Understanding Codependence and Interdependence

If you’ve heard the term “codependence,” you may wonder what’s so bad about it? Being “codependent” on someone sounds like it should be the hallmark of a healthy relationship. After all, you’re in this together, a team against the world, right? You plan your lives together, start a family, and pay bills together; why shouldn’t you be codependent? What you’re describing isn’t codependence but the healthy workings of a relationship known as “interdependence.” If you’re confused, you’re not alone. We will explore the differences between the two, so you can identify healthy interdependence against unhealthy codependence.

Codependence vs. Interdependence: A Matter of Degrees

This can be confusing because these two concepts seem to share a lot of similarities. However, these similarities don’t hold up to close examination. Consider the two following statements:

  • “I need you. I don’t know what I’d do without you. You complete me.”
  • “I’m glad you’re with me. Sharing a life with you is wonderful. I’m glad you’re my partner.”

These two statements demonstrate how closely the two concepts can be. However, let’s take consider the first statement. While the media has made this sound like the epitome of romance, it indicates an unhealthy situation. We cannot expect others to make us whole; we need to be whole unto ourselves. Further, indicating that we “can’t live without someone” places an unfair burden on them. It indicates that we might risk self-harm if they were absent or depend on them to exist. Neither of these is part of a healthy relationship.

On the other hand, the second statement describes a relationship of cooperation and mutual support. “I’m glad you’re with me” indicates that you respect their ability to be independent of you. You’re grateful for them in your life but do not require them to function or exist. “I’m glad you’re, my partner” demonstrates cooperation and responsibility for your life together. This is more typical of a healthy expression of love, mutual respect, and a life shared.

Those who are codependent rely on others for their self-esteem. This dependence can be on their loved ones, families, or friends. Their moods and emotions are governed by those they share their life with. Even their ability to make decisions can depend on the whims and drives of the other person. Those with codependency often put the needs of their partners ahead of their own to an unhealthy degree.

Getting Help With Codependency

Mental health providers help individuals tackle concerns with codependency. They work with individuals and couples to help them develop healthy, loving relationships built on mutual respect. Your therapist may also direct you to organizations such as CODA or Codependents Anonymous. These twelve-step clubs have branches in thousands of communities worldwide, especially in the United States. They also provide online resources for those who don’t have a local branch or are looking to start one of their own. The best results are achieved when these individuals attend these meetings while working with a mental health professional.

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Helene A. Miller / And Other Providers
Family Psychiatry and Therapy brings compassion, understanding, and skilled care to patients throughout New Jersey. Our team of mental health professionals focuses on providing a positive and uplifting experience that aids our patients in facing life’s toughest challenges.