When Love Costs Too Much: The Financial Toll of Codependency

My partner walked out of a therapy appointment and informed me that his therapist told him that our relationship was codependent.  I didn’t see the big deal. If codependency is focusing on someone else and putting them first, what is so wrong with that?  I grew up being taught we were SUPPOSED to put others first.  I felt we relied on each other and isn’t that what partners are supposed to do?  

The problem was…Love is blind, and I didn’t want to see what codependency really meant.   

Codependency isn’t just about intense relationships; it can sneak into your finances too. Most people associate codependency with emotional struggles, but its effects on your money might surprise you. 

Understanding Codependency

So, what’s codependency all about? I wish I knew the therapist that said: “codependents are so busy focusing on someone else they don’t focus on their own feelings, desires, vulnerabilities or their real selves.”

In these situations, you end up putting the other person’s needs before your own to an unhealthy level, which can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, and a constant fear of being left alone one day.

The Financial Side Effects of Codependency

  • Splurging to Please Others: The most obvious financial pitfall of codependency is spending way too much money to make someone happy or keep them around. Codependents often feel compelled to buy gifts, cover expenses, or lend money to their loved ones, even if it leaves them broke. This can easily lead to debt and stressful money troubles.
  • Neglecting Your Financial Goals: When you’re in a codependent relationship, your partner’s financial needs (or wants), might become your top priority, leaving your own financial goals on the backburner. Stuff like saving for retirement, building an emergency fund, or investing for the future can all take a hit, and that can mean trouble down the line.
  • Struggling with Boundaries: Setting boundaries in codependent relationships can be tough, and that extends to financial boundaries too. It’s hard to say no when someone asks for money or help, even if it’s not in your best interest. This can lead to financial resentment and strained or destroyed relationships.
  • Enabling Bad Behavior: Sometimes, codependents unintentionally enable their loved ones’ destructive behaviors, like addiction, reckless spending, or in my case, consent cycles of unemployment. They might cover up their partner’s financial blunders, which can lead to even more financial messes.
  • Fear of Financial Independence: Codependents often fear financial independence because it could shake up their relationships. This fear can hold them back from pursuing higher-paying jobs, furthering their education, or seeking financial independence, which can stunt their long-term financial growth.

Breaking Free from Codependency

  • Self-Reflection: First things first, take a good look at your relationships and see if you spot any codependent patterns we talked about. Recognizing them is the first step to making positive changes. 
  • Seek Some Guidance: If you suspect you’re stuck in a codependent loop, consider talking to a therapist or counselor who specializes in codependency. They can help you dig into the roots of the issue and give you strategies to establish healthier boundaries.
  • Get Money Smart: Start learning more about personal finance. Create a spending plan, set financial goals, and make yourself a financial priority. Learning to say no when you need to is a vital skill in breaking free from codependency.
  • Build a Support Network: Surround yourself with friends and family who support your efforts to break free from codependency. They can provide encouragement and keep you on track.

Codependency isn’t just about relationships; it can mess with your money too. Recognizing codependency and taking steps to address it can lead to better financial stability and overall well-being. My codependent relationship was not addressed and it reached the point of no return before I started stumbling through how to put boundaries in place.

As I was learning how to say “no”, a very smart man told me that if I did not put boundaries in place, I would be left with resentment that would ruin my relationships. This was my lightbulb moment that made me realize having boundaries is not selfish. He recommended that I read Brene Brown’s books, which was a huge help.  (Spoiler alert: her research has found that the most compassionate people have the strongest boundaries.)

Breaking free from codependent patterns takes time, effort, and healing from the wounds that made you susceptible in the first place; but the payoff in terms of financial independence and healthier relationships is definitely worth it. That very smart man I just told you about, I later married him, and I love the relationship we have!