Co-dependent partners are usually the last to realise that they are. It's because part of what keeps a co-dependent relationship going is denial. So how to tell if you're one of them?
Co-dependency is the 'Red Queen' of relationship issues where a person believes they are moving forward as a couple, not realising that they are the only ones paddling madly just to stay still
Having lived in such a relationship myself for 10 years, I can understand why it's so hard to admit. My partner lived with me and my children in my home; I paid the bills, cooked, cleaned, shopped and worked full time to keep the home in which he lived. He worked too, but used his earnings to pay his own bills outside of our home, choosing to justify the gaping chasm of inequity with DIY.
I lived like a single parent, and all the while, the tiniest voice that said 'this is awful' was silenced by the determination to make things work, in every way one can imagine. I distanced myself in the hope he would miss me: we simply grew apart; I lavished him with attention: he took it and stayed distant.
"Resentment rises, arguments ensue, promises made, and the cycle begins again"
This is very typical of a co-dependent relationship. Often there are mental health issues or addiction problems involved, where one person is simply 'not involved'. In my case, my partner suffered major depression and anxiety, and spend most of his time thinking - or talking - about his problems and numerous physical illnesses. As is often the case, I thought that I could 'fix him' if I listened enough, cared enough, did enough.
This often fails to works in the long-term; without a structure or mutual agreement of boundaries, the situation persists, as the co-dependent partner gets locked into trying to save their partner or relationship, over and over. Resentment rises, arguments ensue, promises of change are made, and the cycle begins again.
So why does the codependent partner keep going? There has to be pay-off for any behaviour to continue, and in this case it's often the fact that the co-dependent partner feels like the better person, the one who's working to save the relationship, taking care of the family and moving things forward.
'I'm keeping this relationship going' is the common quote of a co-dependent partner'
Except of course, nothing is moving forward. The relationship stays firmly put in a no-win situation.
Low self esteem can also be a reason why co-dependent partners stay. For me, I believed that this would be as good as it would get, that if a person with no hope or future didn't want me, then who would?
But there is hope. Co-dependent partners are with certain types of people. If a relationship is balanced, no co-dependency. Saving the relationship will require the partner to realise that they are not being an equal part of the relationship. If this is because of addiction or mental health issues, then speaking to a therapist may help them on the road to recovery.
If this is not an option, then it is prudent to consider doing what co-dependent partners usually never do. Put your own wellbeing in front of your relationship.
Speak to a friend or a therapist and make a list of things that are considered normal in a relationship. Things like reliability, intimacy, laughter, balance, shared responsibility should all be part of what you share as a couple. Are they there? If not, time to take action.
Its a beautiful but destructive match if you think about it. Co-dependents tend to self-select 'broken wings' or 'commitment phobes'. (It gives us a hobby we can really get out teeth into:), often having learned from childhood that martyrdom and self-sacrifice are core elements of a relationship. The carer and the cared for both get immediate gratification, but long-term, emotional development is stunted.
My ex-partner will likely drift towards the next suitable person who will take in this seeming balanced and
attentive man (look what I am), before 'woe' befalls him and the co-dependent journey begins again (your job to get me back there). As for me, I take a more informed approach to relationships now and will avoid anyone who uses the 'poor me' card from the outset.
So if you recognise yourself in this post, think carefully before getting the splints out for that broken wing...