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Codependency and Codependent Relationships

It is natural for friends or couples to depend on one another. However, when one of them becomes highly reliant on the partner, and the other person derives a sense of importance from the role of rescuer, then it might signal a codependent relationship. Codependency exists in relationships between family members and friends and, more frequently, in romantic relationships.


Caring and spending time together are features of a relationship. Sometimes, it is necessary to put the loved one's needs above oneself. However, there are some key differences between healthy interdependence and codependence. In a healthy relationship, the couple will care for each other but has a good sense of self and independence. They can spend time apart and enjoy doing interests, hobbies or spending time with other friends. In a healthy relationship, both partners feel safe expressing themselves and their emotions with mutual respect.


The relationship becomes codependent when one partner is mentally, emotionally, physically, or spiritually reliant on the other while the other becomes the rescuer. Over time, the needy individual becomes even more dependent on the rescuer, who derives a sense of satisfaction from being needed. People in a codependent relationship often live with the fear of abandonment and constantly measure their self-worth based on the importance of being needed and loved. Couples in a codependent relationship have minimal interest in anything outside the relationship and neglect other area of their life.


Characteristics of a Codependent relationship include:

  • Confusion between love and pity. A codependent person tends to "love" people they can pity and rescue

  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of the other partner

  • A tendency to overdo and over-care

  • Needing frequent validation and feeling hurt, unwanted and unappreciated when they feel their effort is not recognised.

  • An unhealthy dependence on relationships. Codependent people will do anything to hold on to a relationship, even when it is harmful.

  • Difficulty being assertive and feel guilty when they make a stand

  • A compelling need to control others

  • Lack of trust in self and others

  • Rigidity and resistance to change

  • Difficulty making decisions


People become codependent due to a low sense of self, difficulties drawing boundaries and a weak emotional support system. Adults in codependent relationships are usually survivors of attachment trauma during childhood or growing up. They may have grown up with the message that their problems were less or unimportant, and they cannot assert their need or show emotion. As a result, people in codependent relationships minimise their needs, believing they need to be sacrificial at all times.


Codependency comes in varying levels of intensity. Suppose you are or you suspect that you are in a codependent relationship. In that case, please consult a professional counsellor or psychotherapist for boundary setting and managing your relationship.


Restoring Peace Counselling and Consultancy offers counselling and psychotherapy for relationship issues and other mental health challenges. For more information, please visit www.restoringpeace.com.sg or WhatsApp us at 8889 1848.



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