Dating and Relationship Advice

I'm unsure where my codependent nature stems from — perhaps it's deeply ingrained into my very being, from my childhood years when I desperately sought my mom's approval and recognition. I'm 30 now, and I still crave affection and attention from romantic partners. (And yes, from my mother, too.) But at what point does this behavior become unhealthy?

90% of people confuse codependency with unconditional love. For many years, I fell into the larger part of that statistic.

I can still remember my first codependent relationship. Shortly after reaching the age of 13, I thought that I couldn't live without my boyfriend. My entire life revolved around making him happy and meeting his needs.

At the time, I suffered from low-self esteem. When he and I argued, my world came crumbling down in pieces. I'd cry, scream into my pillow — and when I thought he might break up with me, I'd tell him to get out of my life.

But the feeling I experienced when he proceeded to walk through my parent's front door, once and for all, sent shivers of uncertainty down my spine. "I can't lose him, I need him," I recall thinking. I'd beg for his forgiveness, threatening suicide and all.

Manipulation and "needing" a person are common trademarks of a codependent relationship.

Throughout the past 17 years and two failed marriages, I've attended countless therapy sessions. I'm not a natural at maintaining a healthy relationship, but I've acquired the necessary skill set.

Having Separate Lives

When I'm dating a person, I know that we need to have our life together, as well as our lives apart. It's important for couples to have their own friends and hobbies, otherwise they may fall into the cycle of codependency. There's nothing wrong with sharing mutual friends or jogging together every morning, but an important aspect of fostering a healthy relationship is spending time apart.

For people with codependency issues, like myself, spending every second of every day with your lover is problematic. My therapist recommended spending 40% of my time without my boyfriend — absence does make the heart grow fonder.

Saying "No" Is OK

With codependency comes people-pleasing, and saying "no" is harder than some people might imagine. In past relationships, I existed solely to please my partner, even when that meant sacrificing my own needs.

If your partner asks for a ride to work, and the most important job interview of your life is scheduled at the same time — are you capable of telling him no? In a healthy relationship, an argument wouldn't ensue simply because you stood your ground.

There's No Shame in Therapy

Asking for help can be difficult. However, there's no shame in making an appointment with a therapist. During my therapy sessions, I've set treatment goals, contrived breakthroughs, explored the differences between codependency and love, and regained an appropriate level of confidence.

You can make positive changes and work on being the best version of yourself. Codependency often occurs when you don't love who you are as a person — therapy can assist you in changing that outlook. It's never too late for making changes or seeking outside help. You deserve love, unconditional love... and nothing less than that.