Living with someone with dependent personality disorder

Dependent personality disorder. Partner has DPD.

Interesting dependent personality facts

Living with someone with dependent personality disorder (DPD or dependent PD) can be quite a challenge, because it’s difficult to find out what your partner really thinks or wants. Fear of rejection or abandonment and the need to be taken care of, can prevent someone with DPD to express their emotions and honest opinion. Without being aware of it, as a partner or friend, you can take advantage of the person with DPD, because he or she would go to extreme lengths to please you. If your partner has DPD it’s important to help him/her to grow more independent and stronger. This page is for those people whose partner has DPD. The tips and advice on this page will help you and your partner establishing a healthy balance.

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At Barends Psychology Practice, we offer (online) therapy for dependent personality disorder. Contact us to schedule your first, free of charge, online session. (Depending on your health insurance, treatment may be reimbursed).

What can you do when your partner has DPD? – Codependency.

One of the first things for you to figure out is in which ways you think you are codependent. Codependency is the excessive psychological or emotional reliance on your partner. It can give you a very good feeling to know that your partner needs your approval and reassurance all the time. Also, it may give you a good feeling that you usually get your way. However, if you want to help your partner with DPD, then it’s important to identify in which ways you are codependent on him/her. When your partner has DPD, he or she needs a lot of approval and reassurance, is afraid of losing support, of being rejected or abandoned. In which ways do these fears and needs show in your daily interaction?
How do you behave or respond to get things done? Some people use hints to make their partner do things for them. When your partner has DPD, this is an effective strategy to get your partner moving. As convenient as it is for you, it’s counter-effective when it comes to reducing DPD symptoms. Here are some examples to recognize codependency:

  • Empowering learned helplessness by doing things for your partner.
  • Reinforcing low self-esteem by taking over tasks when your partner says he/she can’t do it.
  • Keeping your partner emotionally or financially dependent on you.
  • Not allowing your partner to do simply home chores they can easily do themselves.
  • Finding excuses for your partner’s inability to do something.
  • Giving your opinion on anything your partner does, also when it’s unnecessary.

By recognizing the way you reinforce certain dependent personality disorder symptoms in your partner, you can start changing the way you respond and behave (for as much as you feel comfortable with). In the following steps we’ll show you how.

What can you do when your partner has DPD? – Creating a safe environment.

Someone with DPD is afraid to lose support or receive criticism when they express their feelings or opinion, make the wrong choice or do the wrong thing. This fear can refrain them from expressing their feelings or opinion, making a decision or doing something. As a result, this fear is counter-productive in terms of developing a positive self-image.

How can you help your partner?
When your partner has DPD you can help him/her by creating a safe environment. In a safe environment people with DPD won’t feel criticized or lose approval/support whenever they express themselves. It’s important to be supportive, to encourage your partner to speak his/her mind, and to decide upon something. Even when you disagree with your partner. In the end, it’s not about what your partner says, but about the fact that they dare to speak their mind, to make a decision and so on.
Be aware that any addition to their opinion, feeling, choice or action can be perceived as criticism by your partner. And because people with DPD are so used to reading body language for signs of disapproval, make sure your body doesn’t show that you disagree or want to give some advice.
In short: in a safe environment your partner can express its emotion, feeling, opinion, and make a decision or do something without having the feeling they are being criticized and lose support/approval.

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What can you do when your partner has DPD? – Encourage decision making.

Making a decision can be very difficult for someone with Dependent PD, because they are afraid of making the wrong choice or because they are afraid people will not approve of their choice. This fear can become so big that they refrain from making a decision at all and wait or someone else to make that decision. Whenever someone makes that decision the person with DPD has been taken away a chance to take responsibility and to see that their decision would have been a good one (most likely).

How can you help your partner?
If you want someone to decide upon something, you need to make sure that this person knows enough about the topic/situation in terms of risks and consequences. A helpful strategy is to sit down and make a pros and cons list with your partner. Write down the most important pros and cons and rate them on a 0-10 importance scale (IS) (10 being extremely important to you). Afterwards you discuss the list together. It’s important to separate facts from feelings and fears. Here is an example:

Example pros and cons list for the question: Should I tell my best friend I don’t like watching football?


  • I finally get to see what I want. IS:7.
  • I dislike him when he watches football. IS:8.
  • He treats me badly when we watch football. IS:9.
  • I am bored every time we watch football. IS:6.

  • We may get into an argument. IS:8.
  • He may like me less. IS:8.
  • He will find a replacement for me. IS:10.
  • He will not want to do other things with me. IS:8.

Based on this list your partner with DPD will not bring up this topic, because the PROS CONS score is 30 – 34. However, if you go over that list you can see that there is a lot of irrational fear in the CONS list. By discussing this with you partner it is likely that he or she will (significantly) lower the CONS scores. With a bit of support you can persuade your partner to bring up the topic.
By repeating this process your partner will learn that the CONS list mainly consists arguments based on irrational fears.

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What can you do when your partner has DPD? – Stop deciding for your partner.

If your partner has DPD, it’s likely that deciding for your partner becomes a second nature to you. This may give you a good and important feeling, but it’s counter-effective regarding a reduction of the dependent PD symptoms. Even small reassurances or giving your approval over something your partner wants to do is a way to ‘help him/her decide’. For people with DPD it’s important to experience that they can trust on their own decisions. The only way they can do this is by making decisions.

How can you help your partner?

  • Explain to your partner that you cannot always reassure them, give your approval or opinion on something, because it will not help them become more independent.
  • Pay attention to the ways your partner is asking for reassurance, approval, your opinion, and the way your partner asks you to make a decision. This can be very subtle.
  • Decide whether or not you can give you opinion, approval or reassure your partner. In some cases it’s better to make the decision together. If you decide to not help, then encourage your partner to trust their own opinion and decision.
  • Each time they make a decision praise them.