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Is there a link between dependency, codependency and passive aggressive?


codependency and passive aggressive behaviour

By understanding dependency and codependency you can begin to make sense of why some people stay in passive aggressive relationships.


In healthy relationships there will be a mutual inter- dependency between couples.  You rely on each other emotionally, economically and morally in terms of family and expectations.  Where relationships involve too much one sided dependence and not enough personal responsibility codependency can often be found.


is a learned behaviour that can be passed down from generation to generation. It is an emotional and behavioural condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. Also known as relationship addiction because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.

Pete and Harry have been together 6 years.   Pete is an IT consultant and earns well.  Harry works in a call centre and hates his job but doesn’t have the confidence to move to another company.

Harry is passive aggressive and overly dependent on his partner Pete.

He expects Pete to take responsibility for paying the bills.  Although he has a good degree he has never fully reached his potential.   When Pete tries to encourage him to go for interviews he puts up at least ten reasons why he can’t and this leads to him feeling bad about himself .  If Pete pushes too far Harry feels dominated and controlled (something he hates).  He feels upset inside but it comes out as passive aggressive anger at Pete.  No verbalising, just acting up, turning on and off, putting Pete down unnecessarily and rejecting him sexually.  There is no thought about leaving Pete even though he is not happy with him.

PA dependency characteristics:

  • non assertive
  • indecisive
  • unsure of themselves
  • being obstructive rather than independent
  • withdrawing or withholding intimacy rather than leaving altogether
  • avoiding responsibility for themselves and family
  • emotional unavailability
  • poor communication especially about feelings
  • sometimes depending unfairly on their partner for support
  • fears domination

Pete is codependent on Harry.  His happiness seems to depend on Harry and his moods.  He feels like he is the one that does all the giving, pays the bills, cooks the dinners and generally cares for Harry.  There is not a lot coming back to him in terms of gratitude or love. Pete is forever trying to fix Harry, build him up, encourage him.  When Harry gives him the cold shoulder he makes excuses for him.

Although Harry feels controlled by Pete, Pete doesn’t feel in control at all.  It seems that Harry and his moods control everything.  Pete is trying desperately hard to control Harry and in doing his own energy and zest for life are depleted.  Pete is really upset by all of this and can’t work out what he needs to do.

Codependent behaviour can be defined as:

  • people pleasers
  • puts others before themselves
  • having an exaggerated sense of responsibility for others
  • does more than their fair share
  • feels hurt when their efforts are not recognised
  • non assertive
  • finds it hard to problem solve
  • feels unable to know and assert their needs
  • finds it hard to communicate
  • has problems with boundaries
  • finds it hard to make decisions
  • wants control but ends up relinquishing control and deferring to others
  • doesn’t act for fear of abandonment
  • sets self up to be a victim or martyr
  • can get needy and clingy
  • fear of intimacy can lead to choosing partners that are emotionally unavailable

Both Harry and Pete are dependent on each other in different ways.  Both fear rejection and abandonment.  Both find communication about feelings difficult.  Both have control issues.

For both H and P to find happiness and contentment in the relationship they need to practice talking about their feelings and being assertive about what is and is not acceptable.  They need to build their confidence to a level where they can speak out and take a stand on issues without fear of rejection.  Good communication is the key to all of this.


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