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How to achieve financial freedom in a co-dependent relationship

Discover whether you are in a financially co-dependent relationship and find useful tips to regain financial independence.

March 2021 – 6 minute read

Key takeaways from this article:

  • Understanding what is co-dependency 
  • Helpful questions to assess your personal situation
  • Steps to regaining financial independence


Couple discussing co-dependency

In some relationships, the bond between couples can grow so intense that one or both partners become dependent on the other. We want to help you be able to identify warning signs, navigate difficult conversations, and set the financial boundaries needed for a healthy relationship. 

What is Co-dependency?

Co-dependency is often characterised by an individual sacrificing excessively for their partner, such that one might lose their self-reliance and autonomy. This can sometimes lead to financial dependence, where one partner is completely responsible for the other’s financial decisions. The danger with financial co-dependency is that the relationship can develop conditions like ‘now you have to do what I say’ or ‘you have to love me’ because of an unhealthy power imbalance.

Do you think you might be in a co-dependent relationship?

It is important to assess your personal situation. Here are some helpful questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do you feel your partner relies on you financially, or that you rely on your partner financially?
  • Do you avoid discussions about money to keep your partner happy?
  • Do you find ways to justify poor financial decisions for yourself or your partner?
  • Do you find it hard to say no when your partner asks for money or purchases, or do you put pressure on your partner to make purchases for you?
  • Do you ever feel as if you’ve been blackmailed by your partner, or that you have blackmailed your partner?

If you’ve answered yes to one or more of the above, there’s a chance you’re in a co-dependent relationship, and you need to consider how you can achieve greater self-reliance.

Steps to regaining financial independence

To create freedom from financial co-dependency, it’s important to recognise the relationships flaws and take practical steps towards a healthy relationship.

1. Set boundaries

Establishing sustainable boundaries will help you regain some independence. Avoid covering expenses for your partner unnecessarily and talk through financial decisions before making a large purchase. If you’re the one who is dependent on your partner, take steps towards establishing financial independence and set boundaries for yourself.

2. Know when to share expenses

Have a discussion about which expenses you will share with your partner. Think about how you can split the costs of living and share responsibilities. Each relationship will be different, so this may take some compromise. 

3. Express feelings about financial decisions honestly

Many people have different attitudes to spending and saving. Sit each other down and have an open discussion about your attitude to finance, saving and spending.

4. Reduce impulsive spending on behalf of a partner

Giving a gift should be something special. If you are regularly making large expenses for your partner, or with your partners money (that maybe you can’t afford), you need to start setting some boundaries for yourself and your partner

5. Discuss your co-dependent behaviours with a counsellor

Sometimes, we all need a little bit of guidance. Counsellors are professionally trained to deal with these kinds of problems and can help you resolve negative behaviours and attitudes.

What to do if someone is financially dependent on you

If your partner is financially dependent on you, there might be a need for some serious discussions. It’s okay to support your partner financially sometimes, but it can become a problem when it creates power imbalances in the dynamic of the relationship. If you feel like your partner is manipulating you and unfairly accessing your money, you should set up a private, personal bank account in which you can keep your own money, and do not give them access to this account.

What to do if you are financially dependent on your partner

If you feel as though your partner is using money as a means of power over you, this can be very detrimental to the relationship. Again, you’re going to have to have a difficult, but open and honest conversation about your feelings. If your partner is withholding access to finances, giving you an allowance or using money as a threat, these are serious signs of financial abuse, so do not take this lightly – it’s probably best to speak to a loved one, lawyer or even the police if this is become dangerous to your mental or physical wellbeing. 

What is interdependency?

A relationship that is absent of codependent behaviours is known as an interdependent relationship. This is where both partners can function independently of each other. A few characteristics of interdependency include:

  • Taking responsibility for your own actions
  • Making financial decisions that reinforce self-worth
  • Reinforcing mutual respect for each other’s financial goals
  • Prioritising self-care without feeling selfish
  • These types of behaviours are beneficial to the financial aspect of any relationship as they are conducive to being able to budget, set couple goals and discuss complex financial decisions.

Take our financial quiz to better understand your relationship with spending and saving. Discuss the results with your partner and work towards aligning your financial goals.

You may find these useful

Financial habits quiz

Take this short quiz to help you understand how you relate to saving and spending and how that can work in your relationships.

Setting couple goals

There’s no way around it: life costs money. Discussing the goals you share can help ensure you’ll have the funds to achieve them later.

Sharing finances quiz

Getting together is an exciting time, but often the uncomfortable ‘money’ conversations get overlooked. Our Sharing finances quiz can help you ease into it. 

Things you should know

This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness for the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

© Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian credit licence 233714.