4 Telltale Signs You're In A Parasitic Relationship

Their happiness is not your responsibility.

serious woman standing against slatted wall New Africa / shutterstock.com

If you're to live a fulfilled, happy and meaningful life, you must make your happiness a priority. Many have been led to believe that putting yourself first is selfish — but that's simply not true.

There comes a time in everyone's life that one must put self first. If you don't, you could easily find yourself needlessly suffering.

The only thing worse than a dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship is a parasitic relationship that you willfully aid and abet. The same person(s) that once brought you so much joy can quickly become the source of your pain if you lose sight of your own needs and values.


Beware the parasitic relationship 

A parasite typically latches on to a host and exploits the host (you) for resources it deems necessary for survival. 

When you're in a parasitic relationship, the person you're dating, living with, or even married to is much like a parasite. They're either depleting you mentally, emotionally, financially, physically, or a combination thereof.

Moreover, they could care less how much you sacrifice or what the cost is to you as long as you give them what they want, when, where and how they want it. If you're left emaciated, heartbroken, stressed out or depressed is irrelevant to the parasite; all that matters to them is they get what they want.


The fact that it comes at your expense is of little concern to them.

RELATED: How To Know If Your Love Is Unconditional Or Codependent (& Why It's So Easy To Confuse Them)

It's okay to love people, but never do it at your expense

Too often, we allow others to dictate how we live our lives. When we finally choose to do something about it, the very people who are draining us have the audacity to make us feel guilty for treating ourselves with the same respect we've shown them. 


You can't pour from an empty cup. 

If you're going to prioritize your mental and emotional well-being, you've got to end this lopsided, self-serving partnership. Those who've been stuck in co-dependent, dysfunctional relationships tend to believe that putting themselves first is selfish, but that's simply not true. There comes a time in everyone's life when one must put oneself first. You're sentencing yourself to months, if not years, of needless suffering if you don't. 

If you lose sight of your own needs, the same person(s) that once brought you so much joy can quickly become the source of your pain. Finding happiness begins with rediscovering and nurturing yourself. Wake up and smell the manure.

RELATED: What It's Really Like To Be In A Codependent Marriage


Living your life hoping for a better tomorrow while expecting a self-centered person to change is a waste of your time.

Take control of your life, being intentional about redesigning your life. Reflect on how you got where you are today. Ask yourself, "does my current life match the vision I had for myself years ago?" If the answer to that question is hell no, it's time to make some immediate changes. 

Four telltale signs you're in a parasitic relationship

Do you answer yes to the following questions?

  • Am I doing more for this person than I'm doing for myself?
  • Am I continually sacrificing my resources to meet their needs and goals while my needs go unmet? 
  • Do I keep justifying their mistreatment of me?
  • Am I getting back the time and effort that I'm putting out?

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What's your contribution to this? 

Before you start a revolt, let's explore your contribution to the problem. As disgusted as you may be with your partner, you played a role in this. Let's see how much of this is actually your fault. We teach people how to treat us based on how we perceive ourselves.


Even people with the highest self-esteem can be exploited because they never take an inventory of themselves.

Let's use EQ (emotional intelligence) as the starting point. Time to take a realistic view of self.

EQ components to consider:

  • The way we perceive ourselves 
  • The way we express ourselves
  • The way we allow that to affect the decisions we make, especially when it comes to personal relationships 

Fact — when we make other people happy at our expense, we forfeit doing deep dives in those three areas.  

Healthy relationships should enlighten you, not burden you. If your children, partner, family, or close friends are pressuring you, more than likely, their needs don't have anything to do with you.


They may want to be where you are and have what you have; that's envy, not respect. Nobody gave you anything.

Allow them to do the same work you did. In the end, both of you will be better for it.

RELATED: The Harsh Reality Of Being The One Who Loves Less

Avoid becoming an enabler 

All of us are capable of attaining tremendous success, but that can only happen when we have the maturity and discipline to focus on our gifts and talents. Being an enabler may validate you for a moment, but in the long run, those temporary feelings of rescuing someone while feeling needed will come back to haunt you.

No matter how close you are to the people in your life and how much you care about them, it's not your job to walk their walk. 


Remember, just because you can catalyze something doesn't mean it's up to you to sustain it.

When you hand people things they didn't earn, you are creating someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Have the courage to love people enough to allow them to find their own strengths and stop draining yours.

How do you know if your relationships are no longer serving you? 

Learning to recognize when you're doing things for others from a place of self-love and fulfillment versus making people happy at your expense is necessary for your emotional well-being. Making the other person happy won't do you (or that person) any good if your actions are rooted in a need to be needed or a fear of being abandoned. 


It's all about having a deep understanding of yourself. Recognizing when it's time to walk away is difficult but necessary. Here's how you can tell if your relationship has become perverted or transactional rather than transformational. Any time a connection that was once based on something meaningful that's now rooted in something that you know is trifling and trivial - there's something wrong.

If you keep pouring into someone who doesn't pour into you, or you keep nurturing someone who's not nurturing you, it's time to cut your losses.

RELATED: 5 Undeniable Signs It's Time To Break Up With Someone


Let your failures fuel your success

Many people stay in toxic relationships because they feel like ending another relationship will add one more thing to their list of failures. We tend to label failure as something bad and shameful when there is no such thing as failure. Wise people understand that every failure is just another lesson in this season of life. Weak people quickly attach themselves to failure because it gives them an excuse not to rise to the occasion.

The truth is, you can't control life, people, or the things that happen to you. The only thing you can and should control is the way you respond to what happens to you. Use your "failures" as fuel. You're older than you've ever been and as young as you'll ever be. Maximize the moment. Cry, forgive yourself and embrace the journey toward self-love. Be brave enough to walk away from any and everything that's not serving you. The only thing you'll regret is you didn't do it sooner.

Don't confuse validating someone else's happiness with trying to be the source of it. It's not your job. Your happiness and your vision for your life should be your ultimate goal. Never lose sight of you.

A meaningful life results from being intentional while being aligned with your vision. Trying to meet and live up to everyone's expectations is probably the only goal in life that is impossible to reach.


The true source of your happiness is you.

RELATED: 3 Important Steps For Breaking Free From A Codependent Relationship

Dr. D. Ivan Young is an ICF Credentialed Master Certified Coach, Certified Professional Diversity Coach, National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach, and a Certified Master MBTI Practitioner.