It may not be easy for introverts to recognize they’re in a codependent relationship. Often, it’s a subconscious pattern that plays out.
Introverts love their alone time. So, in the dating process, when introverts end up meeting someone that they really connect with, this is a pretty big deal to them. And as they recognize how this connection feels — and soon want to spend more and more time with this person — they may find it naturally evolves into a relationship.
But as the relationship continues, it’s important to ensure it’s a healthy one. It can be easy to overlook red or yellow flags when that connection feels oh-so-good. One of the caution signs has to do with recognizing if you may be in an emotionally codependent relationship. One definition of a codependent relationship is when “one person needs the other person, where in turn, the other partner needs to be needed. The codependent’s self-esteem and self-worth will only come from sacrificing themselves for their partner, who is only too glad to receive their sacrifices.”
Introverts May Find Themselves in Codependent Relationships More Often Than Not
Those who are empaths, as many introverts are, have a higher probability of ending up in codependent relationships due to seeing the good in people, seeing the potential in people, and wanting to help others feel better or having a tendency to want to “fix” the person. But these types of relationships are unhealthy, so it’s important to be aware of the signs, especially before you get too immersed in the partnership.
As a therapist, I have worked with those who were either involved in a codependent relationship, are healing from a past codependent relationship, or who may have experienced a codependent parent-child relationship (which impacts their ability to have healthy adult romantic relationships).
It may not be easy to recognize when you are in a codependent relationship; often, it’s a subconscious pattern that plays out. So let’s take a look at some ways to identify if your relationship may be codependent.
5 Signs You May Be in a Codependent Relationship
1. You want to “fix” your partner.
This is one of the most common signs of a codependent relationship — the desire to fix your partner. It’s so easy for those who are more empathic, as introverts tend to be, to end up in relationships like this without realizing it since they see this through the lens of helping and truly wanting to help their partner feel better.
Of course, it’s okay to support your partner, but it’s not your job to fix them. Their personal healing journey is something they need to take responsibility for.
What does this look like? An example may be if you end up noticing your partner shuts down during fights. Due to your own empathy as an introvert, you may understand (on a deeper level) why this is happening. Perhaps your partner previously shared with you that they witnessed their parents fighting a lot when they were a kid, which was distressing and scary for them. As an empathic introvert who looks at things deeply, you may then be able to understand that this is why they shut down when arguments or conflict arise in your relationship — the same fear from when they were a kid is reactivated.
As a result, you may decide you are the one who is going to help your partner open up and express their emotions… or you may even feel you are going to “fix” them, “save” them, or help them heal this unresolved wound. While that is sweet of you, you must remember you are not your partner’s therapist; you are there to enjoy the relationship with them and then you will both feel better in the relationship because of it.
So if you find yourself trying to “fix” someone, ask yourself what, exactly, you’re trying to fix — and why.
2. You have people-pleasing tendencies (to an extreme level).
Wanting your partner to be happy is an important aspect of relationships, and some introverts have people-pleasing tendencies. Plus, introverts spend a lot of time in their headspace, so may move to anxiety, worry, or overthinking if their partner seems upset. And when people-pleasing tendencies go to an extreme level, they often stem from needing approval or validation to feel like you are enough to be loved by your partner.
One way this may show up is if your partner is upset, you may feel you need to do whatever is in your power for your partner to be back to their happy self again. You may find you neglect your own self-care to go above and beyond to help your partner feel happy. You take on the responsibility for their mood.
For example, maybe your partner had a bad day at work and comes home in an agitated mood; you may find that it makes you anxious. So you turn all of your focus onto them to help them feel calm and happy again. It’s as though you “need” to do so and can’t relax until your partner seems more at ease.
When you feel you move to a space from wanting to needing your partner to be happy, this is when it’s important to take a step back and look at this. How are you feeling in the relationship and about yourself? If you are often putting your partner’s needs above your own, you need to ask yourself why. Also ask what unmet need is coming up in you that is fulfilled by taking on responsibility for your partner’s happiness.
3. The relationship feels one-sided.
If you find that you are the primary one who is giving or being accommodating in the relationship, this is a sign of a codependent relationship. And this is going to feel emotionally exhausting after a while. For example, maybe you’re dating and you see each other based on your partner’s schedule. Perhaps you find yourself dropping things you had scheduled when your partner asks to see you — but they don’t do that for you.
You may also find yourself in a relationship with someone who, despite you “clicking,” may simply not be emotionally available. Looking at this from an attachment lens, you may find yourself more anxious in the relationship where they may present as more avoidant. In other words, you are giving and craving closeness and depth, as introverts prefer in their relationships, while they are more emotionally distant and non-committal… which makes you anxious… and they pick up on it and become more avoidant. It becomes a dance of sorts that is imbalanced.
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4. You’re afraid of being abandoned.
This is probably one of the core features in codependent relationships — fear of abandonment. This can be tricky, as sometimes you may not be consciously aware that you have this fear. One way of how it may show up is that you may find you do whatever it takes, or tolerate any sort of behavior, in order to not have your partner leave the relationship because you are afraid of being abandoned. For example, maybe they don’t call you when they say they will, or constantly cancel dates, or drink too much alcohol. But you justify their behavior — it’s not that bad — and don’t want them to leave you. So you tolerate it.
This comes back to my point above, how the relationship feels one-sided and you find yourself giving and giving in the relationship… all in order to feel loved, wanted, and needed.
If you aren’t aware of having abandonment fears, one question to ask yourself is: Do you tend to stay in relationships well past the time they have run their course? Do you allow behaviors that don’t feel all that great to continue in the relationship? (This is actually enabling the unhealthy patterns. In other words, allowing the person to “get away with them,” so to speak, since you keep forgiving the bad behaviors.) And do you put your partner on a pedestal?
5. You fear being alone.
Have you ever found yourself staying in a relationship that was not great but “good enough” because in some aspects it felt better, and even more comforting, than being alone? Or maybe you found yourself jumping from relationship to relationship rather than taking time in between relationships for yourself?
Now, I know introverts like their alone time. So we’re looking at this from the lens of feeling like you are attached to the idea of being in a relationship and what this means for you. Codependent relationships often occur because it feels better to be with someone — heck, anyone (no matter how you are treated) — rather than being alone. This is the unmet need the relationship serves for you — at least you’re not alone.
The First Step Is Becoming Aware of the Signs You May Be in a Codependent Relationship
Often, introverts want to be 110 percent sure of their decisions before taking action on something, including ending an unhealthy relationship. But it’s important to notice if you still resist taking action because you see the good in your partner, hope they will change, or are afraid of “starting over” with the dating process. If your hesitation has underlying fear, this may be due to a fear of abandonment.
So, fellow introverts, if you recognize yourself in any of these points, this is the first step to change — awareness. There are many therapists who specialize in helping people heal from codependent relationships (myself, included). You can then begin the journey to healing so you can experience a relationship that feels balanced, healthy, and good.
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You might like:
- You’re Not Responsible for Other People’s Feelings
- 7 Signs You’re in a Good Relationship as an Introvert
- Why Living Separately From My Partner Works for Me as an Introvert