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  • Writer's picturePegasus Health

Co-dependency in Marital Relationships: Recognizing and Addressing the Issue

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

What is Co-dependency in marital relationships?

It is a complex issue that can significantly impact the well-being and happiness of both partners. It often arises from unhealthy patterns of behavior and emotional reliance on each other, leading to an imbalanced dynamic. This article aims to explore the

concept of co-dependency, its potential causes, and provide practical

solutions to address and overcome it.

Co-dependency can be defined as an excessive reliance on a partner for

one's sense of self-worth, identity, and emotional well-being. It is

characterized by an unhealthy level of control, neediness, and enabling

behaviors. Co-dependent individuals often struggle with boundary-setting,

prioritizing and recognizing their own needs, and maintaining a healthy level of


Co-dependency can stem from various factors, including childhood

experiences, family dynamics, past traumas, and societal and cultural

influences. Common causes may include:

1. Family of origin: Growing up in a family where emotional needs were not

adequately met or where there was excessive control can contribute to

co-dependent patterns in adult relationships.

2. Low self-esteem: Individuals with low self-worth may seek validation

and affirmation from their partner, leading to dependency on their


3. Unresolved trauma: Past traumatic experiences, such as abuse or

neglect, can contribute to co-dependency by fostering a sense of

helplessness and the need to rely on others for emotional stability.

4. Societal expectations: Societal norms and expectations may perpetuate

traditional gender roles, fostering dependency in relationships and

discouraging individual autonomy.

5. Connections and support: lack of social connections and supports can

create co-dependency.

Learning Solutions to Co-dependency with Counselling:

1. Self-awareness and Education: Recognizing co-dependency and

understanding its dynamics is the first step towards addressing the

issue. Increased self-awareness helps individuals identify their own

patterns and triggers, promoting personal growth.

2. Individual Therapy: Individual therapy provides a safe space for each

partner to explore their emotions, past experiences, and underlying

issues that contribute to co-dependency. Therapists can help individuals

develop healthier coping mechanisms, build self-esteem, and set


3. Couples Therapy: Couples therapy plays a vital role in addressing co-

dependency by improving communication, promoting empathy, and

fostering healthy interdependence. A skilled therapist can guide couples

through exercises that encourage autonomy, emotional regulation, and

self-care, helping them create a more balanced relationship.

4. Developing Boundaries: Establishing and maintaining clear boundaries

is essential in overcoming co-dependency. Partners must learn to

identify their own needs and communicate them assertively. This

includes practicing self-care, saying no when necessary, and allowing

each other space for individual growth.

5. Strengthening Individual Identities: Encouraging personal interests,

hobbies, and friendships outside the relationship helps each partner

build a strong sense of self. Developing independent identities promotes

self-confidence and reduces reliance on the relationship for validation.

6. Building Support Networks: Building a support network outside the

relationship is crucial for personal growth and resilience. Engaging in

activities and connecting with friends and family can provide emotional

support, alternative perspectives, and a sense of belonging outside the

co-dependent dynamic.

7. Prioritizing Self-Care: Individuals must prioritize self-care to develop

emotional resilience and reduce co-dependency.

8. Open Communication: Healthy communication is key to addressing co-

dependency. Active listening, empathy, and validating each other's

narratives is important.

Learn more about co-dependent relationship with Pegasus Integrated Health's counsellors in Richmond, BC.

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