Getting out of a toxic relationship can be life saving. Everyone deserves a happy, healthy relationship, and it takes serious strength to pull oneself out of one that's doing more harm than good. It may be difficult for people who walk away from toxic relationships to realize right away that the relationship was unhealthy for them, and one such example can be codependency. I reached out to relationship experts to understand how to know if your ex was codependent, and discovered that there are, in fact, things they might've said that signal token codependent behavior.
Before analyzing how your ex acted while you were together and trying to think back on every little thing they ever said to you, it's important to understand what a codependent relationship actually is, and what it looks like if you're in one. "A codependent relationship is one where the people in it depend on each other and support each other in ways that are unhealthy and promote dependence over independence," relationship expert April Masini tells Elite Daily.
As Masini indicates, codependent partners are not healthy, so if your ex ever said any of the following things, or exhibited the behavior below, there's a chance your partner fell into this category.
1. "Do you have to talk to your parents so much?"
According to Dr. Lesliebeth Wish, licensed clinical psychologist, one partner can be identified as the "controlling partner" in a codependent relationship, and their behavior can be considered toxic. "This partner often works hard to isolate you from your family and friends," in order to "shield him or herself from their unloving behavior," LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist, tells Elite Daily. "For example, he or she might say: 'Do you have to talk to your parents so much?'"
It might not seem like a big deal, but Wish maintains that it's codependency at it's finest. Additionally, that controlling behavior can be hard to change. "Control issues usually stem from fear of losing control," Masini says. "So if you see someone who is controlling, often or even all the time, it is usually because they are afraid of what will happen if they lose control."
2. "Do you even love me?"
If you were in a relationship with a codependent partner, then they might have constantly asked you if you were really invested in the relationship. For instance, they might ask you things like "Do you love me?" or "Do you promise you won’t leave me?" Dr. Holly Daniels, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, told TIME.
This is common behavior for a controlling and codependent partner. As Wish explains, it's engrained in who they are. "Regardless of the reason, this person learned to keep both eyes open all the time," she says of a codependent partner. "Be on the lookout for bad things. Keep people close and obedient — or whatever it takes to maintain a sense of safety."
3. "I'm not okay if we're not okay."
While this line might not seem unhealthy at first, think again. "Codependents get very anxious if they perceive the status of the relationship to be up in the air, even if it's just a little disagreement," Erika Martinez, licensed psychologist and founder of Miami Shrinks, tells Elite Daily. "They'll push, beg, coax, flatter, etc. their partner until they get reassurance that the relationship is 'safe'."
4. "I can go out with my friends anytime. I'd rather spend time with you."
Sure, it's nice to spend time with your partner, but if they regularly blew off their friends to hang out with you, it might've been a red flag. "At face value, this doesn't sound like a big deal," Martinez says. "This becomes a problem when it's the norm, not the exception. Codependents lose touch with other important people, hobbies, interests, etc. in their lives because they become all about their relationship 24/7."
5. "What do you want?"
Again, this doesn't seem weird to say in a relationship. In response to "What do you want to do for dinner?" for example, Martinez says a codependent partner will answer, "I don't know. I'm fine with whatever. What do you want for dinner?" This is because "Codependents don't take up space in the relationship. They put themselves last or [don't] voice their tastes or preferences so they can make their partner happy."
If you think you might currently have a codependent partner, Masini has some suggestions for how to put a stop to the behavior. "Boundaries are a great way to break out of a codependent relationship," she says. "If you tell a partner that you will do something that they usually do for you, that’s employing a boundary. It may be paying your own credit card bill, or having your own bank account, or making your own weekend plans with friends."
Additionally, if you've realized that your ex was codependent, there are ways you can seek healing. "Recognize the reasons that codependence worked for you, when it worked for you," Masini suggests. Once you do that, "you’ll see the door out of it. Your history will be important, as will your desire to use boundaries, and seek independence within the relationship, and the rest of your life."
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.