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Am I In A Codependent Relationship? Or Am I Just A Gilmore Girl

When it comes to relationships, sometimes things can get blurred. You might experience extremely intense feelings and like your partner so much that you just want to be around them all the time. And while there’s nothing wrong with loving on your S.O., there is a big difference when admiration and closeness become obsessive. (If the Netflix show You sounds a little too familiar, run!)

On the outside, a “codependent relationship” might not sound all too bad. Who doesn’t want to be in a partnership where you can rely on each other and spend a lot of time together? But when you break what a codependent relationship actually is, it veers into some pretty unhealthy territory. So, how can you tell the difference between a healthy dynamic and a codependent relationship?

What Is A Codependent Relationship?

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“A codependent relationship is when one partner relies heavily on the other for emotional support and validation,” sex therapist Melissa Cook, PhD, explains to Betches. “This can often result in an imbalance, and the codependent partner can begin to neglect their own needs.” And if this goes unchecked, she explains that it can create a cycle of controlling and enabling behavior.

And this can happen to anyone. Melissa explains that there typically isn’t a single personality trait or event that might lead to someone becoming codependent in relationships; it can definitely be a product of someone’s past. Some people develop codependent tendencies to cope with having absent parents or some sort of childhood trauma.

“They might be more likely to seek out relationships where they feel needed, which can start the cycle of codependent behaviors,” she says. “Low self-confidence and self-esteem can also be a factor in someone ending up in a codependent relationship, as can the fear of abandonment.”

Basically, people in codependent relationships are in unhealthy situations that either already are or will eventually harm their emotional well-being — and sometimes, they might not even realize it’s happening.

How Can I Tell If I’m In A Codependent Relationship?

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You might wonder, “Well, I love being around my partner. How do I make sure that doesn’t mean I’m in a codependent relationship?”

First, everyone in a relationship should love being around their partner. I mean, why else would you want to be with someone?! But Melissa explains that the main difference between a healthy relationship and a codependent one is that in a codependent relationship, there’s usually a lack of respect for individual time and needs.

“In a healthy relationship, individuals spend time together but also maintain their own hobbies, friends, and independence,” Melissa says. “But in a codependent relationship, there is an unhealthy level of dependency.” You might find that it’s hard to function or feel confident when you’re away from your partner. If you feel like your sense of individuality is dwindling or just blending into that other person, it might be a sign your relationship is unhealthy.

And it’s important to remember that codependent relationships aren’t always romantic. You can be in a codependent relationship with your parents (uh, hello, Lorelai and Rory Gilmore?), your children, your siblings, and even your best friend.

If you’re genuinely concerned that your relationship (with anyone in your life) is slipping into some codependent territory, Melissa suggests asking yourself these questions:

  • Does one of you require constant validation and approval from the other?
  • Do you prioritize the other person’s needs over your own to the point of self-neglect?
  • Do you experience anxiety or stress when you’re not with the other person?

“If either of you answered yes, this could imply that there are codependent tendencies in the relationship,” she says. And if you feel stuck, you can always turn to the help of a professional like a couples therapist (or even your individual therapist!).

Help! I’m In A Codependent Relationship! How Do I Fix It Without A Breakup?

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When you realize your relationship is “unhealthy,” it might seem like the only way to fix it is to break up. And if this codependent relationship is with someone who isn’t a romantic partner, you might think it’s time to cut them out of your life entirely. But that’s not the case. If you really care about another person and they aren’t showing any signs of emotional abuse, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to work on your relationship. You can learn to get out of a codependent relationship without having to get out of the relationship altogether.

“Start by setting clear boundaries that will help you to focus on self-care and your own personal interests,” Melissa advises. “Try to pursue hobbies and activities that allow you to stay independent such as keeping in touch with friends and family.”

Of course, therapy, therapy, therapy. It’s okay if you need the help of a professional to figure out where your patterns are going wrong and how to adjust better. The main thing here is to work on building your self-confidence. It will help you answer, who are you outside of your relationship? No biggie! But maybe start with those baby steps (hobbies, self-care, etc.) rather than a major existential question. 

Syeda Khaula Saad
Syeda Khaula Saad
Syeda Khaula Saad is a sex & dating writer at Betches despite not remembering the last time she was in a relationship. Just take her word for it.