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Are you in a co dependent relationship

Are yon in a co dependent relationship

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Co-dependency is a word that has increased in use in therapy circles. In essence, it means that a person is dependent on another’s approval in order to feel a sense of worth. This need for approval can play out in a variety of ways.


As with everything, there is a spectrum along which you can place yourself. At one end there may be occasional ways in which you compromise your needs, whereas at the other end, we are talking about ongoing regular examples of extreme sacrifice in order for you to have sense of self-esteem. It is possible for anyone of any gender to become co-dependent; research suggests that those more likely include people who have experienced some form of abuse or neglect in their lives.

Patterns behind co-dependency

A common pattern behind co-dependency is one where people have learnt, for whatever reason, to suppress their own needs at the expense of another, for survival and in order to receive love. Forming early coping strategies such as these, often results in missing out on important developmental milestones such as recognising and expressing own needs.

Signs of co-dependency include:

  • being unable to find satisfaction in life outside a specific person
  • a tendency to ignore certain unhealthy behaviours, choosing instead to stay in the relationship
  • becoming overly giving of support at the expense of their own needs

Relationships like these can result in people either putting lots of energy into trying to change someone, or experiencing a fairly persistent feeling of going against their own wishes. Sometimes people don’t recognise the patterns that they are in and it takes friends of family on the outside to point out the signs.

Facing up to co-dependency

Are yon in a co dependent relationshipFacing up to the fact that you are in a co-dependent relationship can be tough. This behaviour always occurs for a reason and in this case, the reason tends to be low self-esteem. Acknowledging the patterns can involve facing feelings of shame, low self-worth and even self-hatred.

There can be a common pitfall of self-blaming once a person is conscious of their co-dependency and this can potentially be exacerbated by an abusive partner if they themselves have a vested interest in keeping a person dependant. So it takes strength and determination to face these patterns and set about changing them.

Be honest

Be honest with yourself about how you are feeling.

  • Are you often exhausted by the effort it takes to be in the relationship?
  • Is it hard to identify and express your own needs?
  • Do you feel that you are missing out on important lessons and opportunities that an equal and respectful relationship would offer?

If you answer yes, the next step would be to talk it through with your partner. If that feels absolutely impossible then it may well be time to consider whether this relationship is actually serving your needs at all. However, if this is an option, make a time to sit down and set some goals that meet both of your needs. If it is you that is co-dependent, plan how you can widen your support through friends and family and find other things in your life you can engage with in order to build your self-esteem outside of the relationship.

Finally, talk to friends who are also in relationship about how they navigate the parts of them that seek approval and the parts that need independence and what you can learn from their experiences.




About Jenny Smith

About Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a freelance writer and facilitator specialising in mental health, well-being and ecotherapy. She writes for National Mind and The Working Parent and facilitates training in the Work that Reconnects and Ecotherapy. She is inspired by nature, gardening, love and non-duality teachings

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