People engaged in codependent relationships may behave in ways specific to their particular situation, but most of these types of relationships have some common characteristics. One person typically feels responsible for the happiness of the other and is compelled to take care of him or her; the other uses the situation to get what he or she wants. The giver will always put the other's needs before his or her own, even if that means neglecting personal needs. This partner will usually have low self-esteem, and will define his or her self-worth based on being in a relationship and gaining the other's approval.
Codependent relationships involve an unequal situation in which one partner makes it his or her responsibility to ensure the happiness of the other. These types of people often seek out those who are needy; in many cases, the other person will engage in self-destructive behavior, such as alcoholism. The first partner will become the caretaker for the other, many times enabling the destructive behaviors by making excuses or providing resources for it to continue. Even if the relationship does not involve such behavior, one person still will constantly give everything to keep the other person satisfied, often feeling compelled to find solutions for him or her and anticipate the person's needs.
Another characteristic of codependent relationships is one person's repression of his or her own needs in deference to the other's needs. These people feel uncomfortable putting themselves first; they are much more comfortable focusing on the needs of their partners. Even if they feel anger or resentment that their needs are not met, they will bury those emotions and put all of their energy into pleasing their partners. They also tend to deny that they are in a bad, inequitable situation and ignore the pain it is causing them. This often leads them to feel depressed and may lead them to their own self-destructive behaviors.
The people who are the constant caretakers in codependent relationships often suffer from a lack of self-esteem as well. They only see themselves as valuable when they are involved in a relationship, even if it is negative and destructive, and define their lives based on this. They may only feel validated by love and approval from their partner, who many times will not or cannot provide it. If they leave their codependent relationships, they often will seek out the same type of person again and end up in the same situation.