviour makes the other partner feel good so there is no incentive for them to interfere. “The codependent partner has to separate and develop their own self-esteem or leave the relationship for both people to get better,” Dr. Rhodes explained.

Here are 10 ways to tell if your partner is too codependent.


They can’t say no, ever.

HBOIt can be difficult for a codependent person to say ‘no.’

It’s one thing to do something nice for someone you care about, but it’s another to feel like you always have to.

According to Lancer, codependents don’t feel they have a choice. “Saying ‘no’ causes them anxiety so they go out of their way to sacrifice their needs to accommodate other,” she said.


They never feel like they’re good enough for you.

WAYHOME studio / ShutterstockIt can be hard for a codependent person to accept that they can be loved for who they really are.

Oftentimes, a codependent partner in a relationship will exhibit low self-esteem. According to Lancer, they don’t feel a strong sense of self-worth which is one of the reasons they are always aiming to please.

For this reason, codependents tend to not express their true feelings or what they’re really thinking out of fear that their partner may abandon them.


They feel responsible for you.

Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesCodependents put others first.

“Codependent partners are willing to make extreme sacrifices to make their partner happy,” Dr. Rhodes explained. They will go above and beyond to meet their partner’s needs no matter what it takes.

Codependents put others first, which sounds altruistic, but when it’s at the cost of your own well-being they are doing more harm for themselves than good.


They get upset when they don’t hear from you.

FreeformCodependents might have a strong fear of abandonment.

If a codependent feels any type of abandonment, even if it’s something as small as not getting a call from their partner when they said they would, they can quickly shut down.

“This is due to their high levels of fear of abandonment,” Dr. Rhodes explained. Suddenly, every worst-case scenario about what could have happened to their significant other is running through their head, when in reality their partner is fine.


They can’t enjoy themselves without you.

NetflixThey might only feel safe around you.

Chances are, if you’re in a serious relationship you and your partner have “couple friends,” but it’s important to also have your own friends, too.

Dr. Rhodes said codependent partners have trouble enjoying life outside of their relationship because they feel safer, more in control, and confident when they’re with their significant other.


They fixate on their mistakes.

ShutterstockMistakes might feel like a big deal to codependents.

We all mess up in relationships, but the important thing is to forgive each other and move on.

“Codependent partners fixate on their mistakes,” said Dr. Rhodes. The reason for this, according to Lancer, is that a codependent needs other people’s approval to feel good about themselves and if they mess up, or make a mistake, they feel anxiety and stress of abandonment.


They have poor personal boundaries.

Monkey Business Images / ShutterstockIt’s hard for codependents to set boundaries.

“Codependents feel responsible for others which leads to weak personal boundaries,” Lancer explained.

Many times, a codependent partner is so crippled, knowingly or not, by the fear of abandonment, the fear that they will jeopardize the relationship, or won’t be liked, that they have a hard time setting boundaries for themselves – physical or emotional.


They must always be in control.

Focus FeaturesThey can often be manipulative.

Lancer explained that being in control helps codependents feel safe and secure. Obviously, we all want to have some amount of control over our lives, but for a codependent partner, staying in control keeps them from having to take risks or share their true feelings.

“All the people pleasing and caretaking is a form of control as well,” Lancer said. It may be subconscious, but being extra nice and a people-pleaser helps codependents manipulate people and situations the way they feel they need to be.


They’re very indecisive.

FreeformThey likely don’t want to upset their partner.

From what to have for dinner to whether or not to take a job offer, a codependent is not good about making decisions, no matter how trivial. They rely so heavily on their partner’s opinions and feelings towards them that they’d rather not have an opinion as not to upset their partner if they should disagree.

“They’re afraid to be truthful because they don’t want to upset anyone,” Lancer said.


They can’t stand not being there for you when you need.

oneinchpunch / ShutterstockIt goes back to their feelings of needing to be in control.

We all want to be there for the people we love but sometimes life gets in the way and we can’t. If a codependent can’t be there for their partner, they can feel very distressed.

Lancer said this all goes back to the feeling of being in control and low self-esteem. If someone else is helping out their partner in need, no matter how silly the need may be, it will make them feel inadequate.


Ultimately codependents must find themselves on their own.

ShutterstockHealthy interdependence is the key.

“It’s a misconception to think you can “fix” a codependent relationship,” Lancer said. “Codependency is a disorder of the self. You can only work on changing yourself. That’s why it’s important to practice detachment from your partner to become more autonomous and less reactive,” she told INSIDER.

Dr. Rhodes agreed, “Healthy interdependence is the key. That means that you are emotionally available for your partner but do not rely on them for your feelings of love and overall well-being. We believe that independence is the healthiest state of being when, in reality, a healthy relationship with good interdependence is what we should be striving for.”

The goal is to focus on yourself. “Trying to change your partner is a sign of your own codependency, and the opposite is actually necessary – focus on yourself,” Lancer told INSIDER. “When one partner changes, the entire dynamic shifts, and the other partner changes too, by necessity.”

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