Conflict and Codependency


We have all heard that conflict is inevitable in relationships. For couples who struggle with codependency, this simple phrase can stir up feelings of fear and apprehension. Relationship instability slices deep into old wounds and insecurities.

The term ‘codependent’ has been around for a while, and was originally used to describe behaviors and emotions that manifest in families with substance abuse issues. Since then, the term has been expanded to describe any relationship in which one of the members feels responsible for the feelings and actions of another. This often means sacrificing their own needs and hiding feelings to keep the peace.

Sometimes codependent people placate their partner to avoid being abandoned. Someone who is codependent has a deep need to be needed; it is their primary source of purpose and meaning. On the surface, it may seem selfless and caring, but on a deeper level it is a disguise for a person who is hiding, who does not see their own value outside of people-pleasing.

The partner in a co-dependent relationship is often heavily reliant on their significant other and this feeds the cycle of neediness and clinging that defines the relationship. This lop-sided power differential makes for a painful relationship and can cause resentments to build over time. Conflicts in this type of relationship feel dangerous, since the tenuous supply of need and purpose feel threatened and those are defining features that weld the relationship together.

Surviving Co-dependent Conflict

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Living with Finesse By Dr. Teyhou Smyth

Dr. Teyhou Smyth is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (#115137) and an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at the Graduate School of Education & Psychology.