It’s normal to want to spend time with your partner, and making your relationship a priority can make it stronger. But when can the focus you put on your relationship become unhealthy? At what point is it borderline clingy, or even codependent? Look for these 10 signs of codependency and how to get your clinginess under control.
- Always putting the relationship first Your relationship matters to you. But if it matters more than anything else, you’re likely too dependent on your relationship. Make decisions with your partner in mind. But don’t forget to balance that with other priorities: personal goals, mental health, your social life, family… Your relationship may be important, but don’t neglect the rest of your life.
- Feeling incomplete without a partner This is one of the biggest signs of codependency. If you feel empty without a relationship, you may be codependent. Codependency happens when we believe our self-worth and identity rest on how others view us. And singleness doesn’t just feel lonely—it’s like your survival depends on receiving love and acceptance from a partner. If you can relate, become aware of these beliefs and their root. Did you have another relationship (either romantic or non-romantic) in the past that left you craving affection? The unmet needs you had then may be influencing your dating life today.
- Needing to be needed One of the hallmark signs of codependency is needing to be needed. In fact, you may even subconsciously seek out partners who seem weak or flawed. Deep down, you may look forward to fixing them, making them your project and feeling rewarded by knowing that you’re helping them. While this may sound generous of you, the truth is helping people who don’t want help isn’t helping at all. Even if it feels like it’s part of your nature, this habit can be replaced. Help a partner when they consent, and remember that you can’t change or “fix” them. And for codependent people, focusing on other people’s needs is usually a distraction from your own needs. So start listening to your gut and honoring your own desires too.
- Replacing your interests with your partner’s Healthy relationships have two separate people who intersect in some areas, like a balanced Venn diagram. But codependent relationships have two people whose identities seem to blur together. You might start adopting your partner’s interests, passions, and mannerisms, losing yourself in the process. Part of this can be out of a fear of rejection. But other people don’t want to be in a relationship with a copy of themselves—they want to be in a relationship with another whole, authentic person. Show up as yourself, and catch yourself when you start streaming their favorite series or doing their hobby that you secretly hate.
- Struggling to set boundaries If you’re always saying yes and regretting it later, you might be codependent. Boundaries are essential in all relationships, but for codependent people, saying no or standing up for yourself might feel like a threat to the relationship. And you may feel uncomfortable communicating your own feelings and needs. If so, start setting small limits and making simple requests. As you get more comfortable, you can gradually become more assertive in your relationship.
- Feeling threatened by a partner’s independence It goes without saying that codependency and independence aren’t compatible. And while codependent relationships often have two partners who are, at least to some degree, codependent, sometimes only one partner has codependent tendencies. Then, when the other partner flexes their independence, it can feel like abandonment for the codependent partner. This can trigger some clinginess that might actually drive the other person away instead of keeping them glued to you. If this sounds familiar, start practicing your own independence, even if it feels torturous at first. Always needing to be together isn’t romantic; it’s toxic. So embrace spending some time on your own and respect your partner’s need for me-time too.
- Tip-toeing around conflict Being conflict-avoidant might seem like a harmless way to keep the positive vibes. But with codependency, you don’t want to do anything that could drive your partner away. And that might mean using indirect communication or sweeping problems under the rug entirely. If occasional conflict is enough to ruin your relationship, your relationship likely isn’t healthy to begin with. Either way, your feelings and concerns are worth discussing, and not all arguments and disagreements are bad.
- Changing your life plans for your partner Because codependency involves needing to be needed, you might change your entire life course to make yourself available. This could be canceling plans with friends to be with your significant other, or it could be something as major as changing your goals and dreams to better synchronize with theirs. It’s one of the biggest signs of trouble. If you’re codependent, it may be scary to imagine keeping some parts of your life separate from your partner’s. But doing so can help to untangle the unhealthy enmeshment that happens in codependent relationships.
- Habitually taking responsibility for others Codependency isn’t always rooted in childhood, but there’s often a past relationship or traumatic experience that fuels it. You might’ve grown up with parents or other people in your life who you had to care for. Because of this, highly dependent relationships seem normal. But it’s important to start challenging that and exposing yourself to other types of relationships. Even if it feels unfamiliar, a balanced interdependent relationship will always be more fulfilling than a codependent one.
- Not knowing how to care for yourself If you’re codependent, even if only subconsciously, you’ve made it your mission to care for your partner or other people in your life. But caring for yourself doesn’t come so easily. Regulating your own emotions or practicing self-care is a struggle, and you may even feel guilty for focusing on yourself. One of the best ways to start healing codependency is to start with yourself. Start a new mission to practice self-care. Reflect on what you need, how you feel, and what type of care you like. Start clinging to yourself a little more, not everyone else.
The signs of codependency aren’t always easy to spot, but they’re important to recognize. The sooner you do, the sooner you can correct them.