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What are the signs of codependency in a relationship? How can my partner and I develop a healthier relationship?


Our society highly values independence. We look on it as an ideal trait because we want to develop the capacity to rely on ourselves, and to provide our needs. It is an empowering skill and value to direct and control our own lifestyle. It is the American dream to be free to do what we want while letting others live their own life. 

But what if other people enter into the equation? Is it still possible to enjoy our individualism while being in a healthy relationship with our friends, family and partner? 

Healthy Dependence 

Even as we grow in dependence with other people we are in close relationships with, it does not have to be “toxic.” 

  • Two people in a relationship depend on each other for support and love. They mutually view the relationship as important. 
  • Both of them put their relationship first, while they are still able to enjoy other activities like hobbies, friends and their own interests. 
  • Both of them can share to each other their feelings and their needs. Then they can help one another meet one another’s needs.

These characteristics of a healthy relationship, though two people are dependent on each other,  enable both parties to maintain their individuality. 

How does codependency come about? 

In the US, the first mention of signs and symptoms of codependency was seen in the 1940s and it was first studied in the relationship between husbands who struggled with alcoholism and their wives. 

In fact, the concepts and learning from these early studies helped form the rationale behind Alcoholic Anonymous which started in the 1960s.

As studies about relationships and our behavior around it progressed, psychologists observed that the style of our attachment or connection influenced by our childhood experiences is a big influence on our relationship-building style as adults. Statistically speaking, 1 in 5 adults now show symptoms of anxious attachment that increases risk for codependent behavior.

What are the signs of being in a codependent relationship? 

  • There are two roles in a codependent relationship. One is the caretaker, who is also called giver or enabler) and the other is the taker

  • The caretaker is the one who sacrifices their individuality to prioritize the other person. They put the thoughts, emotions, and needs of the other person above their own. This results in them not being able to meet their own needs. Their time and energy is spent mostly on taking care of the other person. 

  • The taker, meanwhile, receives all the attention of the caretaker, to the point of taking advantage of the treatment they receive. This happens consciously or unconsciously. 

  • The caretaker finds it difficult to spend time with other people outside the relationship, and with activities that they used to enjoy. There is a severe feeling of guilt when the caretaker tries to spend time apart from the taker. On the other hand, the caretaker feels neglected when their efforts seem unseen or unappreciated. 

  • The caretaker feels intense responsibility to be the one to change the other person for the better. They carry a huge burden as they see themselves as the provider, protector, and savior. 

  • The taker, on the receiving end of such actions, finds themselves blaming the caretaker for the negative things that happen to them. They also find it hard to put boundaries on their personal actions.

If you see yourself on either side of this relationship, the good news is that there is healing. Since these  behaviors are learned, taking steps towards learning healthier behaviors may be helpful. 

Talk to a family counselor, social worker, or a mental health professional to guide you through this. Our goal is to develop relationships that are equally beneficial, filled with honor and respect for one another. 

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What are the signs of codependency in a relationship? How can my partner and I develop a healthier relationship?
Brandon Resasco