Codependency vs Interdependency

Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC
12/22/2023

How we see our current relationships is based on what has happened to us in the past. Experience teaches some of us that we need someone else who needs us. Some of us feel better on our own.

In every type of relationship, there are healthy levels of dependency and there are unhealthy levels of dependency. Where does a person draw that line?

Codependency Makes Unhealthy Relationships

Codependency was originally used to describe a person whose choices, whether intentionally or not, enabled someone else's substance use disorder. It’s sometimes called an “addiction to relationships”, and it’s not healthy.

Codependent relationships can create an environment of hurt and trauma. Similar to a person with substance use disorder, a dependent person will stay in a relationship despite any negative consequences. 

Codependent relationships often stem from an anxious attachment style. Those with this attachment style often feel their partners or friends aren't as committed as they are. They become anxious, and need frequent reassurance about the status of their relationship.

What a Codependent Relationship Looks Like

Codependent relationships might look a little different for everyone, but some common similarities are present. 

  • Neglecting your personal health and needs in favor of your partner's happiness
  • Your partner makes no effort for your happiness
  • You feel there’s nothing for you to think about, feel, or do without your partner
  • Your self-esteem is low and comes from your partner's happiness

Essentially, those in codependent relationships (or friendships, mentorships, and any kind of relationship) put the relationship above themselves. 

If these signs of a codependent relationship are familiar, there are ways to escape. Therapy is helpful for revealing negative relationship styles and improving them. Call Inner Balance to find help with escaping negative relationship styles. 

Interdependency Makes Healthy Relationships

The opposite end of codependency is an avoidant attachment style. Someone with this style fears they can only count on themselves, and avoid deep connections with others in order to avoid hurt.

A healthy middle-ground is interdependency. In interdependent relationships, both partners acknowledge and work to meet their own needs as well as their partner’s needs.

Interdependent couples balance their own happiness with their partner’s. This means there’s no sacrifice for self-esteem. There’s a healthy want for their partner, but not a need to be in a relationship.  

What An Interdependent Relationship Looks Like

Interdependent relationships are marked with healthy behaviors that help create a safe place for both partners.

  • Each person engage in activities outside of the relationship
  • Communication is abundant and meaningful
  • Both partners feel safe enough to ask things of their partner and be vulnerable

Bottom-line, people in interdependent relationships can spend time by themselves or with other people and feel secure in their relationships. There’s no compromise of anyone’s sense of self, but both individuals feel free to contribute to the relationship. This creates a stable relationship that doesn’t make anyone feel anxious about their own needs.

Comparing Codependent and Interdependent Relationships

These two relationship styles are often the inverse of each other. Comparing the areas they are different helps identify and replace any negative behaviors or feelings that occur in romantic relationships.

Blaming Each Other & Taking Responsibility

In codependent relationships, partners tend to blame each other for things that are not their responsibility.

In interdependent relationships, partners recognize what their healthy responsibilities are and take responsibility for their negative behaviors.

Communication (Or Lack Thereof)

Because people in codependent relationships feel anxious about their partner's happiness, they don’t engage in healthy communication.

Interdependent relationships are more secure and can have more healthy, and honest, communication

Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem is a hallmark of codependent relationships. Either one or both partners will feel low levels of self-esteem. This is because there are no personal interests or goals outside of the relationship.

A healthy amount of self-esteem is found in those who are in interdependent relationships. Having goals and interests outside of the relationship helps build a healthier emotional connection.

Create Interdependency

Creating interdependency requires you to know who you are as an independent person. Because of this, it might take some time away from relationships to realize who you are. Talk therapy can help build self-esteem and help you figure out what you want in a relationship. 

Building an interdependent relationship requires both partners to speak their minds. Share your desires—don’t settle for doing only what your partner wants. Setting healthy boundaries and personal goals can help you create a healthy space between you and your partner. You’ll get to know each other better, and teach each other new things.

a close up of someone holding two puzzle peaces as a metaphor for interdependency

Talk to Inner Balance

The counseling team at Inner Balance will get you on the right track toward recognizing the type of relationship you’re in, and making sure you get what you want out of it.

Request a consultation and learn ways you can build healthier relationships

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Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC
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