Codependency in Relationships

Relational co-dependency refers to an unhealthy and destructive pattern of behaviour in relationships where one person enables another person’s addiction, irresponsibility, or underachievement.

What to Look Out For and What We Can Do About it

In a co-dependant relationship, both individuals become overly involved and focused on the other, neglecting their own needs and desires. This behaviour can lead to a wide range of negative consequences, including increased stress and decreased self-esteem, and can cause long-lasting harm to both individuals involved – and other close family.

An Unhealthy Search for Control

One of the most common signs of relational co-dependency is an excessive need for control.

One person may feel the need to control every aspect of the relationship, including the other person’s behaviour, thoughts, and emotions. This need for control can manifest in several ways, including through criticism, manipulation, and micromanagement. It can also involve making decisions for the other person or taking on the responsibility of solving their problems.

Those All Important Boundaries

Another key sign of relational co-dependency is a lack of boundaries.

One person may not have any clear boundaries in the relationship, allowing the other person to dominate and control every aspect of their life. This can result in feelings of resentment, anger, and frustration, as the person with the lack of boundaries feels like they are constantly giving and never receiving anything in return.

Stop Feeding the Bear: Enabling negative or toxic behaviours

Another common sign of relational co-dependency is co-dependency and enabling.

One person may enable the other person’s destructive behaviour by helping them avoid the consequences of their actions.

For example, they may make excuses for their partner’s substance abuse, or cover up for them when they fail to meet their responsibilities. Sadly, this behaviour only serves to perpetuate the cycle of dependence, as the person with the addiction continues to rely on their partner for support and enablement.


Relational co-dependency can also lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blame


One person may feel like they are responsible for the other person’s problems, and may take on the burden of fixing them. This can lead to feelings of helplessness and self-doubt, and can further perpetuate the cycle of dependence.

It is important to protect ourselves from relational co-dependency, as it can have long-lasting negative consequences for our mental and emotional health. One of the best ways to do this is to establish clear boundaries in our relationships. This means setting limits on what we are willing to tolerate from others, and communicating those limits clearly and assertively.

Your Self-esteem and Sense of Self

Another key step in protecting ourselves from relational co-dependency is to focus on our own needs and desires.

This means taking time for ourselves, pursuing our own interests and hobbies, and focusing on our own goals and aspirations. It also means learning to prioritise our own wellbeing and not sacrificing our own happiness for the sake of the relationship.


The support of others can help us to feel less isolated and more empowered in our efforts to break free from unhealthy patterns of behaviour.


Therapy and Relationship Counselling

Finally, it is important to recognise the warning signs of relational co-dependency and to seek help early on.


This may involve seeking the advice of a trusted friend or family member, talking to a mental health professional, or joining a support group.


Early intervention is key to breaking the cycle of dependence and avoiding the negative consequences of relational co-dependency.

In conclusion, relational co-dependency is a destructive pattern of behaviour that can have long-lasting negative consequences for our mental and emotional health, and those around and close to us.

To protect ourselves, it is important to establish and assert clear, consistent boundaries that have meaningful consequences.

About the author
Managing Director / Counsellor at Anglia Counselling Ltd | 07747042899 | [email protected] | Business Website

Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.

Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).