9 Ways To Know If His Codependency Is Safe For Dating And A Relationship

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9 Ways To Know If His Codependency Is Safe For Dating And A Relationship
Love, Self

What is codependency in a relationship, really? And how does it affect your dating life when the other person is a codependent?

People usually think of the codependent as someone whose partner or child has an alcohol or drug problem — someone who covers for an addict over and over and then complains how bad their life is.

It turns out that codependence in relationships is far more than that.

RELATED: 10 Definitive Signs You're In A Codependent Relationship

Timmen Cermak, M.D., once proposed that codependency be classified as a personality disorder but his definition is a little clinical.

Basically, codependents grew up in a home where they were abused or neglected. Some forms of abuse and neglect are easy to see, such as when a parent is drinking or sexually abuses a child.

But, sometimes, parental abuse and neglect are not so easy to see. Looking from the outside in, it seems as if the child’s needs are met.

The child looks healthy and happy, they’re well-fed, they make good grades in school, and their medical needs are cared for. They may have social problems in school (like I did) or they may appear to have a perfectly normal social life.

But, deep inside, some very important things are not happening, according to therapist Jonice Webb, Ph.D.

Instead of the parent being attuned to the emotional needs of the child, the child is the one attuned to the emotional needs of the parent. Or the parent is just checked-out emotionally, and the child feels invisible.

The child is struggling, trying to get the love, attention, and concern for his feelings that every child needs to grow up healthy, from a parent whose attention is somewhere else.

Therapists Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman and Robert Pressman termed this situation, The Narcissistic Family.

And, because of this, some other things happen that aren’t so good.

Codependents grow up believing they simply aren’t important. They believe something is deeply wrong them or that they're repulsive and unlovable.

They grow up feeling fused with others, to the point that they don’t even know who they are and what they want — only who others are, what others want, and what others will get angry at us for.

Codependency also shows up when we don’t know how to be alone.

When we’re engulfed by emptiness, if there’s no one close in our lives, when we hang on to a relationship long after the person left, when we think no one can be happy if they aren’t coupled up with kids — we might be codependent.

When we have to agree with other people all the time, trying to win their approval all the time, trying to make them happy all the time, so no one else is ever disappointed or upset — we might be codependent.

Some of us believe that any thought of what we want, when we’re faced with another person who doesn’t want what we want is selfish and bad.

Why is a codependent not safe to date?

In her excellent book, The Everything Guide to Codependency, Jennifer J. Sowle, Ph.D., tells the story of a couple where the wife was codependent. The couple moved into a new house, with the agreement that it wasn’t quite perfect for them.

A bathroom would have to be renovated and the basement would need to be converted into a kid’s room.

The couple moved and renovations started. The husband tried and tried to get his wife’s input, ;"But, honey, really, what do you want for the bathroom?"

The codependent wife didn’t want to give any input. As if she were scared of making the wrong decisions, she dithered and dallied, "Whatever you think, dear."

The husband went ahead and did the renovations himself.

Once they were finished, the wife wasn’t happy with them. She spent years afterward complaining about the den and the bathroom, blaming the husband who had begged and begged for her input when the plans were being drawn up.

Worse was the wife who agreed to spend her inheritance paying down her and her husband’s mortgage. Then they sold the house for a tidy profit, so she ended up getting her money back out of the deal.

Years later, the husband was made aware that she was going around telling people how angry she was that her husband had gotten his hands on her money and spent it all.

Scary, isn’t it?

You don’t even have to intend this. You don’t even have to threaten! All a codependent needs is some hazy imagining that this might happen, and, boom!

You’ve just "made" them do something they’re not even completely clear in the moment that they don’t want to do.

And that is how it goes down in their memory, which is why it can be dangerous to date a codependent.

How do you make decisions with such a person?

The man I once had an emotional affair with, Chi, and I talked about moving in together. He fantasized about having his own little house but I wasn't much for outdoor chores. We were both getting older.

How long would we be able to deal with exterior maintenance, anyway? I pointed this out to Chi and said that was why I’d always lived in an apartment or a condo.

Immediately Chi’s views swung around to match mine. Something felt wrong about it to me and as I researched codependency later, I realized I felt that way for a good reason.

A codependent like Chi is the sort of person who would "want" a small condo to make me happy, chafe in it for ten years, and finally explode that I made him do it, and that he had no choice because I was going to be upset.

He "had" to do what I wanted. What else could he have done?

He could have stuck with his own needs and discuss the situation. But, codependents can’t do that. Unfortunately, however, that’s a basic adult ability that we all need to navigate everyday life.

More likely, he would be afraid to confront me with his unhappiness and ten years later, tell someone else instead and when she felt sorry for him...presto! Another affair!

Marry a man who cheats on his wife and you’ll get a man who cheats on his wife.

Not because codependents are mean and hateful and they’re using people the way a narcissist would, but because whatever basic life deficits you have, you’re going to carry them around with you unless and until you commit to fixing them.

In the case of codependency, the defect isn’t obvious and it tunnels underground, destroying your entire relationship.

You don’t know it, until one day your whole life comes down as if an earthquake hit. It’s kind of hard to put pieces back together that you didn’t even know fractured ten years ago.

