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Codependence

I have codependent behavior, which means that I tend to get too attached to someone. Wikipedia does a better job at explaining what it is.

Background

I have a girl I fancy a lot and she likely will be my girlfriend in the future. While I really like her, I also tend to get over attached which is typical for codependent behavior. While it is not a problem at this very moment, I know it will be in the near future. I know this because it broke my previous relationships. I want to avoid starting it in a bad way, because this will eventually result in a relationship that is on the verge of breaking. Therefore I think it is important to discuss that I have codependent behavior.

Question

How to discuss that I have codependent behavior?

Goals

  • Create a better understanding of what codependence is.
  • I want to convey that I'm working on it, however that this is something she needs to keep in mind (so she can say it when she thinks I'm overdependent).
  • I want to make sure it will be a healthy future relationship.

Notes

  • I do not make it an excuse for my behavior, I want to discuss it so I can improve.
  • I flagged it for relationship, because it is likely that this girl will be a future partner.
  • I moved it here: chat room. So it doesn't get clustered :) – Peter Feb 28 '18 at 17:37
25

I think your personal improvement should be independent from your partner. So in my opinion isn't required to tell them you have this issue if you are planning on solving it (which I can perfectly understand since I had it for almost all my life till last year). I just say so because I think depending on your relation with this girl and many other factors I don't know this conversation can hurt your chances of going forward successfully(some people can get very scared by someone admitting codependent behavior).

If you try to make this about improving because you want to be with/ be better with her it won't work. You must do it for yourself. Because you want to be the best version of yourself.

So I wouldn't bring it up, although if you're still willing to tell her I would go with something like :

(...)I tend to have overly attachment/ some dependence on my partner, and I don't like it since isn't mentally healthy for me, so I'm trying my best to work on it and improve it, since I want to have a healthy relationship with you.

I wouldn't mention it like it's the big deal (although it can be really hard for you, I understand).

I would recommend to start talking to your friends or hire some professional to deal with this issues, since sometimes they can be hard to overcome.

Good Luck.

  • 1
    I took a while before commenting on this, because I was selfreflecting with this answer in mind. I agree that it is something that I need to improve withouth being dependent on her, which is hard. – Peter Mar 1 '18 at 8:21
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    I chose this answer as the selected answer. I actually had a hard time picking only one, because all answers helped me on what to do and what to discuss and what not. I think this answer had the biggest impact and is why I picked this answer. When you searched this subject, I suggest to read the other answers too, since they provide usefull insight. – Peter Mar 3 '18 at 13:30
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When bringing up mental illness to new partners framing it is important. You want them to be aware that this is a serious thing that you are struggling with, while also not scaring them off.

The best place to first bring it up is probably during early conversations about the scope and nature of your relationship. You should already be having a conversation about boundaries, expectations, what is and isn't ok, whether your relationship is going to be monogamous or not, and what exactly monogamy means for you. During this conversation bring up that this is something to be aware of while dating you, give a quick description of your most common codependent behavior, and suggest something they can do in that situation

Just so you know, I struggle with codependency, but I'm seeing someone about it. I can get rather clingy and monopolize a lot of my partner's time. If you find yourself needing more space please let me know right away, so I can back off.

Saying it this was lets you frame it as just another thing that needs to be brought up at the start of a relationship instead of something embarrassing or shameful. It also makes it a topic of conversation that can be brought up later, and empowers your partner to establish boundaries as your relationship progresses.

Once you've brought up the first time, future discussions are easy. Treat it as you would any other serious relationship conversation. Since becoming less codependent is an iterative process it makes sense to do semi regular check-ins to touch base about how things are going, and reiterate that if things start becoming a problem you encourage them to speak up.


One thing to keep in mind is that you need to be responsible for your mental health. It's great that you want to overcome this and it's useful to get feedback from other people about their comfort levels, but don't make your self improvement your partner's project.

8

Alexander Aeons Torn said two very profound things to you in his answer:

I think your personal improvement should be independent from your partner.

and

If you try to make this about improving because you want to be with/ be better with her it won't work. You must do it for yourself. Because you want to be the best version of yourself.

If I could up vote that reply more then once I would. Strong and wise stuff he conveyed.

I would just like to clarify something, another poster used the term "Mental illness", Codependency is not a mental illness, it is not even a personality disorder. It is personality trait that all people have to some degree or the other. It is basically about the anxiety we feel in our lives about certain situations and how sometimes that anxiety can hold us back. Everybody deals with it to some level or the other. Everyone will face taking large and small leaps of faith in their lives, in order to take those leaps we need to overcome the anxiety within us that makes us hesitate to jump. It is also the thing that keeps us from jumping into fires.

Peter look how far you have already come in the last week or so. There are things you have learned that you don't even know you know yet. You have gained some wisdom. The way you approach this new relationship is going to be better then the last. It may not succeed, but you will find it fails for much more rational reasons then the failures of the past. You may also find that if it fails that pain you feel will be a little less sharp because you did not give up so much of yourself because you feared.

