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Understanding Codependent Relationships: Signs, Causes, Treatment & More

What Is A Codependent Relationship

Do you feel like there's no way out of your codependent relationship? Has your relationship become a burden on you and your partner? While it may seem like you're stuck in a loop of relationship issues and differences, there are ways to foster healthy habits for an improved and successful relationship.

Committed relationships aren't always rainbows and butterflies. Maintaining a relationship needs constant effort and work from both partners. It is like a balancing scale. The scale may be balanced if either party gives their all at any point. 

Relationships face a multitude of challenges in their lifetime. These challenges have given birth to various relationship terms, such as stagnant relationships, toxic relationships, and codependent relationships, among many others.

In this blog, we explore the nature of codependency within relationships, characterized by blurred boundaries of mutual affection. These boundaries intertwine with dependence and result in complex emotional dynamics and intimate relationships among persons involved. 

We will also uncover the core features of a codependent relationship, including its effect on the involved persons and ways of cultivating balanced relations. In this type of relationship, we find complexity involved in codependency concerning each partner's journey, personal choices, and intimate relationships.

What Is A Codependent Relationship?

A codependent relationship is whereby two persons overly depend on one another for emotional support and validation such that one's well-being and identity become tied with that of another person. Partners involved in a codependent relationship are often also at risk of developing other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, trauma, and social anxiety, among others.

According to The United States National Institutes of Helath, Seven million American women are depressed, and 40 million Americans, primarily women, have been labeled as codependent. 

In this kind of relationship dynamic, most often, one or both individuals rely heavily on the other for their emotional needs, self-worth, and identity. It often involves an imbalance of power, where one person takes on a caretaker or enabler role while the other assumes a more dependent or needy position.

This may create an uneven power balance, sometimes resulting in one partner controlling the other's emotional health. This can, in turn, lead to the development of a poisonous circle of events, which may be dangerous for the two sides.


Codependence Vs. Dependence

There is a thin line between codependence and dependence when looking at relationship dynamics. They might seem no different from each other, but they are distinct and can be easily told apart when studied well.

Codependence Vs. Dependence

Codependence Vs. Dependence



  • Unhealthy reliance on your partner for emotional needs, self-worth, or identity. 
  • Enabling behavior; supporting unhealthy habits of your partner
  • Blurred boundaries; expected unhealthy sacrifices
  • Lost sense of self with their lives overly intertwined with the other person's, often to the detriment of their well-being.
  • Absorb other people's feelings more than truly feel and express your own
  • Healthily and necessary reliance; more for support.
  • Showing proper guidance and giving proper advice and support wherever necessary. Helping your partner identify unhealthy behaviors
  • Clarity on individual roles; no fear of expression or denial
  • You can fully be yourself without sacrificing your identity or well-being.
  • No hesitancy in self-expression 


Signs Of A Codependent Relationship

Signs of codependent relationships usually manifest in various forms of heavy reliance. Partners in a codependent relationship may heavily rely on each other for monetary support, unhealthy emotional attachment, seeking validation and reassurance. Furthermore, partners in a codependent relationship also may make excuses to cover up their partner’s mistakes and unhealthy-disruptive habits. 


Let us have a closer look at signs of codependent relationships!

Excessive Reliance: Relationships are all about support and reliance. Partners are expected to expect feelings of approval, validation, and self-worth. However, this expectation sometimes goes beyond everyday acts of reassurance and validation. 

Partners seeking constant reassurance, feeling insecure or anxious when separated from their partner, or basing their self-esteem on the approval of their significant other is a major sign of codependence.

Enabling Behavior: One of the apparent symptoms of a codependent relationship is a partner enabling or supporting another's unhealthy habits and behaviors to maintain the relationship. These unhealthy indulgences may include addiction, irresponsibility, emotional instability, or other harmful habits.

Lack of Boundaries: Not all relationships have well-defined personal boundaries. However, in a codependent relationship, partners struggle to maintain a healthy personal boundary. This leads to them constantly being affected by one partner's emotional state, thoughts, and actions. 

It happens as one of the partners becomes so intertwined with the other that it creates an unhealthy and blurry sense of individuality. 

Difficulty Being Alone: Couples in a codependent relationship constantly fear being alone, which is why they accept all the unhealthy ways just to stay in the relationship. Both individuals may harbor a deep-seated fear of solitude. They may believe their ability to operate independently is impaired without the other person's presence.

Low Self-Esteem: Seeking constant reassurance and validation is a sign of codependent behavior and often leads to lowered self-esteem. Low self-esteem may emerge from various codependent behaviors, including the need for repeated assurances, feelings of being vulnerable and jealous, or high demands placed upon the relationships to meet emotional needs.

