Love Codependency

Written by Viktoriya Lakhir

Codependent relationship or why it’s difficult to break up?

Have you ever wondered what a codependent relationship is? For the first time the concept of “codependency” appeared in the United States in the late 60s of the twentieth century, describing the wives and relatives of alcoholics and drug addicts (Bacon et al., 2018). This term appeared in the field of medicine and psychology when scientists began to investigate the causes of relapses in people prone to chemical and alcohol addiction (Bacon et al., 2018). The main problem was that, returning to the family after therapy, alcoholics and drug addicts continued to drink alcohol and take drugs.

The study of the relationship between the addicted and close relatives helped to identify the phenomenon of codependency as a stable system of attitudes, stimuli and reactions that support drug and alcohol use. The findings of Hughes-Hammer et al. (1998) showed that women are more vulnerable to codependent relationships than men.

Moreover, women are more likely to be at health risk, as they in most cases choose selfish partners with abuse tendencies and life threatening situations. According to American psychotherapist Robin Norwood (1985), author of the world bestseller “Women Who Love Too Much”, love codependency is one of the most serious problems in modern society. Norwood (1985) believes that the concept of love codependency can be described as a destructive form of relationship in which one of the partners is completely absorbed in the life of another person, afraid of losing the object of adoration, strives to meet the needs of the partner, forgetting about own needs and boundaries, most often addicted to: alcohol, drugs, food, games, work, gambling, computer games or dangerous sports. Participants in codependent relationships believe that the actions and behaviors of others have an overwhelming impact on their lives. Accordingly, total control of one’s own and others’ actions contributes to the regulation of one’s own state. In a research from Bacon et al. (2018), toxic relationships assume that people are so tightly connected in different areas of life that they are unable to act autonomously. Problems in codependent relationships contribute to the destruction of other areas of life from professional fulfillment to physical health or material well-being. In other words, for codependent people, a partner is a kind of “feeding trough”, symbolizing the satisfaction of basic needs, from material well-being to a sense of security, and most importantly, the treatment of so-called emotional wounds (Bacon et al., 2018).

Why do people go into traumatic addiction?

In a research from Denar (2021), there are many reasons today why people choose codependency in relationships. The main causes of toxic relationships are: fear of loneliness, inability to take responsibility for own life, infantilism, inability to make serious decisions, lack of attention or total control of parents at a young age, the absence of personal boundaries, dislike in childhood, low self-esteem, violence, self-doubt, fear of rejection, lack of security, or mental trauma coming from childhood.

The main signs of codependent relationships

Have you noticed that you are wasting your energy on meeting the needs of your partner? Do you feel trapped in your relationship? Are you the kind of partner who constantly sacrifices for the sake of the relationship? If so, then most likely your relationship is characterized by love codependency. Below is a list of the most common symptoms of codependency, as well as signs that you are in a codependent relationship (Denar, 2021).

  1. Relationships become impossible without complete dedication and dissolution in a partner.
  2. You feel truly happy ONLY when your partner shows care, affection, warmth and love.
  3. Lack of personal boundaries 
  4. Increased susceptibility 
  5. Caring for other people’s problems, the desire to meet the needs of others 
  6. The desire to control everything 
  7. Obsession, obsessive thoughts  
  8. Denial  
  9. Painful emotions  
  10. Low self-esteem 
Getting out of Codependent Relationships

Many women wonder how to find strength and get out of codependent relationships. According to the study conducted by Hughes-Hammer et al. (1998), psychotherapy is one of the most common and effective methods for breaking codependency. Working with a psychologist is one of the ways to get the support needed for a codependent person. The researchers also concluded that particularly important moments of this process is recognition of one’s own codependency, awareness of oneself, satisfaction of own needs, what is happening in life and the desire to change one’s life for the better. Undoubtedly, the fight against love codependency takes a long time, and implies a great test both for the codependent person and for relatives.

However, it is possible to get out of codependency: determination and resilience contribute to a person’s favorable outcome and help the individual to put an end to these long periods of “love addiction” which does nothing but undermine the certainties of everyday life. 



12 Symptoms of Codependency. Are you in a codependent relationship? (n.d.). NATIONAL EATING DISORDERS COLLABORATION. 

Bacon, I., McKay, E., Reynolds, F., & McIntyre, A. (2018). The Lived Experience of Codependency: an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 1–18. 

Denar, L. (2021, June 12). 12 Signs of Love Addiction. Academy of Private Life. 

Hughes-Hammer, C., Martsolf, D. S., & Zeller, R. A. (1998). Development and Testing of the Codependency Assessment Tool. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 12(5), 264–272. 

Norwood, R. (1985). Women who Love too Much (4th ed.). Penguin Group.

Depression and Health