I totally agree that your personal improvement should be independent from your partner, because your personal improvement cannot be codependent on your partner. I also totally agree with if you are trying to improve because you want to be with her, it won't work. Because, what you do when you do it for reasons other then your own improvement is lose your ownership of your problems, when you lose ownership you start laying your problems on others to fix.

  • Thank you for laying it out a bit more, this really helped me reflecting on myself and what to do. I think I still have a long way to go, since I tend to be quite hard on myself, however I think I'm improving or atleast I became better in accepting the things I feel. – Peter Mar 1 '18 at 8:26
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With the information revealed in the comments, I think I can give an answer that is slightly different from the others here (even though I like the other answers).

Ultimately, you are not required to tell your partner about any of your shortcomings. This is your decision and there is no "right" answer as to whether you should or should not do so.

With that being said, if you go through with it, I highly recommend doing it in 2 steps.

Step 1: During the beginning of the relationship, mention your situation casually. I mean, very casually, as if it's not a big deal at all. This is not lying, nor is it withholding information, but it will still be informative. Bonus points for timing it right, say, for example, while talking about relationships (and preferable after you're in the relationship).

Something like:

I really like you. I apologize in advance if I'm ever too clingy. I can sometimes act that way around people I really care about.

And say it casually. Not like you're admitting a drug problem. The reason being, even if your situation is severe, she isn't likely going to be able to understand it. If you present it like a medical problem that WILL be noticeable, she isn't going to be able to measure the affects it will have in the coming months/years. You can, because you have experience with it; she may not.

At the very least, doing this will make her aware of it in the event that you are unable to express yourself later in the relationship due to your problems (however, I hope you can work it out enough to prevent that).

She's only going to be able to actually do anything about it after she sees it. So now on to step 2.

Step 2: When the issue manifests, have a talk with her. This time, a serious talk. Say the things recommended in the other answers.

Talk about how it's a problem for you and how you're working on. Also, be sure to ask her about her feelings, because ultimately, those are what you're trying to preserve. The more she talks about it, the more it will help you.

This is the time she will actually be able to weigh the situation correctly. She won't be able to do this before she experiences it, so you don't want her acting on her guesses (she could break the relationship before even knowing what it will be like). This is why I highly suggest the serious talk comes later.

Above all else, work on this issue on your own, and let her help you when that time comes.

2

I disagree with the previous posts, and I support you for your willingness to be open and honest with a potential life partner. I do think a discussion is in order, but I don't think it has to be scary or overly negative. It could be something like - I really see a lot of potential for us in the future, and I am so happy to have met you. You deserve the best, and I want to give you that. For that reason, I want to let you know that I do have some concerns, about myself, and I am working on them to be that person you deserve. Are you familiar at all with the term "codependency"? (if not, explain in simplest terms) Sometimes I feel like I might act in codependent ways that may impact the relationship. It's something that I'm trying to move away from. So it would really help me if you feel like I'm not giving you your personal space, or not being independent enough - just tell me "codependent" (or insert cutesy word here) and that will signal me to back off. Is that something you think you could do for me?

As far as explaining what codependency is, that is harder. How about - Codependency has to do with loosing a sense of your separate self when you're in a relationship. It can take the form of not wanting to do things or make decisions without your "other half", or it can be an extreme empathy where I feel the same feelings you're feeling regardless of experience. In healthy relationships people can feel good about having time to be their independent selves, as well as appreciating the time they spend together. They don't always feel the same way about a situation and are free to assert their own separate viewpoint.

There are wonderful relationships, but there is no such thing perfect relationship, and there's no person out there without flaws. Go easy on yourself and I hope everything works out for you.

  • Thank you for some more input, losing sense of self describes well how it feels :) "there is no such thing as perfect" is something I need to remember, because I am quite hard on myself sometimes. – Peter Mar 3 '18 at 13:25
1

I think my answer is slightly different from the others so far: I wouldn't tell this person about your codependency at all. As one of the other answers has stated, it's a personality trait (or deficiency if you want to see it that way), not an illness or disorder.

I believe that everyone has slightly negative traits that come out in relationships, and through the course of many relationships in general we learn what are good traits we should maintain, and what are bad traits we should work on. These are personal things for you, not your partner. I emphasize that because I feel strongly that if you draw attention to them, it will make your partner more conscious of if/when it happens, and possibly make you overly sensitive about it as well.

Instead what you need to do is be mindful of when situations occur that would usually bring out your codependent behaviour, and do your best to control it. Feeling that you depend on someone else's approval or support in order to be happy is a challenge, but it is best solved by throwing your energy into positive things such as hobbies that don't necessarily involve your partner. The more you make them the centre of your life, the easier it is to become dependent on them.

Take the relationship in small steps, balance spending time with your friends and family, not just your partner, and it's possible to overcome those feelings with time. I'll say again though: telling your partner isn't going to help you solve this. The only caveat to that is if they question why you don't spend more time with them, then it would be okay to say that you've been in relationships in the past where codependency was a problem and you're trying to avoid that happening again.

  • Thank you for giving me some more insight on how to handle codependence. I know this is a personal thing, which makes it quite hard. – Peter Mar 1 '18 at 17:39

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