Intense Emotional Reactions: Being in a codependent relationship leads to partners being constantly on the edge. Their emotional meter may not always be balanced because of the constant worry, need for validation, need for being together, etc. 

These factors often lead to couples in a codependent relationship showing intense emotional responses. These emotional reactions often lead to frequent conflicts or attempts to manipulate the actions and decisions of others.

Where Does A Codependent Relationship Stem From?

Most relationship issues and mental health issues can be traced back to an individual's past experiences or traumas. These experiences may involve family dynamics, past relationship experiences, past friendships, etc.  

Let us briefly understand some factors that may lead to the emergence of a codependent relationship.

Family Dynamics: Codependency can be an outcome of spending one's childhood in a dysfunctional family with possible addiction, mental illness, or other issues. In other words, children of such families learn to act as caretakers, peacekeepers, and responsibility bearers among themselves by putting others ahead of them.


Attachment Styles: According to attachment theory, experience with caregivers early in life may affect relationship development later. Codependency may arise out of insecure attachment styles like anxious or avoidant ones.

Low Self-Esteem: People with low self-esteem can look for confirmation of their existence and satisfaction through companionship. This could mean they are attached to the relationship because it is the source of their definition or worth as individuals.

Trauma or Abuse: Codependency may arise due to being traumatized or experiencing an abusive relationship. People survive in this way, often developing the habit of putting everybody's interests above their own to preserve such a union.

Enabling Behaviors: Enabling behaviors are usually found in Codependency and mean that a person in the relationship makes sure that their partner continues with such unhealthy patterns or behaviors that support the codependent bond.

Lack of Boundaries: Codependency may result from having problems in setting and abiding by boundaries. It creates confusion where one is unsure whether to satisfy one's wants or those of another person involved in that union.

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The Treatment: How To Fix A Codependent Relationship?

Couples can heal and change a codependent relationship with counseling and other interventions. This, however, requires willingness, dedication, and effort from both partners. 

If both partners come on the same page to work on their codependency issues, they may seek professional help in the form of Marriage or couples counseling. Therapy or counseling helps address Codependency by fostering healthier relationship patterns and promoting individual self-care and boundaries. 


Partners must acknowledge the issues within their relationship. Acknowledging codependent behaviors and relationships opens up opportunities for partners to work towards making their relationship healthier. Below are some ways partners in a codependent relationship can transform their relationship dynamics to a healthier one.

Recognize and Acknowledge: Recognize the Codependency and how it affects the relationship. The mutual awareness of unhealthy patterns should lead to a decision on each partner's part to effect changes within themselves.

Seek Professional Help: This includes couples & marriage counseling they can undergo individually or together. Thus, a therapist can be involved to uncover hidden areas and improve on matters such as solving communication, setting limits, development of self-esteem, and self-practices.

Establish Boundaries: One should learn how to draw and honor boundaries. Partners should appreciate the needs and limits of each partner. In such a case, it could mean that they learn to say no, take care of themselves, and let one another be for their development.

Develop Independence: Encourage individual growth and independence. People must think about what they want in this field and how to develop themselves as individuals without looking at their partners. It facilitates less dependence on the other to provide approval or needs fulfillment.

Improve Communication: This relates to openness, honesty, and respectfulness. When such situations arise whereby both partners can express their needs, wants, emotions, and frustrations without any worry that it might lead to problems, they need to feel assured.

Address Underlying Issues: However, if there are underlying problems like trauma, unforgiveness, or mental disorders, then proper counseling is crucial for recovery and progress.

Practice Self-Care: Support one another in taking care of yourselves. This may also include relaxing, such as playing games, reading books, exercising, etc.

Commit to Change: The processes of changing established patterns are lengthy and complex. However, both partners must commit to change, show patience, and support each other's development.

However, even in these efforts, if both partners are not ready to change and there is still negative behavior, the relationship cannot be saved. In those instances, prioritizing personal health and separation could be the most sensible measure. Each circumstance requires specialized knowledge, and consulting a specialist will give tailored advice and assistance.


A codependent relationship is unbalanced in which one partner expects too much support, appreciation, recognition, or sense of self from the other. Over time, these could institutionalize and become part of the culture that one has to be guided out of, show concern, or stop practicing them. Such a situation may lead to cases where one or both feel overburdened, stifled, and not allowed to be their original self. 

