I’m writing this article from my perspective of being in a long-term relationship, and I didn’t learn this until probably year 4 or 5 of being with Bruce, and we are about to hit year 8 (geez-la-weez). And for the record, year 4 or 5 is when we became adults – 18/19 (I think I was 20) years of age – so this will definitely look different for someone who is starting to date someone in their 20’s!
It is vital that you maintain some level of independence while in a loving and caring relationship with someone. Codependency isn’t healthy. Codependency is, in relative terms, an “addiction to the relationship.” It means that one cannot function, physically or psychologically, without their partner.
It may sound crazy, but it’s similar to being addicted to a substance. Both have psychological effects that make someone dependent on the “item” or “you” to where life cannot continue unless that “item” or “you” is a present and constant force in their life.
And codependency can get a little fuzzy when you first start dating. At the beginning of the relationship that’s all you want. You want to spend every second with this person, text and call them around the clock, and just be with them! And that is OKAY. Because that is the honeymoon stage.
The honeymoon stage is where couples are “ooey-gooey,” “lovey-dovey,” and are, simply put, love struck. You cannot see any wrong in them – they are perfect and with no flaw. You two can conquer the world, get married, have babies, and live happily ever after! This stage doesn’t last long – typically between 3 months to a little less than 1 year.
Once the honeymoon stage is over then you need to observe how you interact in the relationship and how your partner interacts in the relationship. And, there are some signs of codependency that is easy to catch as long as you are looking for them.
1. Your “purpose” in life seems to revolve around your partner which involves making extreme sacrifices to satisfy their needs.
For example, you are about to go on vacation with your family. Your flight leaves the next day. Your partner calls you, crying, because he/she is going to miss you too much for you to go and begs you to stay. Without question, maybe some hesitation, you stay. You don’t go on that trip with your family, but you really should have!
2. Your emotional involvement in the relationship is quiet because you constantly worry about their opinion. Therefore, when unsatisfied, a conversation is never had because you want to avoid an argument.
For example, you really want to discuss where you are in the relationship. Maybe you do notice that you need some space, but are too worried that your partner may look at you differently. That he/she may break it off because you aren’t “happy” in the relationship. Because of that you stay quiet and choose not to have that conversation because the relationship matters more than your own emotional well-being. You pretend to be happy.
3. Saying no to your partner doesn’t feel like an option even when it drains you mentally, physically, and financially.
This is a tough one because I have trouble saying no any way due to my personality type because I enjoy helping people. But, we aren’t called to be people-pleasers. God calls us according to his will and his way. Therefore, saying no to something that doesn’t align with his word is VITAL.
Regardless, as an example, when your partner asks you to do something you have trouble saying no because you want to keep the peace and the relationship “stable.” But, let me tell you something, if your relationship is codependent than you are in a very unstable relationship. It’s like losing yourself.
4. Boundaries no longer exist.
For example, you have a strong faith but somehow this relationship becomes more important than that faith you have. You will try things, do things, and say things with your partner (because they suggest and/or say so) that goes against everything you believe. That line in the sand has been crossed.
5. You, or they, need constant reassurance that your relationship is okay. That you or your partner feel loved, and that others approve of your relationship.
For example, you have to constantly ask your partner “do you love me?” Or, you have to ask your friends how your relationship looks or if your partner is a good guy/gal to be with. And when they say he/she isn’t good you simply ignore the warning and, again, ask your partner “do you love me?” You aren’t confident in each other’s relationship and you seek approval.
6. Relationships outside of your romantic relationship, including friends and family, become nonexistent. Your partner takes up all of your time. And, when you do finally make time for your friends and family, your partner makes your feel guilty for it.
This one doesn’t need explaining, but is the most obvious indicator of codependency. Your life revolves solely around your partner and no one else. You become isolated.
Being in a codependent relationship isn’t satisfying – it’s life wrecking. As a person, you have so much potential that you deserve to discover. God doesn’t call us to depend on a partner, but to depend on him. This isn’t a two-way street with just you and your partner. God has to be involved in your relationship. We rely on his strength and his will for our life – not our partners.
Our partners can never give us the right direction for our life. They love you and care for you, but will never know you as intimately as God knows you. Your partner can pray for you and be a sturdy foundation, but cannot control who you are meant to be/become.
If your partner tries to control you and allows you little freedom and no independence then it is most likely time to step away from the relationship.
I am not saying that if and when you show some signs of codependency (every once in a while) that it’s time to end it.
We all have our moments or time-periods where we become a little more dependent on our partner, but that shouldn’t turn into a pattern.
Being independent in a relationship means loving your partner for who they are and encouraging them to seek God and develop a greater faith in him. Don’t control your partner to be who you think they should be – that’s completely against what God asks of us. And don’t allow someone to control you – you deserve better.
Bruce and I love each other. With that comes an understanding that we each have lives. We each have friends that we love and care about. We each have goals that we want to achieve. We support each other in them, but we don’t make decisions based on what the other says nor do we try to control the outcome of each other’s life.
Let’s say it’s a Friday night and I just saw Bruce Thursday night (we went out to dinner or something). I don’t have plans and would love to spend time with him again, but he has a game night planned with a few of his buddies. I will never ask him to cancel those plans to spend time with me. I JUST saw him. He has friends and he deserves to have friends outside of our relationship, because that is what makes a healthy relationship in the first place.
We are two independent people who have decided that we want to spend the rest of our lives together. That doesn’t mean sacrificing everything that we are, want to become, or are meant to be to satisfy the other. We are in mutual agreement with the direction that God has for our lives. We support each other, love each other, push each other to be better than before (towards God), but will never manipulate, control, or force what we think is “right” on each other.
And to get to that spot requires time, trust and patience.
You don’t earn that kind of relationship over night.
You have to face trials, work through the tough times and be willing to discuss difficult questions and face the facts in all of it – BEFORE MARRIAGE. I would hate to enter into marriage with someone that I honestly don’t know at all.
And to be honest, I wanted to be a married women after year 3, but I am so glad we didn’t because I wasn’t fully confident in us to become a married couple until the end of year 6. We grew up, became adults, and learned to lead independent lives outside of our relationship.
Side note: at year 6 I turned 22 years old. The timeline will look different for you! Please don’t go and wait 6 years to get married because that’s the “right time.” You could get married after year 2 or year 10. You will know when you are in a confident place – I promise.