4 Signs of Codependency in a Relationship

signs of codependency

In a healthy relationship, all people involved should feel understood and respected. Sometimes, though, relationships can become unhealthy. A codependent relationship is one type of dysfunctional relationship that develops when the balance of power and respect shift. Thankfully, there are many signs of codependency that you can look out for to monitor your behavior within your relationships.

A codependent relationship is harmful to all the people involved in it. In this type of relationship, one member becomes the focus of the other’s attention, time, and energy. One partner may be demanding or have high needs while the other takes on a caretaking role. 

In the beginning, the caretaker may feel as though they are helping their partner. This may feel good or purposeful, but over time, they may become resentful and increasingly unhappy. Similarly, the partner being cared for may become resentful or controlling. Both people are unhappy in a relationship with codependency. 

Codependency is common in a relationship where one of the people struggles with addiction. A codependent relationship doesn’t benefit either partner and can be especially harmful in a relationship where one person abuses drugs or alcohol.

It can be difficult to recognize the signs of codependency in a relationship, especially if it has happened slowly over time. Watching for these signs of a codependent relationship can help you recognize it–and start working to heal it.

No Boundaries

In a healthy relationship, partners have their own thoughts, ideas, and autonomy. They make decisions that are mutually beneficial and there is a desire to honor what both people need and want within the relationship. 

A relationship without boundaries is the opposite way. In a codependent relationship, one partner becomes controlling and the other becomes submissive. The controlling partner may have high needs or be demanding. They usually decide how both partners spend their time, energy, and resources.

The submissive partner accepts what they can get from their partner. They may push aside their own needs and wants to please their partner. In time, this causes sadness, resentment, and a lack of intimacy in the relationship.

Boundaries are important in a relationship. Without them, the relationship can quickly become dysfunctional and harmful. People in a codependent relationship must learn how to effectively set and maintain healthy boundaries.


A codependent relationship happens when one member demands care and attention and the other member tries to perfectly meet these needs at all times. The caretaking partner may feel like if they don’t take care of their partner, their life will fall apart. They may have the sense that their role in life is to meet others’ needs. 

Some signs of caretaking include:

  • Feeling responsible for other’s thoughts and feelings
  • Routinely sacrificing for your partner
  • Feeling like the relationship is all you have
  • Denial of problems
  • Losing sight of your own interests and needs

Caretaking is a sign of codependency, and it can be draining and dehumanizing. In a relationship with someone who lives with substance abuse or addiction, caretaking can be enabling and keep people from addressing their problems.


In a relationship that involves codependency, the more submissive partner often feels responsible for the other’s feelings. They may not recognize the other person’s autonomy and responsibility and instead, take responsibility if the other gets angry, sad, or upset. They may feel guilty, anxious, or worried if their partner is unhappy or unsatisfied in some way.

Because of this, their decisions tend to be reactive. This means they make choices that keep their partner happy or satisfied, or ones that maintain peace in the relationship, often at their own expense. They may not ask for what they need or prioritize their own desires and values. This can lead to dissatisfaction, depression, resentment, and unhappiness in the relationship. 


This one may seem obvious, but codependency is defined by dependency between the members of a relationship. From a distance, it might look like the person with addiction is dependent on their partner. In reality, the caretaker is dependent on their role in the relationship. They may get their self-worth from helping the other person. 

Often, in the beginning, their caretaking may feel like it’s helping. They may feel proud to be able to hold everything together and cover up their partner’s problem. But over time, this caretaking begins to take more of their energy and focus. They may lose sight of their own wants and needs. The relationship feels one-sided and they may begin to feel resentful–but a lot of their identity and self-worth comes from this caretaking role. 

Dependency can cause significant stress in a relationship. Some of the stressors include:

  • Both partners fear being alone
  • Difficulty with communication
  • The caretaker feels pressure to do things “the right way” 
  • The controlling partner fears abandonment or may feel helpless

In a codependent relationship, there is often very little conflict because the submissive partner works continuously to avoid it. The result is a relationship with no real depth or intimacy where both partners are unhappy.

Learn More About Treating The Signs and Symptoms of Codependency at Moving Mountains Recovery

At Moving Mountains Recovery, we believe that anyone can recover from addiction if they have the right support and treatment. We also understand that addiction is a family disease. We offer programs designed to support and empower people with addiction and their loved ones as they work toward addiction recovery.

Don’t wait another day for the support and treatment you need. Reach out to the caring professionals at Moving Mountains Recovery today.

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