I recently started dating a person who is codependent. They are working through their issues and are in therapy. What kind of things should I look for or be aware of so I don’t jump into their pattern?
If you recently started dating someone who is codependent, there is a great chance you are already “into their pattern.” While there are numerous symptoms of codependency, one clear sign comes from the belief, “I need to alter my behavior, or change who I am, in order to maintain my relationship with you.” People that are codependent often seek validation from outside sources, and most commonly from their partner. This comes in many forms: acute fear of rejection, constant approval-seeking, fear of their partner’s anger, and giving in order to feel safe. Your partner may complain that they are “walking on eggshells” around you. They may be acutely anxious about disappointing you, fearing that if you are disappointed, you are consequently rejecting who they are at their core. Control is another central force in someone who is codependent, and they may seek safety by trying to control how you feel about them.
I advise my couples to set aside at least a half hour each week, without distractions, to discuss their relationship. This could be a time for you and your partner to set things straight: are you easily aggravated by their behavior? Do you feel guilty even though you know you’ve done nothing wrong? Speak your truth, and own your feelings. If you are interested in a deeper description of codependent behavior, John Bradshaw’s books offer clear and elegant descriptions of the pattern. Finally, if you are with a codependent partner, it is likely not the first time. Finding a good couple’s therapist and committing yourself to working through the struggle with your partner is the most effective approach to healing and change while in relationship.
Derron Santin, M.F.T.