Meanwhile, the codependent has let all that anger build and build.

For healthy decision-making to occur in a relationship, for outcomes to be reached that don’t leave anyone feeling chronically resentful, both people have to

  • Know themselves enough to know what they want.
  • Put their dukes up and parlay so they don’t get stuck in a situation they know will make them unhappy in the long run.

Codependents can’t do either one. All they know is what they have to do to win your approval right now — they have to look like the good guy in the moment.

And, they believe it’s wrong to stand up for themselves.

As long as you are with someone who does this — someone who smiles to your face, telling himself it will all work out fine, while internally he’s miserable and neither of you are even aware of it — you are setting yourself up for some bad, bad fireworks ten, fifteen, twenty years down the road.

And there’s no way to know what the fireworks are in advance.

You cannot stop it because you are with a person who does not know himself, who refuses to know himself and then tell you, who does not understand that this is a necessary part of human relationship because he’s been raised to believe that it is bad.

Some codependents are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They can be the sweetest, the most wonderful people on the planet, who don’t want to hurt anyone, yet they're still chronic pathological liars.

You can love your codependent very much and never want to hurt him. Yet, you’ll hurt him anyway because he does not allow himself to know when you are, and he does not allow himself to tell you that you are.

It takes him ten years to even tell himself!

With this kind of dynamic, you can be 35 years down the wrong road before you have any inkling how bad the problems are or that there are any problems at all!

This is why, if you are codependent, it is incumbent upon you to get yourself healthy because nobody can possibly ever know what will hurt you if you don’t know and if you won’t tell.

Here's some dating advice to take to heart: It's important to know how to date in a codependent relationship. And, often, we attract the same kind of person over and over.

If you have unfinished business with a narcissist or a codependent, your next relationship partner might be the very same, but you can finish that business with them.

RELATED: 16 Glaring Signs That You're Codependent In Your Relationship

How can you tell when a codependent is safe to date and be in a relationship with? Here are 9 ways to tell.

1. They haven't declared a breakup or divorce from an ex

No breakup or divorce decree means they no boundaries.

There are some situations like my brother's where both parties went their separate ways ages ago but nobody has money to file.

Otherwise, no boundaries means some form of codependency, which is bad.

2. Their opinion keeps changing

Beware of a person whose opinion changes every time someone else walks on stage and opens their mouth.

Someone who’s doing this is so unformed inside that ten years later, when their own thoughts, needs, and opinions finally coalesce and become conscious, it’s probably only because they’ve been miserable enough that conscious awareness finally had to form.

But, then you’ll get the blame.

3. They say "yes" when they really mean "no"

Beware of a person who always says "yes" and then complains about it.

Now, they have too much to do, it’s too much for them, or they shouldn’t have lent that money.

4. They say "yes" then always "forgets" to do what they promised

These are signs that a person does not know their limits beforehand. Or, maybe they're too scared to communicate those limits.

Someone will grumble if they do, and they’re scared those grumbles mean they’re selfish or a bad person.

To be codependent is to "yes and resent" — you don’t want the person getting that resentment, on the long end, to be you, when you've been asking the codependent to be honest all along and you believed that they were.

5. They don't have an opinion

Look out for the person who never has an opinion.

If, at every turn, you’re hearing, "Yes, dear" and "Whatever you want, dear", codependency is setting you up for a bad fall.

6. They give up on what they want too easily

Look out for the person who gives up and goes along too easily.

If, in every disagreement, you always win, especially if you’re using some choice words to do so and the person never gets angry enough to tell you off, there might be some ugly, ugly reckoning for the relationship years down the road.

7. They avoid underhanded smear tactics to get someone else to do something

I'm talking about enlisting other people in a "He’s crazy" campaign" or "Don’t you think so-and-so should do this? Tell him he really needs to do this, because I want or need it and poor, poor me."

8. They don't use ugly words to beat someone else down all the time until they do what you want

Codependents may give in without a fight, but they also will not forget.

But, your codependent will knuckle smoothly under and things will look just fine until they walk out on you one day and you don’t know what hit you.

9. They're aware of their codependency but are not doing anything about it

If they tell you that they had an abusive or neglectful childhood but are not doing any work on their codependency, that's a hideous red flag.

For your own health and safety, that has to constitute grounds to end the relationship.

Your codependent needs to be actively studying and learning, uncovering all the bad data they downloaded from childhood and finding new skills instead.

Otherwise, it can spell death to the relationship and heartbreak for you later in life.

The sad fact is that codependency is a trust-killer, a relationship-ruiner, and a life-destroyer — a silent one.

Codependent relationships will not benefit you in any way, at all.

Age fifty, sixty, or even seventy is one sad time of life to find out this dynamic was wrecking your "happy" home and you didn’t even know about it until the breaking point came and the relationship was all over.

Don’t let codependency turn your life into relationship roadkill.

RELATED: The Difference Between Being Devoted To Your Partner & Being In An Unhealthy Codependent Relationship

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P.D. Reader, a student astrologer, blogs as The Thinking Other Woman. On the blog, she shares advice about affairs, relationship problems, astrology and more.

This article was originally published at Medium.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.