If you’ve ever been called a codependent before, learning how codependency ruins relationships is a very important issue to look into. It’s not that codependents can’t create successful, happy partnerships, but that some of the core requirements for mutual and sustaining love are not as easy to create.

Below you’ll find the core issues most codependents face along with how to address them so you have a better shot at creating and sustaining a happy relationship in your future.

One of the most common challenges codependents face is living with very low self-esteem. As a result, you do not love yourself. You also experience a very hard time identifying what you want and need. You also struggle to trust yourself and have difficulty setting limits and boundaries. These are issues that need to be addressed in order to have a good relationship.

How Codependency Ruins Relationships : Your Self-Esteem

Codependency symptoms include having very low self-esteem. This causes you to not be able to love or even trust yourself. Pleasing others is the only way you feel valued.

It often starts with childhood trauma. Your parents did not know how to help you feel like a valuable, special and lovable person. You developed a distorted view of yourself, feeling unloved, unimportant and shameful, to name a few.


When your parents don’t see you for who you really are, you feel so alone and even desperate. You also begin to feel that you really aren’t an important and worthwhile person. This lonely childhood can lead to depression and anxiety. In order to deal with this, you develop different coping mechanisms, one being codependency.

Since you don’t feel that you have any value, taking care of others becomes your only way to feel worthwhile and avoid loneliness. The deeper truth you will eventually need to face is that you are taking care of others hoping that you can fix them and then maybe it will be your turn and they will finally (maybe for the first time ever) take care of you.

For codependents, this is a very lonely place to be.

It can be hurtful when others resist your support or don’t want advice. This is how codependency ruins relationships.  You want to give advise, but your partner doesn’t appreciate it.  It feels good to take care of other people. You feel less alone.

In your need to avoid loneliness, you may try to please others, give advice and even compromise your own values in order to not be rejected or criticized, and therefore feel lonely. This only makes you feel more worthless.

Asking To Get Your Needs Met

You may have learned at a young age that you could not ask directly for what you needed. Perhaps you would be shamed, yelled at, or even completely ignored. Perhaps you learned to find indirect ways of getting your needs met. You may have suppressed your own needs so that you wouldn’t be vulnerable.

This lack of vulnerability, while a necessary coping skill in order to feel safe as a child, does not work when trying to be in a healthy relationship as an adult. Sometimes, you suppressed your own needs so much as a child that now you don’t even know what your needs are!

So you had to figure out how to get what you wanted in some covert or indirect way, and the original need gets lost. Now you have to learn what your needs are, how to take care of yourself, and how to be vulnerable and allow someone else to meet your needs. This is a tall order and can be a real challenge.  This is also how codependency ruins relationships.  Your partner may start to feel frustrated by not being able to meet your needs.

Emotional Abuse

Worse yet, you don’t even expect anyone to meet your needs, since you have low self-esteem and feel like you are never enough. This sets you up to be with someone who is narcissistic, someone who only cares about their own needs, and is happy to have you focus on them. They aren’t interested in meeting your needs.

In a healthy relationship, your partner won’t feel comfortable if they can’t ever take care of you or do things for you. They also won’t be comfortable making you 100% responsible for all the problems in the relationship. In fact, if you can’t accept love and caring, or don’t know how to tell your partner what you need, this can lead to the demise of your relationship.

Not being taken care of eventually leads to a lot of anger and resentment. This is how codependency ruins relationships.  You will have to process these feelings in order to be ready to let real love and caring into your life. Otherwise, you could take your anger out on the wrong person.

How Codependency Ruins Relationships : Setting Limits

Setting limits means being able to protect yourself physically and mentally. Setting boundaries, or limits, helps prevent you from being physically or emotionally violated, as well as prevent you from violating others. It is what gives you a sense of self, a sense of who you are inside yourself, and in the world.

You have a right to set limits, and others have a right to set boundaries, too. Learning what your own boundaries are, and how to set them, is an important skill set. Also, learning to recognize and respect other people’s boundaries is important so you don’t do something inappropriate that will hurt or try to control someone else. You can see how important this is in relationships.

A Warped View Of Responsibility

As a child, you may have felt that you were not allowed to set limits. You weren’t allowed to tell them to stop neglecting you, ignoring you, hitting you or shaming you in some way. Or, you may have tried to tell them and it didn’t work. So you didn’t learn appropriate limit setting, starting at a young age. So setting healthy boundaries in a relationship may be a challenge for you.

Sometimes a warped view of responsibility develops. You may have felt that you were responsible for your parents actions, and blamed yourself for how they acted or reacted.

Perhaps, you thought, if I were smarter or better looking or more athletic I would be deserving of love and respect. Meanwhile, your parents behavior may have had nothing to do with you. Maybe they just took their frustrations about their life out on you.

Unfortunately, it is normal for kids to take the blame and feel responsible. You may have learned that your parents opinions were more important than your own.

Setting Limits Means Holding Yourself and Others Accountable

So, now, you have a hard time holding others accountable for their actions, and maybe even can’t hold yourself accountable either. Where is the line, or boundary, between what you have to clean up in your relationship and what the other person has to work on themselves.

When partners in a relationship can’t be accountable for their own mistakes, this creates discord and anxiety. When issues are never resolved, unhappiness and hopelessness can set in.  This is how codependency ruins relationships.

In a codependent relationship, you give and give and all they do is take. If each partner isn’t giving equally, there is a good chance that your relationship won’t be able to thrive.

Often, you keep giving, waiting for the person to change instead of accepting the reality of the situation. Thinking that someday the other person will change is a common problem. Acceptance is key. Maybe my partner isn’t willing to hold themselves accountable and make the needed changes.

Setting Limits and Expecting Change

It’s true that someday they could change. But it doesn’t mean you have to stick around until it happens. Ask yourself “What if this person never changes? What will I do?” Even starting to contemplate this means you are starting to set limits. Learning that I am not allowed to set limits sets you up to feel that I have to put up with bad behavior forever.

You learned to set aside your own happiness to take care of your partner’s difficulty. Maybe you feel it is your job to help your partner stop drinking or stop getting angry. Codependents are hoping that their partner will change, but when they don’t, you get more and more unhappy and depressed.

An Example Of How Codependency Ruins Relationships

It can be so difficult to set limits: My partner has an unhealthy behavior, habit or addiction that needs to improve. We can put a support structure in place in order to facilitate healing. Maybe that includes therapy.

The goal is for the roles of each person to balance out so that the helper can exit from the helping role and can be more neutral. That means healing from codependency and taking the focus off your partner and taking care of yourself. The other partner can become more empowered and take on more responsibility. Then there is a chance for the relationship to grow and evolve.

Alternately, your partner may enjoy having someone else to take care of everything that they would normally have to do on their own. They want to take advantage of this, and aren’t interested in change. They most likely will get worse over time, not better.

You are just enabling them to continue the unhealthy behavior by taking care of everything for them. Enabling helps to avoid consequences, and ensures the continuation of the unhealthy behavior. This is an example of how codependency ruins relationships.  It also ensures that neither partner changes. If you stop enabling, you will have to work on your codependency issues.

Healing may include neurofeedback, EMDR, talk therapy and somatic work.

If you can relate to this article about codependency, and want to begin the healing process, please feel free to reach out. I can be reached on my confidential voice mail 310-314-6933 or email me mfoxmft@yahoo.com.