Codependency can be defined as belonging to a dysfunctional relationship where you rely solely on the other person for nearly all your emotional needs. In a codependent relationship, you need the approval and attention of your loved one to feel good about yourself. You care deeply about someone whether they do the same for you or not. Their actions can have an impact even in normal scenarios, but if their behaviour severely impacts your self-esteem and overall emotional wellbeing, then it should not be taken lightly. This can turn into something serious that can affect all your interactions with others and how you perceive yourself.
In expat relationships where the couple is usually away from the support of friends and family, codependency can go to a whole new level. The greater the power one person has over the other, the more dangerous the abuse can be. In order to resolve the issue, you have to first understand codependency thoroughly and the warning signs that such behaviour is not healthy and is having a bad impact on your wellbeing.
Warning signs of codependency
Below are some key signs determining that your relationship is unhealthy and codependent.
1. Your life revolves around that person
You feel as if you have given up control over your life to that person. You are trying every time to take care of their needs while sacrificing your own for them. You feel stuck in a vicious cycle of always giving and rarely receiving. You feel as if you have to take care of everything all the time.
2. You find it difficult saying “No”
Codependents have people-pleasing tendencies. You are always trying to win the approval of that person. If you don’t, you fear getting emotionally abused. You keep avoiding confrontation out of the fear of getting hurt.
3. Lack of communication
You are often unaware of your own wants and needs and find it difficult to communicate about them. You feel reluctant to express your own emotions and avoid communication out of the fear of upsetting the other person.
4. You have self-esteem issues
You feel as if nothing you do is good enough. People who have low self-image tend to be prime victims of codependent relationships. You tend to do too much even if your efforts are not appreciated. You try your best to control the other person with your good intentions but rarely get any results.
5. You make excuses for your loved one’s behaviour
In social settings or family gatherings, you try to cover up your partner’s toxic behaviour. Sometimes you may realize that your partner has a serious issue such as drugs, emotional or physical abuse, etc and when other people such as family members point it out, you have to make excuses to tell them that everything is fine.
6. Your relationship with them is more anxious than pleasing
You feel constantly drained and afraid that something will go wrong. You stay in a constant imbalance of giving and giving and it often tires you out. Consistent shame and low self-esteem creates problems for you and leads to painful emotions. If it goes on for too long it can lead to anger, disappointment in yourself, thinking you’re a failure, feelings of hopelessness, despair and ultimately depression.
You are very dependent on the other person and often spend time thinking about them or your relationship. This stems from anxiety and fears. You are afraid of being rejected or abandoned, and constantly need to be in a relationship with someone because when you are on your own for too long you start to feel depressed or lonely.
8. Feeling devalued and disrespected
Your life feels as if you are being pushed around by that person. Pleasing and taking care of the other person seems like the only purpose of your life. You are rarely the focus of attention in your relationship and when you try to express your needs, you are often not taken seriously or ignored. You feel constantly disrespected and devalued.
How to get help
If these symptoms feel familiar, then you can do the following things to help yourself.
1. Accept that you need help
Codependent people stay in the vicious cycle because they don’t accept that they have a problem. The first step is to realize that something is terribly wrong and not the way relationships naturally work. If you don’t truly accept that there is something wrong, you won’t be able to fix it.
2. Seek professional support
Getting help is the first step towards fixing your unhealthy relationship. You can get individual, family or couple therapy depending on your situation. If you have never communicated about this with your partner, you can try to discuss with them so you can both roll in for therapy. It can help both you and your partner maintain a better relationship. You will learn to set boundaries, detect and correct your own negative aspects and get a better hold over yourself when it comes to showing and tolerating codependent behaviour.
3. Reach out for help
Other than therapy, have a support system where people can emphasize with you. It could be a friend, talking to your family about it or joining a support group where people have had similar experiences and dealt with it. Codependency may not be physically or verbally abusive but it can leave its marks. Getting the
Living in a separate country and experiencing codependency is an issue that needs to be fixed as soon as possible. Codependent relationships can be repaired if both people are willing to work together. If you recognize the majority of these signs and red flags, then you have taken the first step of accepting that there is a problem and that it needs to be solved. Getting help should be your next priority and remember healthy relationships are based on interdependence and honesty, and with the right help, you can make it work.