Originally posted on Bustle
Codependence in a relationship can be incredibly destructive — partly because you might not even realize it’s happening. Often, it just sneaks up on you. Plus, codependence in a relationship might not always mean what you think it means. It’s not always about being on top of each other constantly, though that can certainly be a sign of it. It’s more about your need and priorities. Codependence is about being so reliant on your partner or on your relationship that you’ll put it before everything else.
“Codependency has become a buzzword, and people sometimes misunderstand what it means to be codependent. It is important to remember that in a healthy relationship, it is absolutely OK to depend on your partner,” Holly Daniels, PhD, LMFT, clinical systems director at Sober College, tells Bustle. “Humans are biologically wired to be in relationships, and relationships work best when two people are able to trust one another, lean on one another, and comfort one another. In a healthy relationship, there is a balance between each partner’s ability to be independent and their ability to enjoy mutual support with the other partner. In some relationships, however, one or both partners value the relationship much more than they value their own health and well-being. This is called codependence.”
And if you’re codependent on your partner, you might not realize it — you might feel like you just have their best interest at heart or that you really care about the relationship. But the truth is, you might be driving your partner away by putting too much pressure on the relationship. Here are the subtle signs that your codependence is affecting the relationship, because it’s not always obvious.
1. They Seem Stressed For No Reason
If you’re really dependent on your partner, it might stress them out without them even realizing why. “Sometimes underlying stress or tension can make being together feel like friction,” Shannon McFarlin, a therapist at Talkspace, tells Bustle. If it feels like your partner is stressed, but you can’t work out why, take a look at the relationship.
2. You’re Bickering
Not full-on fighting (though that can obviously be a problem), but nitpicking at each other can often be a sign that your partner feels stressed or trapped.
“Sometimes simply breaking the pattern of spending so much time together can break the cycle of bickering,” relationship expert April Masini tells Bustle. Give your partner some space and take the pressure off — then see if the relationship improves.
3. They’re Doing More Things Alone
When you’re stressed because of someone else, it’s natural to seek out alone time. “The thought of them joining you for the day is so unappealing that you downplay what you’re doing or don’t disclose the things that might interest them,” Rhonda Milrad, a relationship therapist and founder and CEO of relationship app Relationup, tells Bustle. “Keeping your plans under the radar is your passive attempt to steal alone time.”
If you notice that your partner suddenly has a lot of plans that you’re not involved with — or tends to leave all of a sudden to go and be alone — that can be a sign that something’s wrong.
4. They Keep Their Distance — Physically
Is your partner avoiding your touch — or just spending a lot of time on the other side of the room? Bestselling author and relationship expert, Susan Winterexplains that your partner can sometimes find your physical presence suffocating if things aren’t going well — so they may move away or be less tactile. It’s a sign that they might need emotional space, too.
5. They “Just Need A Minute”
If during fights or even just while spending time together they say “they just need a minute” it might mean that they’re feeling the pressure of the relationship — and trying to gather their thoughts. “Take saying this in the midst of a discussion or argument you are having as a sign that they recognize their limits and those limits are about to be reached,” relationship coach and founder of Maze of Love, Chris Armstrong, tells Bustle. “This is a mature thing to do. This is not the time to continue your agenda or your points. The fact is, they won’t hear you anyway.”
6. They Disappear Into Their Phones
Your phone is like your own separate world, so your partner disappearing into their phone is a way of creating space even if you’re right next to someone. “While this varies widely depending on the individual, some signs your partner may need to take some space for themselves might include … turning towards their screens more or spending more time in the den or garage — any place where they can naturally get a little more space from you without asking for it directly,” family therapist Annie Wright, MFT tells Bustle.
7. They’re More Quiet Than Usual
Another way of making space is to shut down emotionally and speak less. Your partner might retreat into themselves, they might become more withdrawn emotionally — and just start opening up to you less and less. Sure, it’s not always the most mature response — but some people will become avoidant rather than ask for space. “The problem is people don’t usually take or ask for space (or demand) until they are at a fever pitch,” therapist Carrie Krawiec, LMFT tells Bustle. “This can cause the person who needs space to panic if they feel closed in at every turn.” So they’ll just sort of try to fade out, rather than deal with a confrontation.
Codependence in a relationship can be tough to spot, but it’s important to know the signs, because you don’t want to be driving your partner away. If they seem distant or stressed, make sure that your dependence on them — or on the relationship — isn’t driving it.