My girlfriend is codependent with her ex: 15 big signs

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Codependency is never a good thing. This is especially the case if it involves your girlfriend – and her ex.

So how do you know if she can’t seem to let go of this attachment? 

Well, it’s a matter of being on the lookout for 17 glaring signs – and knowing what to do about them.

Let’s begin!  

1) She’s in constant communication with her ex

When it comes to breakups, the no contact rule often comes into play. It works because it gives you time to clear your head and focus on yourself, among many other things.

But if she keeps communicating with her ex – be it through text, social media, or email – then it’s a sign that she’s still codependent with him. 

See, “Codependents often have a particularly difficult time moving on after a break-up or the end of a relationship,” explains author Sharon Martin, LCSW, in her PsychCentral article.   

She’s “not really stuck in a relationship, but not emotionally free either.”

Even if her ex were pretty clear about cutting all ties, her codependency would cause her to seek him out through whatever venue possible. 

2) She stalks her ex on social media

Have you often found your girlfriend glued to her ex’s profile on social media? Worse, do you feel like she’s cyberstalking her? 

Needless to say, it’s a sign that she’s still codependent on her ex.

She’s using it as a tool, for “Social media enables an unprecedented amount of access to people’s photos, whereabouts and dating history,” according to USC social worker Jessica Klein

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3) She keeps on asking friends about her ex

A codependent person will stop at nothing to learn more about her ex. So if she can’t get him to answer her calls or texts – or if he has blocked social media profiles, she will resort to the ‘conventional’ thing: asking friends about her ex. 

Instead of simply disappearing from her ex’s life, she’ll keep on asking her friends – and his friends – about what he’s up to. 

She’ll extract whatever info she can.

According to Martin, that’s because “Codependent relationships have an obsessive quality. In fact, sometimes codependency is described as an addiction to another person because we get so wrapped up in what someone else is doing and feeling.” 

4) She keeps on trying to get her ex’s attention

She’s posting your pictures together nonstop. Sure, it’s flattering. It’s a sign that she’s proud of your relationship, right?
Well, that could be the case. But if she’s exhibiting some of the signs here, this may be her way of getting her ex’s attention. 

She “may spend a lot of time worrying about others – or just thinking about them,” according to Martin. 

In other words, her codependency has left her attached to him.

She’s trying to get his attention because, like most codependents, she has “a deep-seated need for approval from others” and a “self-worth that depends on what others think about her.” 

5) She’s mad that her ex has moved on

She should be happy that her ex has moved on, right? After all, you love her – and she loves you

Usually, that should be the case. But if your GF is codependent with her ex, she’ll be stark raving mad about the fact that he moved on!

As Martin explains, she may “have a hard time separating herself emotionally.” 

That being said, this doesn’t necessarily mean she isn’t over her ex. Instead, codependents are “afraid of being rejected, criticized, or abandoned,” explains Martin in her Psychology Today article

6) Then again, she may be the one trying to hide your relationship

Some codependents may wave their new relationships high up in the air to get their exes’ attention. But in some cases, they may try their hardest to conceal so.

As to why, Martin believes that codependents try to “walk on eggshells around the other person, afraid of doing or saying something that will displease or anger them.” 

For example, she may have broken up with him because he was an insecure, highly-dependent man. She’s afraid that he’ll retaliate, which is why she’s doing her best to hide your relationship from him. 

7) She keeps on analyzing her relationship with her ex

Since you two are together, you’ll think your girlfriend will give more time and energy to your relationship. 

Ideally, she should. But if she’s codependent with her ex, she’ll think more about her past relationship – than what you have with her now. 

While “it is natural for an emotion to bring up other experiences with similar emotions,” says life transition expert Elisa Robyn, it’s not always good. 

That’s why it’s essential to be on the lookout for red flags, such as her emphasizing that he was her “one and only” soul mate.

8) She only focuses on the ‘good times’ they had

You know for a fact that your GF and her ex had a bad romance. In fact, it was what experts could call a highly toxic relationship.

But if she keeps focusing on all the positive aspects of her ex, as if nothing terrible has happened, then it’s a red flag, says Robyn. 

“Idealizing partners or other loved ones, often to the point of maintaining relationships that leave you unfulfilled” is a big sign of codependency, explains PsychCentral’s Crystal Raypole. 

9) She’s at her ex’s beck and call

Whenever you ask her to do this or that, she has all the reasons NOT to do it. But when her ex asks for a favor – no matter how big it might be – she’ll bend over backwards to do it.

Sadly, it’s a sign that she’s still codependent on her ex. 