Every couple in a relationship should be able to recognize the signs of boundary problems for them to develop healthy boundaries. Individuals need to create strong self-worth to provide sufficient support while ensuring they don't wholly rely on the romantic relationship for validation. However, if individuals struggle to improve their codependent relationship or break out of it, they may seek professional help and opt for couples & marriage therapy or even individual counseling.

If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of a codependent relationship, seeking professional help can make a big difference. Lifebulb offers various counseling services, including individual and couples & marriage therapy. Our team of licensed professionals is here to support you and provide guidance for those dealing with mental health and relationship issues. We're dedicated to helping you live a happier and healthier life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Codependency is when a partner or both partners in a relationship is heavily reliant on the other or each other. They may heavily rely on their partner for approval, validation, self-worth, reassurance, etc. Codependency can be seen in all kinds of relationship dynamics, including friendships, romantic relationships, marriage, family dynamics, etc. 

To know more about codependency and codependent relationships, give a quick search on the internet using the following keywords.

  • Codependent Relationship 

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Since there is a blurred line between dependence and codependence, a layman often find themselves asking, “What is codependent relationship,” “What is a codependent relationship, ” or “How to fix a codependent relationship.”

A codependent relationship is a dysfunctional relationship with a codependent dynamic where both individuals become increasingly reliant on one another for validation, emotional support, or other needs. 

While seeking validation from a partner is not inherently unhealthy, it can become problematic if it becomes the sole source of self-worth or if it leads to a codependent relationship. Individuals in a codependent relationship may often develop mental health issues like anxiety, depression, social anxiety, trauma, etc.

To know more about codependency and codependent relationships, give a quick search on the internet using the following keywords.

  • Codependent Relationship 

  • What Is A Codependent Relationship 

  • Signs Of Codependent Relationship

  • What Is Codependent Relationship

  • Signs Of A Codependent Relationship

  • Codependent Relationship Definition 

  • How To Fix A Codependent Relationship 

  • Examples Of Codependency In Relationships

  • Codependent Behavior 

  • Marriage Therapy

  • Marriage And Family Therapist

  • Marriage Therapist Near Me

Signs of a codependent relationship may manifest in various forms, some of the most common being:

  • Enabling behavior

  • Low self-esteem

  • Control issues

  • People pleasing

  • Trouble creating boundaries

  • Communication issues

According to Mental Helath America: "Codependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual's ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as "relationship addiction" because people with Codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive, and abusive." 

With the willingness and dedicated efforts of both partners, codependent relationships can be fixed by seeking professional help in the form of couples or marriage therapy. Partners can learn to establish healthy boundaries, develop self-awareness, and acknowledge control issues. Partners may even seek individual therapy if they are dealing with additional mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or trauma.

Some examples of Codependency in a relationship are:

  • Excessive Need for Approval

  • Enabling Destructive Behavior

  • Lack of Personal Boundaries

  • Overdependence

  • Sacrificing Personal Needs

  • Fear of Abandonment

  • Emotional Manipulation

  • Constantly Seeking Rescue or Rescue Role: 

  • Difficulty Saying No

  • Identity Fusion

Identifying self-serving or codependent behavior involves recognizing some of those features individually or as part of a union. Recognizing codependent patterns might help you reflect on your behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and interactions in different relations. Codependency falls onto a continuum scale; therefore, recognizing these traits is the beginning of developing constructive relationships and emotional health. Consultation with a therapist or counselor may also offer helpful ideas and advice for dealing with codependency habits.

Yes, Marriage and couples counseling can significantly benefit couples and improve a codependent relationship. Marriage therapy helps couples identify various types of codependent behavior in each partner. It teaches them various coping mechanisms that equip them with the proper techniques to set boundaries, enhance self-worth, and fight the urge to seek constant validation and reassurance. 

Marriage and family therapists (MFTs) play a crucial role in assisting individuals and couples dealing with codependent relationships. Marriage and family therapists create a supportive and nonjudgmental space for individuals and couples to explore, understand, and overcome codependent behaviors, fostering healthier and more fulfilling relationships.

  • Identification and Assessment

  • Establishing Healthy Boundaries

  • Improving Communication

  • Building Self-Esteem and Individuality

  • Addressing Enabling Behaviors

  • Offering Support and Guidance

  • Family Dynamics

  • Developing Coping Strategies

  • Encouraging Independence

  • Follow-up and Maintenance

The easiest way to find marriage counselors or therapists is to search the internet. You can use the following keywords to gain more accurate results for your search.

  • Find a marriage therapist near me

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  • Couples therapy near me

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  • Codependent relationship couples counseling near me

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