Codependency in a Relationship Quiz:

Check Your Lesbian Relationship Style


Lesbians get a bad rap for creating super fast and clingy relationships. Do you ever hear any other couple pairings joke about what they bring on a second date? (Lesbians, the joke goes, bring a U-Haul on the second date, if you are new to the joke). Though times are changing, and younger lesbian, bisexual and queer folx are growing up in a more accepting environment, the urge to merge is still alive for a lot of women who love women. This rapid bonding, and desire to move quickly into a committed relationship has led a lot of women to question if they are codependent?

Codependence is a term that was popularized in the mid-80’s by Melody Beaty, author of the best selling book titled,  Codependent No More. Originally, the term was used to describe someone who was in a relationship with an alcoholic, grew up with alcoholic parents or grandparents, and was raised in an emotionally repressed family environment (Wegscheider-Cruse, Sharon).

Codependency in a relationship has historically been viewed as someone who was drawn to people with addictions or who have narcissistic tendencies.  Overtime, this term took on a more generalized meaning, that included anyone who took on the characteristics of people-pleasing, and who were inclined to care for others who would not reciprocate this caring.

Though being co dependent is not considered a mental disorder, there is a codependency anonymous 12-step self-help program.




independent style of relationshipWhen two partners in a relationship nurture their own needs and interests at the expense of their relationship, you are at risk of growing apart. In order to maintain and grow a relationship, you must tend to the relationship. In the case of “I do me, You do You” relationships, couples develop parralel lives that lack the intimacy, connection and glue to keep the home-fires burning.  Partners in these relationships tend to be self-reliant and pride themselves on their independence, strength and ability to take care of themselves.

CHALLENGE: These relationships tend to involve two people who are more comfortable thinking than feeling, doing than being, and working than playing. The outcome of self-focus to this extreme is often loneliness and a sense of isolation within your own relationship.

NEED: If you are in a “I do me, you do you,” relationship, it is essential to find ways to increase intimacy in your relationship. This includes both physical and emotional intimacy. Touch more. Talk more. And share your feelings with one another more. This will be a good start.



codependency in a relationship, codependency relationship, co dependency
Mutual codependency in a relationship involves the mingling of your lives in a way that makes it difficult to determine where one partner ends and the other begins.  Decisions are difficult to make because both partners are more focused on pleasing the other, rather than sharing honestly what you want for yourselves.

Mutual co dependence involves two people who are more comfortable focusing on the other, rather than themselves. Relationship security is always prized over freedom and independence. Acts of love are designed to take care of one another, and anticipating one another’s needs without consideration of personal self-care.  Love is measured by self-sacrificing efforts to prove love, and to prioritize one another. Often this is at the expense of self-care.

CHALLENGES: Resentments build easily in these relationships because neither partner is focused on taking care of her personal growth and development. Partners tend to be sensitive, defensive, reactive and struggle to share their needs and wants in a direct fashion, preferring instead that her partner will “just know.”

NEEDS: Develop skills to communicate your feelings and needs directly. Practice making choices that support your personal growth and development, even if it disappoints your partner.


dependent relationship styleThis is the classic codependent relationship, where one partner seeks love and approval by taking care of the other partner.  

Codependency in a relationship is a way of being in relationships that involves the surrender of power and control to people who are unable or unwilling to participate in reciprocal relationships.  Hence, the partners of codependents are often self-focused and lacking generosity of spirit toward the codependent, which leaves codependents feeling unfulfilled, disrespected and undervalued by their partner.  Despite their dissatisfaction with the relationship dynamics, codependent partner’s feel powerless to make changes. 

Growing up in a dysfunctional family provides fertile grounds for the development of codependent behaviors. As children, we learn from the important people in our life how we need to think, act, and respond to get our needs met for affection and approval.  The more dysfunctional the family life is, the more dysfunctional the coping responses tend to be. Though the concept of codependence evolved from the field of addiction, family disfunction can include other experiences, too, that include abuse (physical and/or emotional), neglectful, inconsistent availability/nurturance, or other dynamics that do not foster a safe and predictable family experience.

When we grow up and create adult relationships that we rely on, we still rely on the same skills and strategies to get love and approval that we did as a child. 

CHALLENGES: The problem, however, is that neither partner is aware of or considering the needs of the partner who’s self-worth and security depends on her ability to please her partner. Over time, this unspoken agreement becomes harder to uphold because both partners are participating in a relationship that diminishes the value of one another.

NEEDS: The codependent partner will benefit from developing the tolerance to disappoint her partner in service of her own interests and needs. This will require taking as more interest in self-care, and engaging in behaviors that likely feel “selfish.” Developing a strong sense of self requires a willingness to take risks; to leave your comfort zone. 


interdependent style relationshipTHIS IS THE IDEAL RELATIONSHIP STYLE.

There are  three very important variables involved in any relationship and each variable needs to be tended to in order for relationship health and balance to exist.

In any relationship, there are two separate people with unique wants and needs. These two people are variable one, and variable two of any relationship.  The third variable is the actual relationship that is co-created by the two partners.  Although the relationship is not a tangible entity that can be seen and touched, it functions as a virtual container, of sorts, that holds what each partner contributes.

One of the many ways to view a healthy relationship is that it is the outcome of two people who consciously make a decision to invest themselves in a shared experience (the relationship) where each contributes of her self (emotionally, physically, spiritually, and psychologically) so that both partners can draw upon these shared experiences in a way that makes each of their lives better and more meaningful for having done so.

With this working definition in mind, in order for each partner to have something to contribute to the relationship – the relationship being the container that holds the gifts each partner has to share – each partner must first take care of themselves so that he or she has something to offer.

Relationships or grown or diminished with every choice we make. Every thing you do or say is either a contribution to your relationship, or a withdrawal from your relationship.

Unfortunately, most of us were not taught how to take care of ourselves.  Women in particular have often been socialized in ways that encourage other-care and other-focus.  And although men are encouraged to be more independent and self-sufficient, men have often been discouraged from having feelings, let alone accessing their emotional selves.  So, regardless of the gender combination of your relationship, most of us are struggling to first know ourselves.

We must commit to a relationship, not to a person. 

People change and grow, and that is good and necessary.  However relationships create stability, consistency and offer us what we want and need even as we grow and change.  A common pitfall that many people experience in relationships is the hope or expectation that our partner will “make us happy,” or “make our life better,” or “help us with our problems.”  The reality, however, is that no one can do for us what we are unwilling or unable to do for ourselves.

If your relationship could use some help, check out the Lesbian Couples Bootcamp (more info).




*Wegscheider-Cruse, Sharon. Co-dependency, an Emerging Issue: A Book of Readings Reprinted from Focus on Family and Chemical Dependency. Pompano Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc, 1984.