Mutual interdependence and support are significant, but codependency is entirely different.
You may be familiar with codependency in romantic relationships as a pattern of seeking others to fix and “save” you or seeking others to fix and save. It’s an addiction to someone instead of love for them.
Codependent friendship is similar. It has friends as people you use instead of having a real relationship, respect, and connection.
Sadly, codependent friendships can even cover up and distort friendships that have the potential to be accurate but end up submerged in manipulation, guilt, blame, and transactional power dynamics.
Codependency can trap us in years of wasted energy, rehashing tired patterns and damage to ourselves and others.
Codependency weakens us and is an attempt to find our power and identity outside ourselves.
It doesn’t work.
Codependent friendships don’t work, either.
I can say from my own experience that they often tend to crash and burn in epic ways.
What exactly is “codependent friendship?”
A codependent friendship is a one-sided friendship. It’s when you expect your friend always to come bail you out and save you or listen to your endless complaints, but they are rarely there for them.
Alternately, it’s when you constantly try to help and improve your friend’s life and feel guilty or unworthy if you fail.
Codependent friendship is conditional friendship: a friendship built on a cycle of being needy and needing to be needed.
It’s a friendship built on giving away our power.
And as such, codependent friendship is a dead-end street. It can end in feelings of disappointment, betrayal, and deceit.
When a codependent friendship falls through, it can feel like your friend was only a fake friend who used you as a “pity” object to feel competent and superior or who played the victim to leech off your energy without truly valuing it and respecting you as a respect-worthy individual.
Where does codependent friend come from?
Codependency often comes from childhood experiences and patterns where we seek out validation, approval, and support from an authority figure and come to rely on them to save us or where we grew up in positions where we were expected to “fix” and do everything ourselves.
The first pattern tends to put someone in a “victim” position, whereas the second place them in a “savior” role.
Both parts of the codependent whole have a root feeling of being “not good enough,” needing more, or having to do more to complete.
Both end in disappointment, anger, sadness, and a loss of personal power.
If you’re wondering whether you are dealing with a codependent friendship that’s leeching off your energy or someone else’s, this list is for you.
Fourteen signs of codependent friendship. Here we go.
14 signs you are in a codependent friend …
1.Your friend sucks up all your “friend oxygen.”
What I mean by this is that codependent friendship can often be all-consuming. It doesn’t leave much time, energy, or mental attention for other friendships – sometimes even with your own family.
Whether you’re the giver (“savior”) or taker (“victim”), you may find that your friendship takes up all your friend oxygen.
No matter what happens, you call them.
You spend time together as a default, even when you’re not in the mood.
You take each other for granted but always expect more.
It’s an overwhelming cycle, and it crowds out other connections and potential friendships, leading to many missed opportunities and experiences.
2.The help only flows in one direction for codependent friend
A codependent friendship is about a giver and a taker. If you’re the giver, you will notice that the help and compassion only flow in one direction.
This can lead to a disturbing lack of help in your own life.
You spend so much time playing savior to your friend and hearing them out or being around their challenging life situations that you step back in shock when you realize your life is a mess.
It’s like helping a friend move into their house for two weeks only to realize you are currently homeless.
It’s not a great feeling, and this abdication of needs as the giver can lead to some disillusioning experiences and broken friendships if you’re not careful and don’t nip it in the bud.
3.You’re jealous if your friend gets in a relationship.
This is the oldest story in the book; no, it doesn’t mean you secretly have the hots for your friend.
It means that you’re unhealthily dependent on them and their entrance into a new relationship tick off that needy, grasping part of you that thinks you aren’t good enough with your codependent friendship.
The cliche is that someone gets in a relationship, and their friends get annoyed that they no longer seem ever to have time to “hang out with the guys” or “go for a girls’ night out,” and that’s a fairly common reaction for friend groups who feel left behind or neglected …
But the reaction of a codependent friend to you getting into a relationship is a lot more specific and intense.
If you’re the giver, you will feel ashamed and guilty because you know the taker is annoyed that you no longer have as much energy and time for them.
If you’re the taker, you will feel abandoned and “betrayed” by your friend and have the inner belief they’ve put someone else above you because you’re “not good enough” and “can’t be fixed.”
Suppose the taker is the one in a relationship. In that case, the giver will feel compelled to help them sort out every issue they come across and will feel annoyed and undervalued if the taker no longer has as much time or “vulnerability” to display to them and not as many problems to be saved from.
The giver may even find him or herself secretly hoping their friend’s relationship hits a rough patch so they can once again feel needed and valued.
Suppose the giver is one new in a relationship. In that case, they will have the strong impression that they are not happy about your success and feel resentful, even perhaps hoping your relationship falls through so they can once again have your undivided attention.
It doesn’t sound like much of a true friendship.
Note: this is one of the most significant warning signs of codependent friendship, so keep it in mind.
