Therapy Blog for Orem, Spanish Fork & South Jordan

Couples Therapy: Codependency or Controlling Behavior?

Couples Therapy: How Codependency Turns into Controlling Behaviors… and What You Can Do About It

You might seek couples therapy to help you become less codependent. Codependency is a common issue in many relationships. But, did you know that sometimes codependency can look like controlling behaviors in a marriage? 

Now, you might be surprised, and you might say, but I don’t understand, how am I controlling my spouse if I am also overly

couples therapy

dependent on them? Today, you will learn how to identify and change controlling behaviors in your own relationships. You’ll also learn how these changes and couples therapy can help you improve your marriage and be happier in your relationship. (Related Article: Communication Skills- Boundaries). 

What is Codependency?

Codependency is when you and your partner solely rely on each other to fulfill each other’s needs. Codependent relationships can look a little different in practice depending on your particular situation. But a common situation you might be familiar with is the idea of the “giver” and the “taker”. (Source). 

You might be the giver, and you believe it is your job to only give to your partner. You avoid voicing your needs and advocating yourself. Or, you might be the taker; you seek and expect constant and excessive support from your partner. (Related Article: Marriage Myths- My Partner Should Meet all of My Needs). 

Now, if this sounds familiar, your relationship is not doomed to fail! Change is possible, and it can start with you! Today, you will learn about a solution for people who tend to be a “giver” in their relationships. So, if this is you, read on!

Codependency and Control

Like I mentioned before, codependency for a “giver” is often rooted in a desire to control your partner. Now, I know that might sound odd or even accusatory. After all, you are giving to your partner, could it really be that bad?

That’s where it’s important to ponder why you feel a need to give excessively. Are you really giving for giving’s sake? Or are you

couples therapy

giving in an attempt to “take over” for your partner’s problems and stresses? (Related article: How I Stopped Controlling My Partner and Took Control of My Own Happiness). You might not even realize that your attempts to help your partner might be a way of avoiding conflict and frustration. 

For instance, have you ever intervened in your partner’s life in order to “save them from themselves”? Do you take responsibility for your spouse’s stress and anxieties? Do you look for ways to help your partner avoid consequences? (Related article: Are You Coping or Avoiding? Why the Difference Matters). These actions might appear selfless and generous. However, the real motive behind these behaviors in your relationship is a desire to avoid discomfort, either for yourself or your partner (or both!). 

How to Address Codependency and Control 

So, if you are relating to the things I’m describing, what can be done about it? Is it too late to fix things and create a healthier dynamic in your relationship?

Thankfully, you and your partner can fix this through proactively addressing the discomfort you try to avoid. That’s why communication skills are so important in your marriage. If you are able to speak clearly, effectively, and openly with your partner about frustrations and challenges, you will not seek opportunities to control the outcome. Creating an environment of emotional safety can be a great antidote to codependent behaviors. 

Another approach that you can personally try for codependency is working on better personal boundaries. Yes, you can set boundaries with your own self, too! For example, you can set a boundary that “when I see that my partner is going to experience

couples therapy

something stressful, I can trust them to make their own decisions and solve their own problem. I will not intervene unless asked, and I can be a good listener if they approach me for help”. (Related article: Promoting Partnership). 

Defining boundaries in your relationship can lead to a happier, healthier marriage. And, while setting these sorts of boundaries

might seem harsh, you can actually avoid further conflict by setting good boundaries early on in your marriage. Good boundaries with yourself and others are an act of empathy and kindness that pay off when stressful situations arise. 

Couples Therapy Can Help You Become Less Codependent

If you are struggling with codependency and you aren’t sure where to start, couples therapy can help. In marriage counseling, you can speak with a trained therapist who can help you notice and address dysfunctional behaviors. You can create the relationship you want. Are you ready to get started? Start couples therapy today in Orem, South Jordan, or Spanish Fork. 


Written by Lauren Adkins

Lauren Adkins

Writer for the Center for Couples and Families


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