Codependency: a danger to healthy Black relationships


When people generally hear the term codependency, they think of addictions. Codependency is a term developed from studies dealing with interpersonal relationships in families of alcoholics. Codependency is a set of maladaptive and compulsive behaviors learned by individuals in order to survive in groups that experience great emotional pain and stress.

This dependent personality functions as an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. This is also known as “relationship addiction.”

Codependent behavior is learned by watching and imitating other family members who display this type of behavior. Many Black people form and maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.

Codependent relationships constitute a serious and sadly unaddressed problem in the Black community. Many Black males spend most of their lives being dependent on Black women. Few have ever lived on their own to cultivate a sure sense of self before they move in with a woman.

Black males often go from living with mother to living with a girlfriend, to whom they transfer emotional dependency. A girlfriend catering to his ego makes the dependent male feel worth something. In turn, the girlfriend becomes “Little Momma.” Some men have multiple “little Mommas,” one for financial needs, one for exotic sexual experiences, one for transportation, and so on.

These males have been conditioned into a habit of investing self-worth in how women treat them. When a woman stops catering to his ego, when she grows confrontational or simply doesn’t fit his ideal of a caring woman, he feels worth nothing at all and can’t handle the baffling sense of betrayal and abandon. This often leads to destructive reactions and decision making.

A Black woman’s codependency has different dynamics. A woman whose self-esteem is low, especially one depressed by scarce finances, work, family issues, schooling, dreads compounding her bad feelings by living alone. She ostensibly wants a man who is her equal, but she has been conditioned to act as a mother, nurturing and authoritative.


Black males often go from living with mother, 

to living with a girlfriend,to whom they 

transfer emotional dependency.



She depends on him in order to feel needed and will dedicatedly sustain the dependency he brings to the relationship. Since she can’t feed, burp and diaper him, she will pretty much unconditionally stroke his ego and tend to his feelings. Her tolerance level for inappropriate behavior, including abuse, will be high. She generally insists, through confrontation or manipulation, on having her way.

She will expect a man to lean on her emotionally, yet want him to be independent and assume the socially proscribed “masculine” roles. Part of this may be her attempt to answer needs that were not met during her childhood by a significant male figure.

No man is going to enjoy being controlled. Nor will he successfully meet her subconscious desire for a ”new daddy.” Her dissatisfaction sooner or later will destructively surface.

She, as she probably watched older women do before her, tends to take life’s frustrations out on her man. She may belittle his best efforts to be a provider, denigrate his sexual performance or bad-mouth him. Specifics vary, but the general behavior is to emasculate. In this instant, women are conditioned to be mothers and men are conditioned to be mothered. Either way, this is dangerous to healthy Black relationships.

There are a number of ways to overcome a codependent relationship. Here are four ways to go in the right direction.

The first thing one can do is to let truth be your guide. Do not be afraid to tell the truth whether it is about you or about the relationship.

Secondly, stand your ground. Do not allow fear to keep you from doing what you need in order to heal and get better.

Thirdly, cut the cord. You cannot change anyone else. You can only change yourself. Stop waiting around for “them” to change.

Lastly, take care of you. This is the most important; learn to take care of you. Stay open, stay positive, and be willing to move forward. This is the ultimate form of self-respect.

Codependency has everything to do with why many relationships are unhealthy. People tend to be mutually interdependent on each other. However, there is a difference between support and dependence in a partnership.

Codependency does not allow relationships to reach their maximum potential. Partners need to feel supported, respected, encouraged and heard. Healthy relationships need awareness, balance and conscious choices. Codependency does not always allow these principles to develop fully in relationships.

A partner should feel responsible to their partner, instead of responsible for them. When you are responsible to your partner, you will show empathy, encourage, listen, share and confront them.


Brandon Jones M.A, a BeMore coordinator, welcomes reader response to 



One Comment on “Codependency: a danger to healthy Black relationships”

  1. cart before horse…
    many are from broken homes and look to the woman to be dependent on.
    I had a black man yell at me…pointing at other women (from good homes) why I didn’t ALREADY HAVE a house and car etc.. with kids in tow…(this was because he was driving me to planned parenthood.. to rid of his seed since “I” didn’t have a car……..
    he felt ZERO responsibility to DO anything to get a house and car.which I sadly , as I look back, was all gung ho to do all things to be with him, but he always sabotaged it simultaneously…. he admitted he wanted to SLIDE IN after the fact into an already established situation. it was such a disgusting turn off
    he wanted a mother not a wife
    he wanted to just fit in,slide in.. insert his photo into an open slot.
    he always sought out older women for this cause.
    its very sick sad and broken.
    I got away but he suffered to this day into his 30’s a life of homelessness and forever wandering.
    to me such don’t even deserve to live or be born
    the “bastard” way in which they are born maybe God is now judging finally more than ever.. as the time of grace and teaching has WELL passed. and now these men are deliberately using women and refusing to be men….I can repent
    he couldn’t/cant.
    his anger and bitterness was very “feminine” of him
    and this is what they say of black men from single mom households
    they are looking for “husbands”
    toxic and destructive people
    stay away,save yourself.
    don’t try to save them that’s their mothers job before God. not yours,

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