After all, some of the significant signs of codependency include:

  • “a habit of taking on more work than you can realistically handle, both to earn praise or lighten a loved one’s burden.” 
  • an “excessive concern about a loved one’s habits or behaviors.” 
  • “doing things you don’t really want to do, simply to make others happy.” 

Psychology Today’s Martin goes on to add:

“You sacrifice yourself to make the other person happy. This can include your health, time, energy, money, values, goals, or friendships. Your life revolves around the other person—making them happy, taking care of them, doing what they want to do.”

10) She always ‘saves’ her ex

Is your girlfriend always ‘fixing’ her ex’s messes? Say, does she always bring the stuff he forgot – or pay his bail, even? 

While it seems like she’s just nice towards her a-hole of an ex, it’s actually a sign that she’s codependent with him. 

See, codependents have an “excessive concern about a loved one’s habits or behaviors” that they have “a habit of making decisions for others or trying to “manage” loved ones.”

As Martin puts it, they “worry that if they don’t take care of them, something bad will happen.”

And while this seems noteworthy, the codependent’s “need to fix or rescue becomes controlling.”

Ultimately, she might “attempt to control the other person’s behavior through criticism, ultimatums, nagging, or giving unsolicited advice.” 

See, that’s why she feels she always needs to save her ex – whether he needs it or not. 

11) She’s bad at establishing boundaries with her ex

Let’s say you understand why your girlfriend is doing things for her ex. He has nobody to turn to, unlike you, with your vast network of family and friends. 

But see, there’s a difference between being nice – and being unable to set healthy boundaries with an ex. 

A codependent often fails to blur the line between these two.

As Martin explains it:

“Because of the weak boundaries, she feels responsible for other people’s feelings, wellbeing, and choices.”

As a result, she “sacrifices herself to make the other person happy. This can include (her) health, time, energy, money, values, goals, or friendships.

And, to avoid conflict, (she) may say yes to things that (she) doesn’t want to do or that don’t align with (her) values or goals.” 

12) She just can’t say no

It’s not just her ex that your GF can’t say no to. She may also find it to say no to you – as well as her family and friends. 

As Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT, of PsychCentral explains it:

“They can’t say “No” without feeling guilty, and are resentful when they say “Yes” to things they would rather not do. This is because they avoid taking positions at all costs, due to their fear of rejection.”

13) She barely takes care of herself

Saving her ex from all the trouble his doing can be draining. And, because she has to keep taking care of him, she’s forgotten to take care of herself. 

When you first met her, she was pretty and bubbly – that’s why you began to like her ‘more than a friend.’

But now, she’s all stressed and disheveled. It’s not that you don’t love her anymore because of this. You’re simply concerned that she’s let herself go. 

Sadly, this is a common occurrence among dependents. 

According to Martin, they often spend more time taking care of others than taking care of themselves. And when they do something for themselves, like rest, enjoy a hobby, or practice self-care, they end up feeling guilty or selfish.

14) She’s clingy

Is she bombarding you with texts – wherever you may be?

Is she jealous of the time you spend with family and friends – no matter how little? 

Well, these are just some of the signs of your girlfriend’s clinginess. Coincidentally, these may also be signs of the codependency she once shared with her ex. 

People like her are “overly concerned about what the other person is doing, thinking, and feeling,” explains Martin. 

Add to that, she has a “strong need for external validation. She relies on others to tell her she has value.”  

Obviously, this stems from her fear of abandonment or rejection. In her mind, ‘clinging’ to you will stop you from leaving her. Most probably, this is the way her ex conditioned her.

15) She’s doing more than her fair share in the relationship

She’s doing almost everything in your relationship. But instead of being happy with this, you should be concerned. 

See, codependents have the tendency to act like martyrs. 

“Codependents tend to base their self-esteem on taking care of and being of service to others. Caretaking gives them a sense of purpose and worthiness,” says Martin. 

Although she’ll take care of you and everything else, deep down inside, she’s slowly becoming resentful. 

After all, she feels like no one cares for her – or that no one seems to bother to help her. 

You don’t want this to happen to your relationship, for it may be one of the reasons why she dumped her ex in the first place. 

16) She finds it hard to trust you

You’re in a relationship, and she’s supposed to trust you. But since she came from a codependent relationship, she has a hard time doing so. 

This is a classic case of “it’s not you, it’s her.” 

You see, codependent people find it hard to trust themselves – and others. And while she might know for a fact that you’re trustworthy, she’ll keep her walls up – just like she used to before. 

