Codependency is romanticized in relationships, and polyamory is no different. It is one thing to depend on our partner(s); it is another to NEED them for our happiness and ability to thrive/survive. Codependent people are also sometimes known as relationship addicts. Codependent people could be suffering from low self-esteem and/or mental health issues which create these dependency issues. In polyamory, it can be one person or multiple people suffering from codependency within a relationship.
Sometimes the signs of co-dependency may not appear upfront but over time. When dating one or more people, it is crucial that you recognize co-dependent people and their red flags. The sooner you see the signs, the better you can respond by setting boundaries, slowing down the relationship, or dissolving it altogether.
The People Pleasers
There is a difference between wanting your partner(s) to be happy to your existence is dependent on ensuring their happiness - boundaries, and security of self. People pleasers will go out of their way to ensure those around them are happy - even if it severely inconveniences them. Pleasing those around them validates their self-esteem and identity. These people tend to always agree, rarely say no, apologize frequently, need people to like them, have low self-esteem, and worry about what others think of them. People pleasers may find themselves drowning in work, polysaturated, overly flexible with boundaries if they have them, and making decisions dependent upon their loved ones. This can stem from childhood trauma, attachment styles, mental illnesses, or prior relationship abuse.
A codependent person may expect their partner(s) to provide for all of their needs. Sometimes this can be veiled as traditional gender roles or constant issues for why they cannot provide for themselves.
requiring someone else to make decisions for them - small or large
being completely helpless if someone were to leave them
fear of abandonment
passive (not submissive)
needing constant reassurance
Sometimes their dependency will manifest in their (mis)management of funds and personal matters.
Recognizing a codependent relationship and/or person also means acknowledging that you (or a shared partner or metamour) may also be guilty of codependency. As a caregiver, you feel responsible for the other persons in your relationships. You may feel compelled to fix their problems or give guidance, even if you were not asked. There is a fear of the consequences of failing to step in if you don't. These types of codependent people (caregivers) give with conditions. If they assist (in any form), they usually expect their advice to be followed. They think they know what's best, are controlling, and often violate boundaries. Codependent caregivers usually are the ones enabling their codependent partners. If a partner depends on them for money, they may argue that this person needs to find a job or manage their money better. However, they will also not set up any boundaries or consequences for that person not finding a job or mismanaging their money.
One on one, a codependent relationship can be highly turbulent, but with multiple people involved, even if they are just metamours, it can quickly get disastrous. Sometimes one person may have multiple caregivers in their relationships. If they are in a kitchen table dynamic, a caregiver could even be a metamour. A caregiver could find themselves responsible for multiple partners and even metamours. If boundaries are weak and without consequence, a newcomer could easily feel violated in a codependent polycule.