13 Characteristics of a Codependent Relationship

13 Characteristics of a Codependent Relationship – June Hunt, Hope for Your Heart

The classic codependent relationship is typically characterized by an emotionally weak person who feels the need to be connected to an emotionally strong person. The so-called strong one is actually weak because of the need to be needed. Both are insecure and become entangled in a web of emotional bondage. The two combine to produce a destructive cycle of manipulation and control, draining joy and happiness out of life. Because this destructive dynamic is often subconscious, both parties can feel innocent of any wrongdoing. Yet, God knows that their self-absorbed motives are consumed with trying to fill an empty emotional bucket that has no bottom.

“All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD.” (Proverbs 16:2)

The Codependent Relationship Profile

  1. Both feel a loss of personal identity.
  2. Both violate their consciences.
  3. Both have difficulty establishing healthy, intimate relationships.
  4. Both struggle with low self-worth.
  5. Both control and manipulate.
  6. Both have difficulty setting boundaries.
  7. Both become jealous and possessive.
  8. Both fear abandonment.
  9. Both experience extreme ups and downs.
  10. Both are in denial.
  11. Both have a false sense of security.
  12. Both usually have one other addiction besides the relationship.
  13. Both feel trapped in the relationship.

Frequently Asked Question: Codependent Friends

QUESTION: “Is a friendship codependent when two friends depend on one another?”

ANSWER: No, if the friendship is interdependent (reciprocal with balanced sharing), then it is healthy. If the friendship is codependent (out of balance), then it is unhealthy.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)

  • An Unhealthy, Codependent Friendship
    • One friend is weak and troubled; the other friend is strong and competent. (There is an imbalance of power and of give-and-take.)
    • One friend desires freedom to enjoy other significant relationships but is fearful of doing so. The other friend desires exclusivity and becomes easily jealous or threatened.
    • Both may put the other friend in the place of Christ, and neither is bettered by the friendship.
  • A Healthy, Interdependent Friendship
    • Both come together as equals with a balance of power and of give-and-take.
    • Both pursue and enjoy other significant relationships and avoid exclusivity.
    • Both friends are better because of each other. Each strengthens the other spiritually.

Biblical Illustration: During a difficult time in David’s life, his dearest friend, Jonathan, didn’t try to draw David to himself. Instead, the Bible says, “Jonathan … helped him [David] find strength in God.” (1 Samuel 23:16)


Article Used by Permission from Hope for the Heart©

Scripture, unless otherwise indicated, taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.

June Hunt

June Hunt

June Hunt, M.A. Criswell College, is a biblical counselor whose award-winning radio program "Hope For The Heart" is heard on 900 radio outlets around the world. For more than 25 years, she has counseled people, offering them hope for today's problems. June has helped many people with emotional, relational, and spiritual problems experience God's love through biblical hope and practical help. Click here to find out more about Hope for the Heart.

Hope For The Heart Board of Reference

Dr. Henry Blackaby (Blackaby Ministries International), Dr. Rick Warren (Saddleback Church), Dr. Tony Evans (The Urban Alternative), Joni Eareckson Tada (Joni and Friends), Kay Arthur (Precept Ministries International), Dr. David Jeremiah (Turning Point), Dr. Tim Clinton (American Association of Christian Counselors), Dr. Bruce Wilkinson (Bruce Wilkinson Ministries), Dr. Chip Ingram (Living on the Edge), Roger Staubach (SRS Real Estate Partners), Steve Arterburn (New Life Ministries), Vonette Bright (Campus Crusade for Christ), Dr. Charles Stanley (In Touch Ministries), Zig Ziglar (Ziglar Training Systems)

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