Boundaries in Codependent Relationships and How to Set Them

Boundaries in Codependent Relationships and How to Set Them

Codependency is a term often referred to in order to describe a relationship where one person is excessively emotionally or psychologically dependent on another. This type of relationship can be harmful and damaging to both parties, as it often involves a lack of clear boundaries and a distorted sense of self. Setting boundaries is crucial in codependent relationships, as it allows both parties to maintain their individuality and protects their emotional and physical well-being.

Codependency is characterized by a pattern of putting the needs of others above one’s own. This often involves enabling the problematic behaviours of the other person, such as substance abuse or excessive spending, and neglecting one’s own needs and desires. Codependency can arise from childhood experiences, such as growing up in a dysfunctional family and can continue into adulthood.

The effects of codependency on relationships can be significant, including poor communication, lack of trust, and feelings of resentment and anger. It is important for individuals in codependent relationships to understand the nature of codependency and its impact on their lives.

Boundaries In Codependent Relationships

How Codependency Affects Boundaries

When boundaries are not properly established in a codependent relationship, one may feel like they are constantly sacrificing their own needs and wants for the sake of their partner. This can lead to a sense of resentment and a loss of individuality. On the other hand, the other person in the relationship may feel entitled to their partner’s time and energy, leading to a sense of entitlement and a lack of empathy and respect for their partner’s boundaries.

In codependent relationships, the lack of clear boundaries can lead to a breakdown of communication, trust, and respect. This can result in one person feeling constantly controlled or manipulated by their partner, while the other person feels like their partner is always rejecting or criticizing them.

The absence of boundaries in codependent relationships can also lead to a pattern of enabling problematic behaviours, such as substance abuse or excessive spending. This reinforces the cycle of codependency, as one person’s unhealthy behaviour goes unchallenged, and their partnership continues to put their needs above their own.

To overcome the negative effects of codependency on boundaries, individuals in codependent relationships need to establish clear and healthy boundaries. This involves setting personal limits, communicating boundaries clearly and assertively, and learning to say “no” and set consequences when necessary. It also involves self-care, self-compassion, and seeking support from friends, family, and professional sources.

Setting boundaries, strengthening relationships

Boundaries are the invisible lines that define our personal values, beliefs, and limitations. They help us maintain our individuality and protect our emotional and physical well-being. In codependent relationships, boundaries are often blurred or absent, leading to a distorted perspective of one’s self.

How to Set Boundaries in Codependent Relationships

Setting boundaries in codependent relationships can be challenging, but it is an important step in breaking the cycle of codependency. See the below tips for setting boundaries in codependent relationships:

  • Identify personal values and boundaries: The first step in setting boundaries is understanding what you value and your limitations. This can involve exploring your feelings, beliefs, and needs and communicating them to your partner.
  • Communicate boundaries clearly and assertively: Once you have identified your values and boundaries, it is important to communicate them to your partner clearly and assertively. This means being direct, honest, and consistent in your communication.
  • Learn to say “no” and set consequences: Setting boundaries means being able to say “no” when necessary and setting consequences for any violations of your boundaries. This helps to reinforce the importance of your boundaries and to maintain your sense of self.
  • Practice self-care and self-compassion: Setting boundaries can be difficult, and it is important to be kind to yourself and to practice self-care and self-compassion during this process. This includes taking time for yourself, seeking support from friends and family, and engaging in activities that bring you joy and fulfilment.

Overcoming Resistance to Boundaries

Setting boundaries in codependent relationships can be met with resistance from the other person. This can include feelings of guilt and shame and challenges in navigating the boundary-setting process.

It is important to know these challenges and work through them with compassion and understanding. This may involve seeking support from friends and family, therapy, or support groups.

How Therapy Can Help with Boundaries

Therapy can be a valuable tool for individuals looking to improve their boundary-setting skills and break free from codependent relationships. A therapist can help individuals identify and understand the patterns of codependency in their relationships and provide guidance on how to set healthy and effective boundaries.

One of the key ways therapy can help with boundaries is by teaching individuals how to communicate effectively and assertively. This includes learning how to express their needs, wants, and feelings clearly and respectfully and how to listen to and understand their partner’s perspectives.

Boundaries In Codependent Relationships

In therapy, individuals can also learn how to set and enforce consequences when crossing boundaries. This can involve learning how to say “no” and stick to their own limits and how to address problematic behaviours in their partner.

Additionally, therapy can help individuals with codependency issues learn to prioritize self-care and self-compassion. This involves learning to prioritise their needs and engage in healthy self-care activities, such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies. By prioritizing their own well-being, individuals in codependent relationships can break the cycle of codependency and establish healthier, more fulfilling relationships.

Finally, therapy can provide a supportive and non-judgmental space for individuals to process their experiences and emotions related to codependency and boundary setting. This is especially important for individuals who have been in codependent relationships for a long time, as breaking free from these patterns can be difficult and emotional.


Codependency can significantly impact the boundaries in relationships. The lack of clear boundaries can lead to a distorted sense of self, poor communication, and a pattern of enabling unhealthy behaviours. However, by establishing clear boundaries and practising self-care, individuals in codependent relationships can break the cycle of codependency and improve the health and happiness of their relationships.

Therapy can be a powerful tool for individuals looking to improve their boundary-setting skills and overcome codependency in their relationships. Through therapy, individuals can learn how to communicate effectively and assertively, prioritize self-care and well-being, and process their experiences and emotions in a supportive and non-judgmental space.

Boundaries are an essential aspect of healthy relationships and are especially important in codependent relationships. Setting boundaries allows both parties to maintain their individuality, protect their emotional and physical well-being, and improve communication and trust.


Psychotherapy resources, information and support for people, professionals and businesses