10 Signs You're In A Codependent Friendship — And Don't Even Realize It

It's all giving and no taking for you.

Last updated on Aug 17, 2022

arguing friends Bogdan Cherniak / Shutterstock

You may have heard the term "codependent" applied to people in a romantic relationship, but believe it or not, you can have a codependent friendship as well.

And though it may seem like a healthy, two-sided friendship, the truth is that this relationship is seriously harming you.

What is a codependent friendship?

A codependent friendship is, essentially, a relationship that is one-sided.

Have you ever found yourself feeling like you're doing a lot more for your friend then they routinely do for you?


This isn't your typical, "I did them a favor, and they didn't pay me back" scenario; rather, it's a long history of you giving your all to a friend in need, feeling like a hero, and then falling to the wayside.

A codependent friendship is conditional; there are expectations on one or both sides. This is a "friendship" that has the end-goal of needing to be needed, and, as such, can lead to feelings of resentment or betrayal.

RELATED: 12 Types Of Friends You Should Break Up With Immediately


It's easy to miss the signs of a codependent friendship, but once you recognize the imbalance, you must get it back on track if you want to save yourself some misery.

When you start to notice the signs of a codependent friendship, it can be eye-opening. You've been in an unhealthy downward spiral with this person for months or even years before you start to wonder if it's OK that you're constantly wearing yourself out to make them happy.

And typically, your once happy and fun friendship turned into a dysfunctional relationship where you lost yourself. Now, you're their emotional support; you're there for them when they need it.

You've dropped everything in your life at least once to deal with their problems. But when you have a need for help, reaching out leaves you feeling guilty and shameful. Perhaps you didn't realize you've been ignoring your own needs and feelings over those of your friend.


Here are 10 signs of a codependent friendship.

1. You put your friend’s needs before your own.

This is the most important sign to realize because you’ll notice that this keeps happening.

You're always worried and concerned about what they need and want, and you never get that in return from your friend for your own needs and wants. It’s a very one-sided relationship.

Your needs matter. If your friend doesn't seem to care or can't be bothered to help in your time of need, it's not a healthy friendship.

2. You are your friend’s primary source of emotional support.

You're the one who's there for emotional support, and you like to be there for your friend. However, this becomes a problem when it’s always pushed onto you to support and boost your friend's mood.


It’s hard to realize this because you think it’s what you want, but you have no idea what you're doing to yourself; it’s a completely unconscious behavior.

Being someone's sole source of emotional support and regulation is as unhealthy for them as it is for you. Putting some distance between you for a little while might help.

Set boundaries, like you won't answer texts or calls after a certain hour in the evening. Or, that you won't just go to rescue them every time they need it.

Be impartial when they're talking about an argument they had with someone if you really feel the other person's point was valid. Don't just assuage their ego to make your friend feel better.


3. You feel jealous if your friend spends time with other friends.

Your need to support and be there for your friend 24/7 makes you become jealous when they decide to hang out with others; it's because all your efforts aren’t being appreciated. However, it’s also because this friendship has made you jealous of their other friends.

You may feel worried that they'll start to rely on someone else for help and support instead of you. These are likely fears driven by abandonment issues in your life, and you should spend time speaking with a therapist to feel better.

RELATED: It's Not A Real, Irreplaceable Friendship Without These 7 Qualities

4. You give up other friendships and time with family to be with your friend.

You’re so invested in this friendship you don’t even realize it's split you apart from your other friends and even your family. This friend has emotionally and mentally changed you for the worst, and this is a very alarming sign.


Have you canceled plans with other people when your friend calls last minute after their plans fell through? Do you find yourself constantly wondering what they're up to, and wishing you could be around them? Do you get the fear that they're having fun without you, and distance yourself from family and friends to be involved in their lives?

These signs imply that you've got an unhealthy friendship.

5. You let them make decisions for you.

Your friend can convince you to do practically anything, even things you'd normally never do. You're so afraid of them leaving you behind that you'll agree to whatever they propose.

Sometimes, this may get you into trouble. Perhaps they're suggesting you spend money on an apartment you can't afford, or get a job you don't want, or date someone you don't really like because they think it would be "cute."