4.Epic levels of emotional dependence of codependent friend
Emotional sharing, connection, and exploration? Sign me up.
Emotional attachment and dependency? Hard pass.
This kind of thing characterizes codependent friendship. Two people are entangled in an unhealthy way and “use” each other to fulfill their complexes and patterns.
Whereas a healthy friendship will have a strong emotional attachment and sharing, a codependent friendship has transactional and dependent emotional bonds.
If one friend is sad, the other stoops to pick them up.
The taker flips their lid if the giver doesn’t have time or gets in a relationship.
If the taker stops needing as much help, the giver finds themselves feeling unneeded and undervalued and resents their friend’s success.
Codependent friendship is the victim Olympics, and in the end, there’s no real winner – and no real friendship.
5.You’re either always giving or always taking codependent friend
In a codependent friendship, you’re either always giving or laways taking.
If you break this pattern and loosen up a bit, you may get an “odd” feeling like you’re in a friendship you’re not used to that feels strange or unnecessary.
As soon as you sink into the codependent pattern, you’ll get that “good old” feeling.
But that “good old” feeling keeps you and your friend down.
Even though it can feel good in the short term to have someone who lets you fall back on your old ways and lounge back into victimhood or a savior complex, in the end, it will sabotage you.
It’s keeping you in the cycle of codependency and feeding feelings of unworthiness. Until you break through self-limiting beliefs and blocks in your body and mind, you will continue experiencing these same tired patterns.
6.You outsource decision-making to them.
Checking in with your friends and getting their opinions on decisions is perfectly fine. I do it all the time.
You probably do, too. (No, not that, come on, this is a family-friendly site, folks… wink).
But in codependent friendship, it’s not about sharing and caring; it’s about reliance and outsourcing your decision-making.
New job, new relationship, family problem, spiritual issues, mental or physical challenges that need some big decisions?
The codependent friend turns to their “other half” and dumps it on them.
The “victim” expects their “savior” friend to turn on a dime and make their life’s decisions for them.
The “savior” expects their “victim” friend to entrust their most significant decisions to them, such as who they should marry or transition to a new career.
Yup, you guessed it! This also includes taking the praise or blame when those decisions pay off or go sideways.
7.Your friend circle is closed off.
There’s no room for more friends in a codependent friendship. It’s a closed circle: a VIP section with only two seats (or one seat if you’re codependent friends who also happen to be platonic cuddle buddies).
But seriously …
You don’t want new additions if you’re in a codependent friendship.
You want things to keep being the way they’ve always been, and your codependent another half to yourself.
You don’t want wildcards interrupting the “good” thing you think you’ve got going on.
Codependent friendship is a pity and power trip party for two. There’s no room for anyone else, and even if one of you wants to let them in, they’re likely to fade out soon once they notice the cascade of codependency around them.
8.You have a feeling you’re using them or being used by them.
If you’re the one who always expects your friend to fix your life, then you may start to get the strong impression you are using your friend.
When you always seem to get closest to them when you need something but not for the fun times.
In codependent relationships – and friendships – you will either feel you are using your friend or being used by them.
When you don’t care how they’re doing, you expect them to bend backward to care and address what’s going on in your life.
If this is you, then you may feel a mounting sense of guilt and shame about how you’re using someone who cares about you …
Or, as the giver, you may feel like you’re being used just a little (or a lot).
Regardless of your genuine affection for your amigo, you may not be able to shake the strong impression that they’re only your friend in a transactional way and that you’re part of some emotional holding pattern for them.
If this is you, then you may feel an increasing sense of disappointment and undervalued, combined with an inner pressure to “do more” to help your friend and be worthy of their genuine respect and attention …
The inevitable result of a codependent friendship is burnout. One or both members of this exhausting cycle will droop with fatigue, especially the savior figure.
Every time you give more and more, and every time the taker takes more and more. It’s a never-ending one-way street without even a mirage up ahead …
If you’re the taker, you may not even be aware that you’re sapping away so much energy and vitality from your friend.
You’re just lost in your pattern and story.
But that story is depleting the hell out of your giver friend and making your codependent friendship harmful to their mental – and potentially even physical health in the long term.
10.You limit or hide your authentic self around them.
Codependent friendships are often two-dimensional in that they exist through a limited framework.
Familiar patterns and “scripts” replay repeatedly, and you establish a dynamic that keeps replaying.
For this reason, the giver and the taker may limit or hide parts of their authentic self from their codependent friend in the belief that these parts of their experiences, beliefs, or identity don’t “mesh” with the friendship’s primary focus.
In practical terms, this can mean that even core interests and convictions may be unknown to the other member of the friendship because they are only using the friendship in a dependent way to get the kind of support or give the kind of support they feel compelled to as part of their codependent pattern.
And frankly, that’s sad …