Codependent Relationship Couple⁠

How to date with codependency: Complete guide

Dating as someone with codependent tendencies can be extremely difficult, especially if you’re still working through your feelings and relationship style.

However, if you do find yourself drawn to dating, approaching the topic prepared and confidently is critical.

Today, we’re looking at everything you need to know, from the basics of codependency to signs to look out for when you start dating.

Let’s jump in.

What is codependency?

Codependency is an excessive psychological or emotional reliance on a partner. It’s a theory that refers to imbalanced relationships, where the codependent enables the other person’s self-destructive or controlling behaviour, leading to a dysfunctional relationship.

There are lots of different definitions of codependency. Within romantic relationships, a codependent usually exhibits low self-esteem and self-sacrifices to make sure other people’s needs are met over their own.

Note that codependency isn’t a formally categorised personality disorder or clinical diagnosis. Instead, it’s a theory that combines aspects of attachment style patterns from early childhood.

Codependent vs healthy relationships

Relying on your partner doesn’t mean you’re codependent, as in healthy relationships, you also trust and rely on each other. Codependent relationships are unhealthy because one person gives more than the other, creating an imbalance between met needs.

What causes codependency?

While there’s no one cause for every codependent, experts typically suggest poor boundaries and poor self-esteem cause codependency. Common traits in codependents include an inability to say no or have opinions.

There’s also research that shows you’re more likely to develop codependent habits if you’re a victim of emotional abuse or neglect. Social issues can also cause codependency, such as increased exposure to substance abuse or societal gender roles.

Signs of codependency

Here are some signs that codependents usually display:

  • Conflict avoidance or “walking on eggshells”
  • Checking in with their partner and asking for permission to do daily tasks
  • Feeling sorry for people who hurt them
  • Trying to fix/change troubled or addicted partners (when problems go beyond one person’s ability to fix)
  • Being the one to apologise, even when they’ve done nothing wrong
  • Struggle to find time for themselves, as all their free time goes to the other partner
  • Need for people to approve or like them to feel good about themselves
  • Putting their partner on a pedestal when undeserved
  • Doing anything for their partner (including things that make them uncomfortable)
  • Losing their sense of self within the relationship

Sad girl holding cellphone sitting on sofa at home

Behaviours and signs to be aware of when dating

Dating and putting yourself out there is difficult for everyone. However, if you’ve been in codependent relationships before, there are extra red flags to look out for to protect yourself.

Below is a list of behaviours to be aware of before you get into a relationship. These include behaviours within the codependent and potential partners:

1. Pedestalling

Codependents tend to put their partner on a pedestal, even if they don’t deserve this status. When dating, reflect on whether you’re raising your prospective partner further than they deserve. Make sure you’re giving yourself love, too.

2. Horrible ex stories

Certain personality types of codependents must avoid dating. A key sign of an emotional manipulator is “ex-bashing”. This is when they make you feel sorry for them because their ex was horrible. It appeals to your nurturing “I can fix them” instincts.

However, it’s a clear sign that they don’t take responsibility for anything and will act as the victim. One day, you’ll likely be the ex they’re complaining about to someone else.

3. Different goals

When you’re on a date, and someone says they’re not interested in a relationship, believe them. Dating someone with different dating goals from the get-go is very unlikely to change, despite your feelings about changing their opinion.

Instead, look for a potential partner who wants what you do. You’re more likely to be compatible, and you won’t have to prioritise their needs over yours to persuade them to be with you.

4. Mixed signals and ghosting

Someone being hot and cold or disappearing for days or weeks without acting like it’s a big deal is another red flag. Rather than trying to decode mixed signals, take them for what they are – someone telling you they’re not 100% interested in you.

Don’t wait around until they (potentially) decide to choose you. You deserve someone that wants to be with you.

5. Love bombing

Love bombing is a classic technique for trapping codependents. The relationship starts sweet and too good to be true. Once you’re hooked, the lovebomber starts to lose interest, but you’re still there to meet their needs.

Ask to slow down if everything starts moving too fast or feels too good to be true. If they push your boundaries, start to distance yourself from them. This shows they won’t respect your wishes.

Healing your codependency behaviours

Overcoming codependency is a challenging journey, but it is possible.

The first step is to focus on self-awareness and actions within your relationships. This can be done alone, but working with a counsellor or therapist is helpful, as a professional can help you navigate big emotions with healthy coping strategies.

Other ways to overcome codependent behaviours include:

  • Take small steps to separate yourself from the relationship, such as creating friendships outside your partner and exploring new hobbies
  • Spend more time thinking about your needs rather than other people’s
  • Stand up for yourself if someone tries to control or criticise you
  • Don’t feel guilty for saying no when you don’t want to do something
  • Work with a support group, such as Codependents Anonymous

It’s also critical to practise self-care and to be kind to yourself. You won’t change codependent behaviours overnight. However, by working on yourself and reading this blog, you’re already taking steps towards a healthier relationship style.

Codependent Relationship Couple

The takeaway

The key to successful relationships when you’re a codependent is to put yourself first. However, this is a tall order for someone who’s always put their partner’s needs before their own. With time and boundaries, you can slowly reframe your feelings and embrace a healthy relationship.

Read more about sex and relationships on the Vivastreet blog.

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