Any time you are allowing someone else to make decisions on your part, big or small, you're giving over control to them and perpetuating a codependent friendship. Because you're going along with it willingly, you may not even realize you're letting yourself be bullied into someone else's choices for your life.

If you’re making decisions on the sole merit that your choice will please your friend, and you're not listening to your own needs and wants, that’s unhealthy.

6. You feel emotionally exhausted after seeing each other.

Because a codependent friendship consumes all your time and energy, it means you may feel completely emotionally exhausted and empty after seeing your friend.

After everything you do for your friend and for each other, your codependency can cause a burnout unlike any other. Not only do you feel drained, but your mental capacity may be diminished, meaning you're unable to accomplish the tasks that are important to you.


Essentially, you're letting this friendship suck the life-force out of you each and every time you hang out.

7. You feel used.

When your friend always calls on you in their times of need — which, let's be honest, is all the time — you might show up to help them through it. But when all is said and done, they could brush you off, particularly when you need support.

You start to feel used when your friend constantly has high expectations for you; they expect you to drop everything and cater to their every whim.

Eventually, that feeling of being used can turn into resentment, guilt or shame towards this person who is supposed to care about you. And you may come to realize that this relationship is strictly conditional.


8. You hide your true self from them.

In a true, healthy friendship, you can be your complete self around this other person. Even the parts of you that you don't like, you aren't afraid to show.

But in a codependent relationship like this, the personality you show is limited. There may be a "script" you stick to around your friend, or you portray a persona to help you deal with the difficulties of navigating this so-called friendship.

Perhaps this means not letting your friend know about your secret talents, your interests, or even your core values. The friendship is surface-level, meaning it's not authentic or genuine.

RELATED: 5 Warning Signs You're In A Seriously Toxic Friendship


9. Other people have noticed your dependency on one another.

Where you used to spend time with your family and friends, you now dedicate that time to your friend, and only your friend. And though you may not realize it's a problem, your loved ones do.

They may make attempts to talk some sense into you, or get more information about why you're really staying in this friendship.

Either way, the way you're acting has them convinced that you've become a completely different person. In your familial relationships, especially, the love and care you once showed is no longer there. And it's a cause for concern.

10. You find yourself apologizing for things out of your control.

In healthy friendships, there is no power dynamic; rather, friends have normal expectations for one another, and don't make the other feel guilty for not living up to these expectations.


Codependent friends, on the other hand, find themselves walking on eggshells in an attempt to keep the peace.

If you have an argument or disagreement, you might apologize so your friend doesn't get mad, even if it's something out of your control. Your friend hasn't gotten their way, yet you're the one left saying sorry.

If that behavior doesn't sound healthy, that's because it's not.


How To Deal With A Codependent Friendship

1. Identify what you’re gaining and giving up in your friendship.

You need to complete this step first so you know if it’s even worth pursuing the friendship to make it healthy again.

Be honest and have a meaningful conversation about your concerns. Then both of you can come to an understanding and agree on how to solve the problems.

2. Set healthy boundaries for yourself.

Don't let them walk all over you again, and learn to be yourself around them. Your needs and wants are healthy and valid.

Setting boundaries in your friendship is extremely important. It's OK to express your needs and expect someone to support you in return. But none of this can get resolved if you don't tell your friend what you need. Which brings us to...


3. Communicate openly and honestly.

There should be a comparable give and take in friendship; at the very least, you should be able to trust that your friend is going to help support you in hard times. But if you're the only one giving, that’s a problem.

The imbalance of your friendship is what will ruin it, and if you’re the one who's the giver, you're feeling burned out and worn down. So, address your concerns and take steps to re-balance the relationship.

Learn how to put emphasis on your needs in the friendship and, more importantly, to say "no" if you really can't or shouldn't do something.

It's normal to expect friends to reciprocate love, affection, and emotional support. If your friends aren't doing that, it may be time to take a break for a while until you recognize what you need in a friendship.


RELATED: The Best Friendships Always Have These 3 Characteristics

Megan Hatch is a former contributor to YourTango who has had bylines on Medium, Buzzfeed, MSN Canada, Patch, Voice of America, Canyon News, and others. Follow her on Instagram and on Twitter for more.