Codependent Relationships & Abusive Relationships

Unless we see clear signs of the other person being willing and able to change the chances are that they won’t.

There is much discussion nowadays about codependent relationships, abusive relationships and toxic relationships, and how to move on from the experience of being in one. One of the keys to “moving on”, if we feel that we are in a toxic or codependent relationship, is to ascertain how likely is it that it will change. If we are waiting and hoping that the other person will change, then we need to be realistic about how likely that it is.

Unless we see clear signs of the other person being willing and able to change the chances are that they won’t – which makes it less likely that the unhealthy aspects of the relationship will change. There may also be issues about ways that we might need to change too, especially around how we choose our friends and life partners. If we are in the habit of ending up in poison relationships or unhealthy relationships then there are things we can do to break out of that.  We might need to be willing to believe that we deserve better, in order to move on from a toxic relationship, or a toxic friendship, and choose something better.

Signs of a Codependent Relationship,  Abusive Relationship & Toxic Relationship

Someone treating you badly may try to convince you that you deserve it, but don’t believe them.

Toxic, codependent  and abusive relationships take many forms. However, here are a few examples, so that you can see some of the signs of being in these type of relationships.

Signs of an Abusive Relationship

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An Abusive relationship is where one partner dominates the other through exerting power and control over them. Typical signs of an abusive relationship is where there is some type of verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. This is a particularly dangerous and damaging type of relationship. If possible, get some kind of help and support if you are in this type of relationship, because they can too easily escalate and get dangerous to your health and safety. Someone treating you badly may try to convince you that you deserve it, but don’t believe them. They are just trying to keep control over you by damaging your self esteem.

Signs of a Codependent Relationship

Each person may be threatened by positive changes in the other rather than being able to celebrate those changes.

In a Codependent relationships one partner relies excessively on the other for approval and even for their sense of identity. They draw to much of their sense of worth and sense of value from the other person. Each of us needs to learn to get a sense of approval from within ourselves, and not rely another person for this, at least not entirely. While this type of relationship may not be actively abusive (though they can be) it can still be harmful, especially in the long-term, as this type of relationship can stifle personal growth. Each person may be threatened by positive changes in the other rather than being able to celebrate those changes.

We need to take charge of our own Self Esteem and not become too dependent on someone else for it.

It is good to have approval from others, but not to seek this to the extent that we neglect our own personal needs, allow our boundaries to be ignored and are constantly having our self worth eroded. There may be times when we do need someone to help bolster our confidence and self esteem, for a while, but sooner or later we need to take charge of our own Self Esteem and not become too dependent on someone else for it.

Codependent relationships prevent both partners from experiencing the ongoing growth and development of their individuality

Codependent relationships tend to prevent both partners from experiencing the ongoing growth and development of their individuality. They each get too hooked on the other compensating for their lacks. In a healthy relationship there will be times where the strengths of one will compensate for a lack or weakness in the other; yet, this should not be to the extent that it stunts important opportunities to learn and grow. For example, the shy one may need to learn to be at least a little bit outgoing at times; and the outgoing one may need to learn to be more quiet, empathic and able to listen. Ideally each person in a relationship uses it as a chance to grow; not as a chance to hide or a chance to dominate someone. This dynamic can result in neglecting personal needs, boundaries, and self-worth.

Signs of a Toxic Relationship

Be kind to yourself so that you are less likely to assume that a toxic relationship is normal and acceptable.

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The term Toxic Relationship is sometimes used as a general term to cover any type of relationship which is not healthy and life enhancing. This can vary from a relationship which is sometimes mildly toxic, which may well have other aspects which are are health and live enhancing; to a highly abusive relationship which we need to get out of as soon as possible. What we accept in life depends a depends on what feels normal to us. If we have internalised and very judgemental inner critic we might be assuming that is it normal to be judged, blamed and criticised almost constantly. If we are normally kind to ourselves, then it is more likely that we feel that is normal for others to be kind to us and find it unacceptable if they are not. A good way to avoid toxic relationships could be for you to be kind to yourself. In other words, get to into the habit of feeling that it is normal for you to be treated kindly. Be kind to yourself so you are less likely to assume that a toxic relationship is normal and therefore acceptable.

There is something that those of us who find ourselves in a toxic relationship probably do not want to look it. Yet it is the very things which can help to set us free. We need to look at the choices we made that got us into that situation – and without blaming or shaming ourselves – look to see if we could make better choices in the future. Were there any warning signs that we ignored? Were there any “red flags”, odd behaviours (such as outbursts of anger, strange moods, or them getting upset over nothing) that we ought to have paid attention to? We might even have made excuses for odd, or extreme behaviour on their part, just because we were feeling very attracted to them physically.

