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Elliott, LPCC, NCC
Elliott, LPCC, NCC, Psychotherapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 7664
Experience:  35 years of experience as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, National Certified Counselor and a college professor.
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How can I help my partner to become more responsible? how can

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How can I help my partner to become more responsible? how can I diplomatically deal with difficulties that arise in our relationship from his emotional immaturity?

Hi, my partner and I have been together for 3 years. He and I both grew up from mothers who did everything for us and controlling. While their personalities and actions are very different, the dynamic is similar. I left home when I was 16 and established life for myself, and while it was hard, I grew to become responsible and dependable. My partner did not have the same chance I did. His mother is very caring but does everything for him. She has a hard time setting boundaries with him as an adult and while he asks that she change, he has hard time seeing his role in this dynamic. In the mean time, my mother in law expects that I do the same role for him. She was upset in the past, when I didn't force my decision on him; I disagreed on my role as a partner. I'm not a mother.

His past codependent relationship puts strain in our relationship, especially when he is under stress. He tends to blame things on me, for one reason or another. He gets upset if I don't/won't do things for his own life (for example, med school application process), saying that I am not supportive and that I said I didn't want him to be a doctor. This is not true. My stance is that while I'd love to support, I can't help someone who can't help himself. I want to give him opportunity to grow up and be responsible. I don't want to repeat unhealthy relationship we each had in our past, but I feel like his in a way pushing us to go to that direction.

I am trying my best to remain firm and supportive for our boundary, but he is pushing himself away from me.. He keeps scapegoating me for his feelings and for not being supportive (for not writing letters for him). I try to tell him this, but it's like talking to a brickwall. I'm afraid he will make me the bad guy, and slowly and passive aggressively resent and withdraw from me. What should I do?
Seeking expert testimony is a sign of strength. A personal relationship with a caring professional is proven clinically effective.

Dear friend,

It seems that this man had not come to terms with his upbringing, and instead has developed Dependent Personality Disorder. He has an abnormal relationship with his mother and wants to have the same one with you, which his mother fosters.

It seems that he will not accept less than you taking over the "parental" role so that he can be dependent on you. He will keep pushing you away unless you give in to his unhealthy needs.

You are involved in a very unhealthy relationship from an emotionally disturbed family.

You really have two options: give in to him and enable him in his dependence, or hold your ground and let him push you out of his life, since you refuse to pander to him.

You will always have a troubled relationship with this man. You will be much better off if you let him push you out of his life. It is a means of controlling you. He doesn't want you out, but wants you to be there to depend on. You will be so much better off when he is out of your life, in my estimation.

It is painful to leave a relationship, but if you do, you will look back and feel thankfulness and relief that you are no longer enmeshed with him and his mother.

You cannot possibly help him. You can only help yourself.

I shall keep you in my prayer to couragage, strength, and wisdom to to the best thing for yourself.

Warm regards,

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Dear Elliott:

I appreciate your wisdom and your time. I understand that the best and most efficient way is to part ways, and possibly the same result by keeping my integrity and letting him push me away. I'm mostly like to choose the latter as my option.


But in the meantime, I want to try my best to work things out and help him grow.


It took me about 2-3 hard years to really come in terms with it and see constructive ways to fix my old habits. I still try everyday. But I didn't come to the revelation alone, and I had books, internet, counselors, people who went through difficulties to help me understand my shortcomings. I want to give him my best efforts until he ends it.


I forgot to point out that we are very young couple. I am 24 years old and he is 23. He also have gotten a lot better with other shortcomings in the past, and he recognizes and constantly tries hard. So I can see that he can be introspective and can definitely get better.


But it is this particular issue that i can't get through him. I'm not sure if he understands me at all or if he is in denial deep down. They might not make a difference, but what I want to hear from you is ways I can help him recognize and change.


I understand that will is the vital factor in personal growth, but what do you do as a counselor when people from similar background come to you? How do you help them see their shortcomings and work/tackle those issues?





Dear Nita,

I see that you have a fairly well-grounded idea of your boyfriends situation and needs. Being introspective may be useful to him, but his tremendous needs can overwhelm all logic and cognitive awareness.

The best treatment is psychotherapy. However, there is always a great danger that the patient will transfer their neediness to the therapist, and that is why there is a great deal of therapist "burn-out" when dealing with clients with DPD.

As a therapist with a DPD client I would carefully observe my client's faulty thinking and related emotions, such as a lack of self-confidence, issues of autonomy versus dependency, passive aggressive manipulation, and denial of a problem. This initial cataloging is an important component of therapy.

The most affective treatment approaches are assertiveness training and other behavioral approaches. I might also use role playing (role switching) to help him to understand the nature and outcome of his behavior.

These, in brief, are the ways I would handle his shortcomings and need for behavioral change.

May I recommend a book on the subject. It is an old but very valid classic on the subject:

Product Details

The Dependent Personality by Bornstein

He may also be helped by a more general Personality Disorder workbook.

Product Details

The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Workbook for Personality Disorders: A Step-by-Step Program (New Harbinger Self-Help... by XXXXX XXXXX PsyD


I wish you both great success.


Warm regard,



Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Mr. Elliott:


Thank you. I will def look at the books you suggested. I have just one last question. When you say he has DPD, I looked up, and while some are true, others are not true. He does show lack of self-confidence (or over compensating confidence), issues of autonomy versus dependency, passive aggressive manipulation, and denial of a problem. But he is not naive, fantasizing, submissive, or wants me/others to make a choice for him. Are you sure he has DPD? or does DPD vary in degree in people?


I'd love to take your suggestions and read those books, but I just want to make sure I give you as much of a picture I can. Thank you! after this answer, I will rate your reply. Thank you.

Dear Nita,

What you say about him seems to fit the criteria for DPD pretty closely. I cannot see any other diagnosis for him that would come close.

I know how much you care for him and would like this to work, but it will be a long haul ahead with not a great chance for complete change. It is up to you.

Here are the official diagnostic criteria for DPD from the psychiatric diagnostic manual DSM-IV:

Diagnostic criteria for 301.6 Dependent Personality Disorder


A pervasive and excessive need to be taken care of that leads to submissive and clinging behavior and fears of separation, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

(1) has difficulty making everyday decisions without an excessive amount of advice and reassurance from others

(2) needs others to assume responsibility for most major areas of his or her life

(3) has difficulty expressing disagreement with others because of fear of loss of support or approval.
Note: Do not include realistic fears of retribution.

(4) has difficulty initiating projects or doing things on his or her own (because of a lack of self-confidence in judgment or abilities rather than a lack of motivation or energy)

(5) goes to excessive lengths to obtain nurturance and support from others, to the point of volunteering to do things that are unpleasant

(6) feels uncomfortable or helpless when alone because of exaggerated fears of being unable to care for himself or herself

(7) urgently seeks another relationship as a source of care and support when a close relationship ends

(8) is unrealistically preoccupied with fears of being left to take care of himself or herself

I wish you great success.

Warm regards,

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