17) She can’t take compliments – or gifts, for that matter

Like any other good boyfriend, you love showering your GF with compliments – and gifts. And while the usual girl will take these at face value, a codependent woman will find it hard to do so.

Again, this boils down to the lack of trust. 

See, a codependent will often doubt herself. She thinks she isn’t good enough. So even if she gets the compliments and gifts she deserves, she finds it hard to accept them.  

“Codependents have problems receiving the good stuff that relationships can potentially offer,” explains Lancer.

What to do

1) Help her unlock her personal power

There’s a reason why your GF finds it hard to achieve fulfillment in relationships. She’s reliant on your partner for happiness – and not on herself. 

But when she learns to trust herself, she can tap into the incredible pool of personal power within her.

With this, you can help her find what she’s been searching for all along. 

You see, we all have an amazing amount of potential. We’re all capable of achieving more than we realize. Happiness is within reach, but we look for it in the wrong places.

And this has a knock-on effect on everything else in our lives, including our relationships. 

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He uses a unique approach that combines ancient shamanic techniques with a compelling modern-day twist. 

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2) Assist her in setting boundaries

One of the challenges codependent people face is the inability to set boundaries.  According to Lancer, they keep “distancing themselves, but never really leaving.”

The lack of boundaries is one of the reasons why she keeps on communicating/stalking her ex, among many other things. 

And, if you want to keep her from acting all needy and desperate, the best things you can do are:

  • Help her build her own self-worth
  • Give her well-deserved alone time
  • Keep the relationship two-sided (e.g., she shouldn’t be the one doing everything) 
  • Reduce or possibly eliminate all contact with her ex

3) Build trust in your relationship

As I’ve mentioned above, codependent people have a lot of trust issues. So if you want your girl to heal, you need to help her create trust in your relationship

In other words, it’s a matter of:

  • Allowing her to be herself (and be yourself too)
  • Prioritizing your relationship
  • Being careful with the words you use (they can hurt like a knife, you know)
  • Being your GF’s best friend
  • Being responsible, positive, and of course, trustworthy

As therapist Katherine Fabrizio puts it: “A healthy, supportive relationship involves listening, striving to understand, and keeping in mind the concerns of another person.”

4) Let her have a break!

It’s possible that in her previous relationship, she didn’t have the time of the day for herself. She was so busy tending to her ex that she had forgotten about herself.

Well, being the respectful boyfriend that you are, you need to let her know that it’s okay to have a break. 

And, apart from just saying this, you could do your part by doing the chores she does on an average day. 

You need to let her know that taking a break is okay, and she doesn’t have to feel guilty about it. 

Explains Lancer: “Healing from codependency starts with honoring yourself and expressing yourself.” 

5) Talk to a relationship coach

As I’ve mentioned, talking to a professional coach is one of the best things you could do for your relationship. 

Like you, I was ready to walk away from my relationship. But before that, I took a step I’d never taken before. I reached out to a professional relationship coach. 

I had low expectations, but even my highest hopes were exceeded. The coach I spoke to at Relationship Hero quickly broke down the walls I’d built up in my relationship. 

This coach was tough but fair and genuinely helpful.

My coach took apart every single lie I told myself. Best of all, they helped me understand how to resolve my issues. 

My relationship isn’t perfect now, but it’s so much better. Most importantly, I’m hugely optimistic about the future again. 

Click here to check out Relationship Hero and see if they can help you too.

6) Encourage her to join Codependents Anonymous

Just like AA, there is a 12-step group for codependents: CODA. She can join meetings (online or in-person) or download materials for some private reading. 

With the help of people who have been in her shoes, she can break away from her codependent ways. 

7) Don’t take it personally

She is reaching out to her ex and possibly stalking him. 

She is doing him favors, even though he can do them himself.

Seeing that your GF has developed her codependent ways, say, after months/years of ‘torture,’ the best thing you could do is NOT to take it personally. 

“Accepting the other as they are without trying to fix or change them is the first step,” explains author Cristina Utti, MA.  

Final thoughts

It can be challenging to have a GF who’s codependent on her ex. That’s why it’s important to be on the lookout for the signs above.

Most importantly, you should do something about them right away. 

By following the tips above, you can help put a stop to your GF’s codependent ways. After all, you both deserve a healthy, interdependent relationship.

As Raypole puts it: 

“Interdependent relationships work better for both people involved. In other words, partners depend on each other. This means you don’t just focus on their needs or draw your value from self-sacrifice, but you’re available to support them when needed.”

Can a relationship coach help you too?

If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.

I know this from personal experience…

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