• Nicole Arzt

Codependency Vs. Interdependency: What Are The Key Differences?




In life, we all depend on other people for love, support, and guidance. At times, we rely on other people in ways that are harmful to us and them.


If you have a loved one struggling with an addiction or mental illness, it’s imperative to know the difference between codependency vs. interdependency. Let’s get into it.


What Is Codependency?

Melodie Beattie popularized the sensational term in her 1986 bestseller, Codependent No More. Unfortunately, many people struggle to understand the definition. In a nutshell, codependency refers to a chronic pattern of dysfunctional enabling. Codependency can include many symptoms. Let’s explore some of the more common ones.


Habitual People-Pleasing

People who struggle with codependency find it challenging to say no and set boundaries. Therefore, you often accommodate other people just to maintain a sense of peace. You put other people’s needs before their own. However, this people-pleasing isn’t necessarily altruistic- you feel compelled to do it. Over time, this pattern tends to lead to resentment.


Low Self-Esteem

Codependency is often rooted in feeling unworthy. As a result, you might be perfectionistic or overly controlling. You worry that failing at a task may expose you to your perceived incompetence.


Chronic Anger and Disappointment

You tend to become emotionally reactive when you’re upset with others. You may become overly demanding or use threats to get what you want. However, you struggle to follow through with your intentions. You’re at the mercy of other people’s actions- and this often makes you feel out-of-control and helpless.


Excessive Dependence On Relationships

You feel incomplete without the other person. Even if the relationship is downright abusive, it may feel like it’s impossible to move on. You fear abandonment and rejection, so you act in ways that will reduce this from happening.


Lack Of Identity

Because you rely on other people for your self-worth, you often feel like you don’t know who you are. Instead of pursuing your own dreams and passions, you may just go along with whatever other people enjoy doing. As a result, you may feel a profound sense of emptiness.


What Is Interdependency?

Interdependence refers to mutual collaboration and connection. In an interdependent relationship, both parties feel free to lean on each other for support. Respect is inherent, and both parties have a vested interest in maintaining a healthy relationship.


Unlike codependency, other people don’t define your self-worth. They also don’t make or break your happiness. So, what does this interdependence look like?


Healthy and Collaborative Communication

You value transparent communication in your relationships. You say what you mean, and you mean what you say. You also expect the same respect from the people in your life. When conflicts inevitably emerge, you don’t react aggressively or passively. Instead, you work together to decide a reasonable solution.


Appropriate Boundaries

You recognize the need to set healthy limits with others. Even if setting limits feels uncomfortable, you know they are essential for you and the people you love. You are assertive with your boundaries and feel confident in enforcing them when needed.


Mutual Sharing Of Resources

In codependent relationships, one person leans on another person disproportionately. They might expect you to spend excess time, money, and energy on them. But in interdependent dynamics, you both take and give in the relationship. There isn’t a need to keep score, because things feel appropriate and fair.


Strong Sense Of Self

As much as you enjoy relationships with others, you also enjoy the relationship you share with yourself. You have strong insight into your passions and preferences, and you make plenty of room for self-care.


Why Are Codependent Relationships So Common With Addiction And Mental Illness?

Unfortunately, codependent relationships go hand-in-hand with mental health issues. These relationships can persist for many years. Often, these patterns are unconscious to everyone involved.


Codependency comes from good intentions. Many times, friends and family want to desperately help their struggling loved one. You might assume it’s your responsibility to rescue them from their pain. You might even blame yourself for your loved one’s decisions.


That said, codependency often causes more harm than good. When you enable your loved one, you usually allow them to:

  • Criticize or threaten you.

  • Put themselves in dangerous situations.

  • Lie to you.

  • Take advantage of your resources.

  • Steal from you.

  • Hurt you physically or emotionally.


It’s no surprise that none of these behaviors actually help you or your loved one. Instead, they reinforce destructive patterns. Although you might recognize the problematic relationship, you might feel scared or guilty about changing the status quo.


As a result, the pattern persists. The individual continues to feel enabled by their loved ones. Loved ones feel a combination of helplessness, anger, sadness, and fear.


Codependency Vs. Interdependency: Moving Forward

There is a profound difference between codependency vs. interdependency. Remember that learning how to protect your personal integrity is important in any relationship. You are worthy of love and respect.


At The Resurface Group, we help transform relationships by teaching our clients and their loved ones how to respect one another. We understand the importance of support, and we will show you how to balance being supportive without being enabling.


Ready to learn more about our process? Contact us today!



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