Understanding the Difference Between Codependency and Interdependency

Relational/Couples Counseling

As a society, we’ve been guilty of “romanticizing” our need for another person to complete us. While on the surface that might seem romantic, if it goes deeper, it can end up creating an unhealthy dynamic in your relationship. 

Depending on someone else to make you happy or to make you feel “fulfilled” can often lead to codependency. Those kinds of relationships make you lose your sense of self. You might end up not knowing who you are without your partner. 

Alternatively, healthy relationships often involve two interdependent people. 

What’s the difference between the two? Let’s take a closer look. We’ll also examine some common signs of codependency that could be negatively impacting your relationship. 

What Is Codependency? 

A codependent relationship occurs when one person takes on the role of “caretaker.” The other person takes advantage of them in many ways, often creating an unhealthy, imbalanced dynamic. 

Unfortunately, the caretaker usually struggles with low self-worth. They might not trust themselves, and they might even lose their identity in the relationship or feel like they need the other person to feel complete. 

If you’re not sure whether you’re in a codependent relationship, some of the common signs include: 

  • Feeling like you need to save your partner from themselves
  • Difficulty being alone
  • Feeling anxious when you don’t hear from your partner
  • Avoiding taking time for self-care

If you experience any of these in your relationship, and you feel like your partner could be taking advantage of your struggles, it’s not healthy for either one of you. 

What Does an Interdependent Relationship Look Like? 

An interdependent relationship involves two autonomous people who choose to be with each other. They love one another and value their relationship, but they don’t find their total fulfillment in their partner. 

Rather, interdependent people enjoy their own interests and hobbies, and find satisfaction that way. 

When you’re in an interdependent relationship, you can support your partner and want to be with them as often as possible while setting healthy boundaries and pursuing your own dreams, goals, and interests. 

This type of relationship is all about balance and is usually incredibly rewarding. Both partners feel loved and cherished, but they’re both confident in themselves and can enjoy their own lives outside of the confines of the relationship.

Can You Shift Out of a Codependent Relationship?

Unfortunately, codependent relationships can be very difficult to change. It requires work from both people. 

The person playing the role of caretaker often needs to work on building their self-esteem and understanding why they feel so incomplete on their own. Often, codependent people struggle because of attachment issues rooted in childhood. If you’re codependent, you might not have received the attention or love you needed in childhood. Or, you might have felt like the caretaker for your family. That can lead to the desperate desire to take care of your partner or to feel like you need them to find fulfillment. 

Those in the other role might not want to change because they enjoy being “in control.” These two personality types are often hard to get rid of unless both people are willing to recognize there’s a problem and have the desire to change it. 

Codependency is unhealthy, and can even be unsafe depending on the lengths you’re willing to go to keep your partner happy. Every couple should strive for interdependence. Thankfully, you don’t have to do it on your own. 

If you feel like you’re in a codependent relationship and you’re ready to make a change, don’t hesitate to reach out. Help is available, and things can turn around. Even if you decide that your relationship won’t work out, you deserve to build your self-worth and understand the importance of healthy attachments.

Contact Valued Living Therapy now to schedule a free 15 minute consultation with one of our therapists.

Valued Living Therapy

We are a dynamic, trauma-informed, multi-specialty group practice of mental health professionals offering therapy in the heart of Edina, MN and online throughout Minnesota.

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