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The Exhausted Woman
with Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC

10 Signs Your Spouse Might be Dependent

Natalie didn’t get it. She watched her sister tolerate an abusive spouse who routinely left her for another woman and then returned on a whim. Her sister knew he was an adulterer, arrogant, intolerable, demanding, condescending, cruel and controlling. She complained about him, said she wanted to leave, but then when push came to shove, she remained.

Natalie’s sister was not unintelligent; in fact, she was at the top of her class. She was in upper management, beautiful, and by all outside appearances, seemed to have it all together. But then there was her husband. His narcissistic adulterous behavior was evident to the family and they supported a separation. Yet, she didn’t leave.

Frustrated and confused, Natalie began to wonder if there was something wrong with her sister. The word “dependent” is the perfect descriptive word to summarize Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD).  DPDs need other people for all areas of emotional support and affirmation. Frequently, they are reliant on one particular person such as a spouse. Here are 10 signs of a dependent person.

  1. Intense fear of separation. The fear of separation is not the same as the fear of abandonment. Abandonment is about being rejected, deserted or having a person leave. Separation presumes a tight bond for which a person cannot see themselves as individuals without the other person present.
  2. Difficulty making decisions. Even from a young age, Natalie’s sister had a hard time making simple decisions. She needed an excessive amount of advice from Natalie before her husband came into the picture. Even after the decision was made, her sister needed constant reassurance.
  3. Allows others to assume responsibility. Most DPDs are happier with others accepting responsibility for their finances, significant decisions, and initiating projects. For a dominating spouse, this is an ideal mate because they don’t like the competition for authority. The ease with which a DPD submits to their spouse is not coming from a place of health, but rather dysfunction.
  4. Fear of confrontation. Natalie’s sister hated to be confronted and almost never challenged others. Her fear of losing the support and/or approval of her sister and husband caused her to tolerate things that she didn’t like or want.
  5. Volunteers for unpleasant activities. After seeing her sister’s frustration, Natalie asked her sister if she enjoyed helping out at their church. She said no, but felt she had no choice but to participate. It turned out that a church employee guilt-tripped her sister into volunteering because no one else would do it.
  6. Afraid to care for self. DPDs have a misconception that they are incapable of taking care of themselves and therefore always need someone else. Typically, they do not go very long without having an intimate relationship. Sometimes, they use their friends or family members as temporary caretakers until another person more permanent comes along.
  7. Acts passive and helpless. One of the inconsistent characteristics of Natalie’s sister was how independent and successful she was at work while being so dependent and indecisive at home. Natalie knew that her sister was able to make hard decisions and handle stressful situations but at home, she acted powerlessly.
  8. Sensitive to criticism. While Natalie’s sister could handle constructive criticism at work, even the slightest sign of disapproval caused her to completely shut-down. She seemed unable to handle any condemnation from her husband. When her husband would disappear, she was unable to tolerate any dissatisfaction from her sister.
  9. Tolerates mistreatment and/or abuse. One of the defining characteristics of DPD is overlooking, allowing, minimizing, and/or ignoring mistreatment and abuse. Even when the manipulation is exposed, the DPD has a hard time verbalizing, internalizing, and confronting the behavior. This makes them a prime target for dominating and controlling people.
  10. Needs of caretakers are more critical. Worse yet, a DPD will often forgo any self-care in favor of whatever their spouse needs or wants. They are happy to do this because to them, it shows love. Unfortunately, in the hands of the wrong person, this is very dangerous and could put them in risky situations.

Once Natalie understood that her sister was DPD and lacked common sense in interpersonal relationships, it was easier for her to communicate with her. Eventually, with the consistent support of her family, Natalie’s sister was able to leave her husband. However, within a few short months, she found another relationship.

10 Signs Your Spouse Might be Dependent


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APA Reference
Hammond, C. (2018). 10 Signs Your Spouse Might be Dependent. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 21, 2019, from