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How Co-Dependency Can Affect Relationships

Jonathan Riley

“You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm.” – Anonymous

Co-dependent relationships can have an impact on our families, children, friends, and relatives, as well as our businesses and careers, health, and spiritual growth. Co-dependency, if left untreated, can be debilitating and cause us to be more destructive to ourselves and others.

Here are 10 signs that you may be in a co-dependent relationship

  • 1. You tend to love people that you can pity and rescue.
  • 2. Fearing abandonment and loneliness, you stay in and return to painful, destructive relationships.
  • 3. You feel responsible for your partner’s happiness.
  • 4. You’re dating or married to an alcoholic or addict.
  • 5. You’ve allowed irresponsible, hurtful behaviour in your relationship.
  • 6. Your partner’s mood affects your day.
  • 7. You always want to know what your partner is doing or thinking.
  • 8. You have no personal identity, interests, or values outside of your relationship.
  • 9. You feel empty and incomplete when you are without your partner.
  • 10. You have attached yourself to someone who is emotionally unavailable.

In its simplest terms, a co-dependent relationship is when one partner needs the other partner, who in turn, needs to be needed. This circular relationship is the basis of what experts refer to when they describe the “cycle” of co-dependency. Co-dependent couples usually are out of balance (Berry, n.d.). Frequently, there are struggles for power and control. There may be an imbalance of power or one partner may have taken on responsibility for the other. They’re often anxious and resentful and feel guilty and responsible for their partner’s feelings and moods (Lancer, 2018).

Co-dependency is a pattern of behaviour in which you become reliant on the approval of others for your sense of self-worth and identity. Co-dependents are always at the mercy of the external world and feel ill-equipped to bring an honest self-evaluation to situations and relationships. Co-dependent relationships are defined by an unhealthy level of clinginess in which one person lacks self-sufficiency or autonomy. This relationship dynamic forms a cycle that’s not easy to break: The giver continues to overcompensate for his or her partner, while the taker avoids assuming responsibility (Breit, n.d.). They become co-dependent, relying on each other not for love and care, but for relief from insecurity. Many people find themselves repeating the same unhealthy relationship patterns—despite their best intentions. Melody Beattie, author of Codependent No More believes if one partner in your relationship has an addiction, it’s much more likely to become co-dependent.

Finally, Cermak (1998) described the relationship between narcissism and co-dependency and suggested that this relationship is another defining characteristic of co-dependency. He proposed that people who are co-dependent are naturally drawn to and have relationships with people who have narcissistic characteristics. Because a narcissistic individual possesses personality traits that encompass a sense of grandiosity and entitlement, a co-dependent person is perhaps the perfect mate. Whereas co-dependent people are generally searching for methods by which they can channel their sense of self into another, narcissistic individuals are simultaneously searching for people who can support the grandiose self they have constructed. It’s interesting to note that both personality types have shame at their core.

If you recognize these codependency patterns in your life, it’s time to take action. My Practice Counselling Melbourne specialises in helping individuals break free from codependent behaviors and build healthier, happier relationships. Don’t let codependency hold you back any longer. Take the first step towards self-discovery and healing today. Reach out to us for support and transformation.

In part 4, we will examine What Causes Co-dependency?


  • Berry, J. Codependent relationships: Symptoms, warning signs, and behaviour. Retrieved from
  • Breit, C. You May Be In a Codependent Relationship. Here’s How to Overcome It. Retrieved from
  • Cermak, T. (1998). Diagnosing and treating co-dependence. Center City, Minn.: Hazelden Foundation.
  • Kelly, V. (2015). Addiction in the Family: What Every Counselor Needs to Know: What Every Counselor Needs to Know. American Counseling Association.
  • Lancer, D. (2018). Codependency vs. Interdependency. Retrieved from
  • Sun, F. Are You in a Codependent Relationship? Retrieved from