This is not about judging or criticising ourselves. It is about learning wisdom from our experiences. Judging, criticising, shaming and blaming ourselves clouds the issues, hurts our Self Esteem, and does not help us clarify the choices we made and how we can make better choices in future.

Moving on from a Toxic Relationship

Forgiving someone does not mean that we need to put up with their bad behaviour.

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Moving On: Using Forgiveness

We may need to forgive ourselves for getting swept away in the moment and getting into a relationship which was not good for us. We may need to forgive the other person for their behaviour so that we can move on. However, forgiving someone does not mean that we need to put up with their bad behaviour now or in the future.

Forgiveness gives you the freedom to stay and the freedom to walk away.

It can also be a matter of looking at how our reactions to the other person may have contributed to creating a toxic spiral where their behaviour got increasingly toxic and we feed the flames by our reaction to them. We might need to forgive ourselves for such reactions, so that we don’t carry the same reactive behaviour into our next relationship.

Avoiding Abusive, Codependent, and Toxic Relationships

We need to be able to put aside our biology and not respond to potential mates just in terms of whether we find them “hot” or “not”.

Our biology is geared to recognising traits which make a potential mate likely to contribute to producing offspring, but it is not reliable when it comes to recognising whether the person is abusive, codependent or toxic. We might find them vert attractive, or rather our body might, but they may have a personality disorder which makes them difficult, impossible, or even dangerous, to be around. Therefore, to get better at recognising a potential long-term partner (rather than one just suitable for the job of producing offspring) we need to be aware of the times when it is our biology trying to run our life. Nature gives us “the tingles”, or the like, to help us recognise a potentially suitable partner for producing offspring. However, they may be totally unsuited to a long-term relationship. We need to be able to put aside our biology and not respond to potential mates just in terms of whether we find them “hot” or “not”.

Finding ourselves in an abusive, codependent or toxic relationship may simply be the consequences of choosing a partner who has very different priorities from us and who has very different values from us. Sometimes we may be a co-contributor to a toxic relationship. We may have got into a relationship with assumptions and expectations which are very different from the other person. If each person in the relationship is trying to battle regularly with the other to try and get them to do things, and to see things, their way, then they are both contributing to the toxicity in the relationship.  Each is convinced that they are right, but they would both be better off if they would learn a bit of tolerance and empathy for the other. A relationship is supposed to be based on mutual support not on a power struggle.

Letting go of Abusive, Codependent, and Toxic Relationships

Being in a relationship with someone who is “exciting”; but not truly interested in us, can be damaging to our self esteem and is not a good strategy.

Men and women often have very different expectations from a relationship, especially in the beginning. Many people try to at least to be clear about what they themselves want. However, going around with a mental shopping list of what we want in a partner is not much help if we don’t know what a potential partner will want from us in return. We all want “the best”. However, in relationship terms there, is no point shopping for a “Ferrari” if we can only afford a “Ford”, due to the type of person who is attracted to us.  But, at least we can go for a reliable Ford rather than a useless wreck.

In relationships, excitement may have nothing to do with true love.

In days gone by religion and society helped to reign in individual behaviour. This influence on people has weakened considerably and modern dating apps and social change have tended to encourage and reward impulsive behaviour. However, these apps do not protect us from the consequences of such behaviour. Being in a relationship with someone who is “exciting”; but not truly interested in us, can be damaging to our self esteem and is not a good strategy. If we produce a child with a partner we are unable to get along with there will be a range of financial and lifestyle consequences which follow. Unfortunately, dating apps and, so even some so-called, “self empowerment” influencers don’t tend to warn us of the downside of “hook-up” culture. The thing to keep in mind is that excitement may have nothing to do with true love. An exciting relationship, which impresses our friends or followers on social media, may become hollow and feel meaningless.

Nobody plans to be in an abusive, codependent, or toxic relationship. But any bad relationship we got into has happened, because of our choices. Forgiveness can help us move on.

All the consequences of our actions eventually come back to us. No matter who told us we could get away with it. Eventually we need to deal with the consequences of our choices and they may be very different from what we were expecting. Nobody plans to be in an abusive, codependent, or toxic relationship. It may look like it “just happened” that way. But any bad relationship we got into has happened, because of our choices. Forgiveness is a very useful and helpful tool for enabling us to handle the consequences of our actions and our choices. We can then a least face our future with a lot more peace of mind and less guilt, shame, anger and resentment.

Use one of the links on this page to discover a wonderful unique, psychological approach which helps you to move on and let go. Click a link to The Four Steps to Forgiveness on this page (no need to enter an email address) and experience for yourself how it can greatly enhance your life. You can download it here, 

Written by: William Fergus Martin
Author: Forgiveness is Power

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Four Steps to Forgiveness

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William Fergus Martin

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