How to avoid becoming codependent in your queer relationship

We’re all aware of the stereotypes associated with lesbian relationships. We move too fast, overshare and trauma-bond on the first date, and call up the U-Haul by the second. Whilst these seemingly light-hearted jabs at our community can make for some funny stories and even-funnier memes, they also reflect a complex and important issue to be addressed: codependency. What is it, and how do we avoid ending a too-passionate relationship with tears? 

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Avoid becoming codependent in your queer relationship

What is codependency?

Some psychologists and therapists propose that queer people are more susceptible to codependent relationships. For example, it is thought that as queer people may struggle with past trauma, marginalisation and the lack of safe spaces to express themselves, once they enter relationships they may extend their learnt habits of dismissing one’s own needs and being overly-accommodating to others. Additionally, for lesbians or other queer people who have experienced the social conditioning of womanhood throughout or at a time in their lives, perhaps there is something in the care-giving expectations that society affords us that contributes to increased codependent behaviours.

Regardless of the cause, codependent behaviour can be dangerous to the health of relationships. Naturally, some level of dependency in a relationship is normal. In fact, we could say it’s crucial. How does one be in love without any dependence on a partner? However, codependence is a whole other thing… 

To avoid delving completely into the psycho-clinical definitions of codependency, we can summarise a list of traits that may reflect codependency within a relationship: 

  • The relationship becomes the most important thing in your life, outshining your own independent growth and desires. 
  • You lose your own identity outside of your relationship. 
  • Your self-worth becomes attached to your care-taking. You feel responsible for all of your partner’s emotional challenges. 
  • You have low self-esteem and rely solely on your partner for validation. 
  • You deny your own personal problems and are reluctant to share your own feelings for fear of displeasing your partner. 
  • You try to control your relationship by constantly attending to the wants and emotions of your partner, rather than addressing your own. You may believe that this over attentiveness means that you are acting in your partner’s best interest and therefore can’t see how codependent behaviours can be controlling*. 
  • You find yourself giving more of yourself to your partner than you have to give. This could be in terms of emotion, time, energy and finance. You find yourself exhausted from your assumed responsibilities in your relationship. 
  • You become obsessed with ‘fixing’ or ‘rescuing’ a partner. Perhaps they are struggling with their own mental health or with addiction, and you believe it is your sole responsibility to commit to their needs and develop some-what of a ‘saviour complex’.
  • You believe you’d do anything at all to hold onto your relationship, even if it’s no longer healthy for either you or your partner. 

Recovering from and avoiding codependency:

Understanding what codependency may look like, we see that it is not to be taken lightly. If unresolved it can often result in heartbreak and messy endings. Not to mention, if unaddressed, codependent behaviours can linger with us and inevitably warp our understandings of healthy relationships. Nevertheless, recovery and the unlearning of these behaviours is possible. Just like most emotional growth, it is a journey – and acceptance of one’s codependent tendencies is the first step! 

If you like this article you may also like Managing Your Mental and Emotional Health article.

Understanding our own thinking

  • Codependency is a learnt behaviour, often stemming from past experiences in which we have had to shrink our own needs and instead become overly attentive of others. It also results from low self-esteem and difficulties in finding self-validation. 
  • Once we address this, we can start to unlearn codependent behaviours and rebuild healthy relationships. 
  • Some regular introspection can help this, perhaps starting a journal to track your emotions and question what it is you want outside of your relationship may help. 
  • Therapy-based approaches, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are also really helpful. 

Commit to alone time. Fill your own cup!

  • It is so important to maintain independence outside of your relationship. 
  • This could mean ensuring you have hobbies, passions and interests that you regularly participate in and that give you greater purpose and drive. 
  • In doing these things that you love independently, you can improve your own self-worth, validation and assurance and therefore not have to rely solely on your relationship for this.

 Celebrate your uniqueness and difference from your partner

  • You are both your own people and that is a beautiful thing! Differences between you should not threaten your relationship, but actually make it better. 
  • Having independent lives outside of your relationship just means you have more to bring to each other. Think of it as more conversation for the dinner table at the end of the day. 
  • Actively talk about and celebrate your differences. This way you can both learn how to attend to each other’s needs, rather than it being a one-way transaction.

Never lose your voice in your relationship

  • Perhaps most importantly, you must never stop voicing your own emotions and needs in your relationship. Do not ignore what you want in order to please your partner. 
  • Improving your communication and becoming more assertive when discussing what you want from the relationship is key to this. 
  • It is a good idea to regularly set aside time to regularly reflect on the status of your relationship and to voice any concerns you may have – call it a ‘relationship check-in’ if you will. 

If you and your partner are struggling with codependency, here are some further resources to take a look at: 

Love Team Nonchalant xx

Last Updated on 8th March 2024 by Nonchalant Magazine


Hii I’m Mads (they/them)! I’m an anthropology graduate who is passionate about queer politics and countering intersectional oppression through communal practices of queer joy!

Writing for Nonchalant is to me a way to help keep our community connected, informed about moments of cultural significance, and up to date with events that help foster solidarity amongst us!

Find me on: Web | Instagram

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