By Dr. Perry, PhD
“A lot of the time codependency looks like intense love, but “needing” another person often stems from fear, not love.” ~Jennifer Kass
1. You feel like you will die without the other person
The first time I ever experienced what I would call true love, I began to think about my mortality more than ever. I would think about the fact that my time with my partner is not infinite. I would actually get sad thinking about it. It is important to differentiate between wanting great memories to last forever from an anxious need to always be close to our partner. It is not to say that we cannot depend on our partner in a healthy way, but it really depends on how deep that dependency goes. If you feel like you cannot survive without your partner to the extent that you would not even want to live, then you might question whether there is some codependency in your relationship. I can’t imagine being taken away from my partner and wishing anything for her other than love, happiness and to thrive even after I am gone. If you know your partner wouldn’t want that for you, then why would you want that for yourself?
2. It feels like your happiness is based on the other person
If you feel like you can only be happy when you are with your partner then there might be some codependency in your relationship. Let’s think about it logically and rationally. If I am only happy because of my partner then I must not have discovered what about me makes me happy. If that is the case, don’t worry. It just means that it is time to begin some self-exploration. Maybe there is a sculpting class you have been wanting to go to but keep making excuses about. The only way to solve this predicament is through action. Without action, nothing can change. Make a list of things you enjoy doing or that you once enjoyed doing. Make another list of activities that seem challenging to you. Take a leap, step outside your comfort zone and let yourself discover you.
3. You don’t feel free, or they don’t
Love is trust. Love is freedom. If you feel like you cannot make decisions without your partner’s permission then maybe it is time to do some research on codependent relationships. Nobody wants to admit that there is something wrong with their relationship. Well, don’t think of it as something “wrong.” Think of it as a way to empower you and your partner to become a stronger and more healthy couple. When I think of a healthy couple, I think of two islands connected by a sturdy bridge. Each person is a strongly rooted island and is joined together by the bridge of love, commitment and communication. In codependent relationships, couples often start as individual islands and eventually become an island of one. A single island does not have space enough for all of the emotions that need to be expressed.
4. You have a tendency to put yourself last
If you are always thinking of your partner and not yourself, how can there be room for self-love? It is not uncommon for us to want to put our partners first, especially because we love them. But, take a moment and ask yourself, “Have I been giving myself enough attention, affection and care?” We cannot rely solely on our partner to provide us with this type of love. By focusing our attention on self-love, we will be happier, more fulfilled and better able to share our love with others.
5. It feels like your life revolves around your partner
Do you feel like you hardly exist in your relationship? Do you feel like your partner is on stage and you are always in the background? These are common signs of codependency. The best next step for you to take is to talk with your partner. But first, educate yourself thoroughly about codependency in relationships. Remind your partner that your intention is to bring you both closer through exercising your communication skills. If you feel like these steps resonate with you personally, don’t panic. You are already taking the most important step, which is acknowledging that there is an area in your life that can be worked on. Growth is never easy and it is often unexpected. Don’t let that stop you.
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