What is Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD)?
When a person has DPD, they exhibit an unnatural and extreme psychological dependence on other people. Their personality is often characterized by their need to be taken care of and their fear of abandonment. They are also fearful that they might be separated from people who are important in their lives. This pervasive fear makes them behave in a submissive and “clingy” manner. This behavior often becomes apparent by early adulthood.
Life with a spouse who has DPD
Living with a dependent personality disorder spouse can be very challenging because DPD can cloud your spouse’s judgment and their ability to cope with their environment, both at home and at work. It is almost like living with an overgrown child instead of a spouse.
A spouse who has DPD often has difficulty making everyday decisions, even simple ones like what to have for dinner; they tend not to want to make the decision, they are agreeable with whatever you might suggest. They need excessive advice and often need to be reassured repeatedly, which can be quite an exhausting task for us.
When it comes to major decision-making, they would look toward you to assume the responsibility for them. Their ongoing need for reassurance can be quite emotionally tiring. Much energy and patience is needed to maintain the relationship. They hate being alone and so will tend to “leech” onto you, following and participating in all the activities that you are engaged in. This behavior can make you feel “suffocated”.
On the flip side, in your relationship with a dependent personality disorder spouse you also need to be aware of your own behavior; it is easy to slip into an “abusive” mode because your spouse is so willing to let you take the reins in the relationship.
Ways to cope with a Dependent Personality Disorder spouse
- Educate yourself about your spouse’s disorder. It is easier to deal with your spouse’s abnormal behavior if you understand why they act the way they do. This disorder makes them harbor irrational thoughts and act in irrational ways such as being overly sensitive toward criticisms, fear of abandonment or viewing the world as cold and dangerous. They tend to believe that they are inadequate and helpless too.
- To help you cope with your spouse’s disorder you can also encourage them to seek professional help. They can definitely benefit from a support group or group psychotherapy. These groups may help them regulate their emotions and be more mindful of their thoughts.
- How you deal with your spouse’s disorder depends very much on what kind of symptoms they present. DPDs are prone to depression, anxiety disorders and/or substance abuse. They may even attempt suicide.
- Let your spouse with DPD know your feelings about their behavior and how it affects you; try to be specific.
- When your spouse demonstrates “clinging behavior” you have to resist being irritated or losing your temper with them. This may be hard but remember your spouse isn’t being rational; they are acting in this manner because of their insecurity. Acknowledge their emotions and validate their feelings. You may not quite understand those fears but you can still empathize with them.
- Remember you are not a doormat, your partner may have a disorder but that does not mean that you have to be a saint and take everything they throw at you. Decide what you are able to tolerate and what you will not tolerate. Discuss them with your spouse.
Be kind to yourself
You may be the “normal” one in your relationship but you are still human. Sometimes you will have good days; sometimes you will have bad ones. When days are bad we get frustrated, and feel like giving up. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
- Dependent Personality Disorder- https://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=526
- Internet Mental Health - https://www.mentalhealth.com/dis/p20-pe09.html
- Dependent Personality Disorder - https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/dependent-personality-disorder
- Cleveland Clinic - https://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/personality_disorders/hic_dependent_personality_disorder.aspx