16 Unsexy Signs You're Codependent In Your Relationships

People can still need you and you can need them — but being codependent isn't healthy.

Last updated on Mar 01, 2024

woman holding on to man Alec Aiello / Pexels

There’s nothing inherently wrong with being needy. After all, everyone uses someone to get their needs met. But there's one word that tends to get thrown around a lot, which, when you stop and ask what it means, most people don’t seem to really know: Codependent.

Psychotherapist Leon F. Seltzer writes that, in a codependent relationship, “Two individuals lean so heavily on one another that both of them are left off-balance... The relationship is reciprocal only in that it enables both of them to avoid confronting their worst fears and self-doubts.” This leaves both partners feeling “alone, inadequate, insecure, and unworthy.”


Could you be codependent and, as a result, unhappy in your relationships? There are certain indicators to pay attention to.

Here are 16 signs you're codependent in your relationship

1. You seem to have a knack for choosing the wrong person

Do you always fall for the “fixer-uppers”? You know the ones: the chronically underemployed, the alcoholics, the ones with untreated depression or other mental health issues?

Codependent people love a "project" of sorts. They’re drawn to needy partners they think they can fix, and who seem likely to depend on them. If you're frequently finding yourself in relationships where you seek to "improve" your partner, it's a big sign you're codependent.




RELATED: The Difference Between Being Devoted To Your Partner & Being In An Unhealthy Codependent Relationship

2. You struggle with low self-esteem

People who don’t feel good about themselves often feel like no one will love them unless they make themselves indispensable. To make up for their low self-esteem, they give too much and never stop to ask if they deserve to have their needs met, too.

Low self-esteem is a common sign of being codependent, so if you're constantly putting your partner or others before your own needs, it might be time to consider that you're codependent.


3. You think about your partner all the time

Sure, it’s normal to think about your partner throughout the day. After all, when you're deeply in love with someone, of course they're going to be on your mind!

But if you’re unable to concentrate on anything else because you’re obsessively re-reading your texts, wondering if this person will call, and mentally replaying your last interaction, that’s not healthy.

4. When your partner is upset, you’re even more so

If something is going on with your partner, it drives you to absolute distraction. They may be only mildly upset, but you’re absolutely beside yourself, discussing your partner’s problem with your friends as if it were your problem.

If you're sensitive to the energies of other people, it's normal to experience heightened emotions in situations like this. But for codependent individuals, they need to learn that there’s a difference between caring about your partner’s feelings and taking them on yourself.


16 Signs You're Codependent In Your RelationshipsPhoto: PNW Production / Pexels

5. You don’t have a lot of interests outside of your relationship

When you started dating your partner, everything else got pushed aside. You lost yourself in your relationship, neglecting relationships and other responsibilities.

Friends, hobbies, and your weekly night out are now not as important as your relationship. You cancel things to keep your evenings open for your partner, even if the two of you don’t have plans yet.


In healthy relationships, it's essential to have a life outside of one another. That's how you maintain independence, rather than codependence.

RELATED: The Underlying Reason You're Drawn To Codependent Relationships

6. Your friends marvel at your ability to handle a crisis

You’re the go-to person when everything hits the fan. In fact, you seem to actually function better in crisis mode than you do in your everyday life. And that's because you may feel like you're always in crisis mode, especially in your relationship.

When something goes wrong, you're the one trying to put out those metaphorical fires. And while it's not healthy behavior, it's certainly a major sign you're codependent.


7. You always have an answer for everything

You pride yourself on knowing what to do and how to help people. You consider yourself a "fixer," especially in your romantic relationships, but with your friendships and familial relationships as well.

But if you’re wrong, and you believe you never are, it’s not your fault, so you never feel the need to apologize.



8. You have a hard time opening up to people

Because you’ve got such a warm and caring personality, other people find it easy to open up to you. And while they might think they know you, you’re actually keeping them at arm’s length, afraid to really let people get close.


That's because you harbor a fear of expressing yourself, as doing so may scare other people away. You choose instead to bottle up your feelings and practice emotional constraint, a trait very common among codependent individuals.

9. You feel unhappy a lot of the time and you don’t know why

Taking care of other people and never doing anything to take care of yourself exacts a toll after a while. How can you expect to recharge emotionally when you give everything to other people, never stopping to work on yourself?

16 Signs You're Codependent In Your RelationshipsPhoto: RDNE Stock project / Pexels


RELATED: 7 Tragic Reasons People Stay In Bad Relationships, According To Experts

10. You're secretly afraid that no one really loves or needs you

As much energy as you spend trying to make everyone happy and meet everyone’s needs, you still worry that, deep down, people don’t love you — and they don’t need you, either.

In fact, codependent people often have an intense fear of abandonment, which can lead to staying in toxic or unfulfilling relationships as a result.

11. You have a habit of keeping secrets and hiding the truth

Telling the whole truth often makes other people unhappy and results in conflict. And for you, conflict is scary, because you're all about being a people-pleaser and making sure no disagreements arise.


To avoid any type of conflict, you play fast and loose with the truth and keep secrets you’re afraid might hurt people. Even though, in the end, you're making the situation worse.



12. You rarely think about what you want

How can you know what you want when you’re so busy worrying about what your partner, your family, and everyone else wants? This is one of the biggest signs you're codependent, where you never put yourself and your needs first.

13. You don't ask for help

You love to jump in and help other people, doing everything you can to make sure their situations or problems are resolved. But when it comes to needing help for yourself, you're reluctant to ask.


Past experience has taught you it’s a bad idea to rely on others. You can only rely on yourself. And if this is the thought pattern you have, you might be codependent.

14. You know exactly what's wrong with everyone else

There’s a saying in 12-step recovery programs: “Let it begin with me.” But you’d rather let it begin with someone else — and you know just where they should start. You’ve got great plans for fixing other people’s lives, but don't quite have the answers for fixing your own.



RELATED: 5 Common (But Seriously Unhealthy) Psychological Habits That Hold People Back In Life


15. Making life decisions sends you into a panic

While you’re prepared to tell everybody else what they should do and how they can remedy any conflicts, when it comes to making decisions about your own life, you become indecisive, even paralyzed.

Because you don’t know what you want, you’re terrified of making the wrong choice.

16. You give until you can’t give anymore

When your cup is empty, it’s really empty, and there's no refill in sight. You’re generous, kind, loving, understanding and patient... until you suddenly snap. You become bitter and angry, which, in turn, makes you feel guilty.


As such, you end up withdrawing altogether because you don’t know how to fix things. And because any kind of conflict makes you uncomfortable, you're at a loss for what to do next.

If any of the above sounds familiar, there’s hope and help for you.

Codependent behavior tends to be rooted in childhood and frequently crops up in families affected by addiction or mental illness. Children in these households learn early on that they can’t rely on their parents to give them what they need; they often assume a caretaker role in an attempt to keep the peace in a chaotic home.

So, what do we call the perfectly natural and healthy neediness we all have for each other that makes us seek out relationships in the first place and feels so good when it’s reciprocated? That’s “interdependence,” and it’s different from codependence.


16 Signs You're Codependent In Your RelationshipsPhoto: Liza Summer / Pexels

Interdependence indicates a healthy dependency, one that doesn’t involve neglecting your own needs, trying to control other people, or making yourself miserable in the name of trying to make someone else happy.

Seeing a therapist is a great start, and if you have a family history of alcoholism or addiction, attending an Al-Anon meeting can be helpful as well. People can still need you and you can need them — you just need to turn your codependency into interdependence.


RELATED: 5 Commonly Tragic Ways We Lose Ourselves In A Relationship

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