Interdependence Vs. Codependency: Which is Better?

Interdependence sitting by one another

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As human beings, we have an innate need for social connection and affection. Positive social connections decrease stress, increase happiness and optimism, and give us a sense of purpose in life. Moreover, healthy and satisfying relationships lead to a longer life, research suggests. 

Healthy romantic relationships are founded on love, respect, and equality. However, we know that functional, rewarding relationships require effort and commitment. In return, such relationships allow us to feel safe and protected when we experience distress. Healthy relationships allow growth, vulnerability, and safety.

What is an Interdependent Relationship?

As adults, we seek emotional attachment to our partners. Deep emotional binds provide security and protection, similar to our relationships with caregivers did. 

However, at the same time, we have a strong need to grow and develop as independent human beings. This ability to be in close emotional contact with another being but to remain self-sufficient is known as differentiation. 

Differentiation involves the ability to stay in own identity while connecting with others. People who are able to differentiate themselves tend to engage in interdependent relationships. 

An interdependent relationship is when two people can fully be themselves while being involved with each other. Partners in an interdependent relationship are strong individuals who share a strong bond. They find a balance between quality time spent together and their individual endeavors.

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Characteristics of an Interdependent Relationship

In a society that values individuality and independence, vulnerability is often seen as a sign of weakness. However, exposing our deepest emotions and thoughts to others shows readiness to form strong connections and engage in interdependent relationships.

Therefore, a positive, interdependent relationship means openness. As a result, each partner feels safe and protected, supporting the other when needed without losing individuality.

Support and connection that result from vulnerability in relationships are precious when we feel distressed. When experiencing adversity, we don’t seek rational and logical arguments or advice – in times of stress, we need to feel cared for and safe. 

Some relationship experts believe that being emotionally attached to your partner like this is a risk worth taking because openness, vulnerability, and interdependency will pull you closer together.

What Does An Interdependent Relationship Look Like?

Partners in interdependent relationships cherish vulnerability because they understand that vulnerability is an expression of emotional intimacy. As a result, they are open with each other, understanding that no one is perfect. A healthy relationship requires us to expose our feelings and share our true selves with our partners.

People who engage in interdependent relationships have clear, open communication. They respect each other’s healthy boundaries and take responsibility for their own actions. 

Also, interdependent people find time for personal interests and hobbies while enjoying quality time when they are together.

Such relationships promote growth and healthy self-esteem, allowing both partners to be vulnerable while still feeling safe and cared for.

What is a Codependent Relationship?

Codependent people rely on others for their sense of self and happiness. They have a low level of differentiation – they need to depend on others to function properly and feel complete. 

In other words, codependent individuals need others to meet their emotional needs, expecting partners to take responsibility for their feelings. 

Codependency is a destructive behavior often present in toxic relationships with no clear boundaries, unhealthy communication patterns, and controlling behavior.  

Such patterns prevent both participants from growing and developing. In addition, it may affect both person’s mental health and well-being, often leading to anxiety, depression, and withdrawal.

Interdependence relationships quote

Characteristics of a Codependent Relationship

Codependency is a learned behavior often caused by developmental trauma or a childhood history of neglect and abuse. 

Unhealthy family relationships can cause deep distress, affecting our adult life and relationships. In addition, childhood experiences can cause you to have a distorted self-perception of not being good or lovable enough if you don’t receive validation from others. 

Codependent people feel responsible for how others think or feel. For example, if their partner is angry or upset, a codependent person may feel it is their fault. 

People in codependent relationships will do anything to avoid rejection. As a result, they struggle with low self-esteem and lack of boundaries – they are typically people-pleasers who neglect their own needs over their partner’s. 

Codependent relationships are unhealthy, with a diminished sense of safety and authenticity. These are typically toxic, one-sided relationships that do not allow partners to be autonomous and grow.

In codependent relationships, boundaries are either weak don’t exist whatsoever. Codependent individuals often become abuse victims in toxic relationships in which abusive partners take advantage of their vulnerability to gain control in the relationship.

Interdependence Vs. Codependency: Which is Best?

Manipulation, twisted communication, and controlling behaviors are commonplace in codependent toxic relationships. Also, emotional intimacy problems are present, while personal life outside the relationship does not exist. 

On the other hand, people in interdependent relationships are capable of autonomy. They can function independently and as a couple – they feel attached, close, and dependent upon one another.

Yet, even though they need each other, interdependent people don’t compromise their values or sacrifice their freedom. 

Interdependent relationships are balanced and healthy. Creating a habit of interdependence in your relationship is a great way to establish a healthy, mutually fulfilling relationship in which both of you appreciate the bond you share.

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How to Move from a Codependent to an Interdependent Relationship

Independent individuals focus on themselves and their own strengths. They prefer following their own feelings and thoughts instead of taking advice from others.

People who heavily focus on their independence may struggle to develop interdependent relationships. So, if one of the partners is independent, they may have difficulty connecting deeply. 

However, interdependence is something that we can learn and foster in our relationships. For example, we can promote codependence by:

  • Being authentic
  • Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable
  • Not being afraid to ask for what we need
  • Appreciating our independence and authenticity 
  • Saying “no” when necessary
  • Engaging in hobbies and positive relationships with other people
  • Avoiding people-pleasing

Relationships can be complex. If you are looking for support feel free to book a time to see how coaching can be an option for support at

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Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood is a Certified Life Coach, and best-selling author. Her mission is to empower high-performing adults and teens to become resilient self-leaders by reducing stress and anxiety, overcoming imposter syndrome, working through trauma, and re-discovering their AuthenticMe®.

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My name is Kamini Wood, and I’m here to accompany you on your journey toward understanding yourself on a deeper level so can create the life you want personally and professionally. It’s time to embrace your AuthenticMe ™