Codependency is a word that gets thrown out a lot. For many people, it’s completely normal in relationships, while for others, it is not. What is the difference between dependent relationships and codependency? And what’s healthy and what’s not in a romantic relationship? In this article, we’ll discuss what these two terms mean so you can gauge whether your romantic relationship is healthy or toxic.
Once you’ve read this then add a comment and let us know what you think. Have you experienced any of these things in a past or current relationship?
What Are Dependent Relationships ?
Let’s start our discussion with the term “dependency.” Dependency is when you rely on another person to do something for you. This could be as simple as depending on your partner for finances while you stay at home. It can also be acts of service, such as relying on your partner to wash the dishes, pay the bills, and other important things.
The general premise of dependent relationships is that one partner believes the other person is better able to perform certain tasks, such as making money or cleaning the house. It also usually means you don’t do these things for yourself or the relationship because you rely on the other person to do it for you.
If you break up, you feel a sense of loss because the other person will no longer be there to perform these tasks and responsibilities for you. In a sense, dependency can be unhealthy because even though you have the capacity to do certain tasks for yourself, you are not doing them.
However, it is not maladaptive, and many relationships thrive in dependent relationships. One person may be naturally inclined to be more responsible and will find fulfilment in providing for their partner. Additionally, one partner may love being spoiled and nurtured, and would rather give their partner a massage or other acts of service to provide them love and attention.
While the loss of the relationship may be painful, both can still move forward, albeit difficult, and find relationships that meet their needs in the future.
What is Codependency?
Codependency is a term used for a maladaptive and dysfunctional relationship. Both partners in a codependent relationship show unhealthy and toxic characteristics, leading to an impediment in their individual lives.
Codependency is the extreme form of dependency, wherein a person has an irrational fear of being alone that he or she clings to her partner no matter what happens, even if the relationship becomes abusive.
The term “codependency” is also likened to “enabling.” Codependency was coined to describe the relationship between a person and a loved one who suffer from an addiction. The codependent individual does everything in his or her power to save the addicted person, while the latter continues to engage in substance abuse because he or she knows rescue will always arrive in the form of the codependent.
Here are some of the characteristics of a codependent person:
- Bases self-worth on the validation of the romantic partner.
- Has difficulties making their own decisions
- Sacrifices values to please the partner
- Lacks boundaries in efforts to give in to the demands of the partner
- Feelings are dependent on the mood of the partner
- Lacks a sense of self
- Neglects own needs to meet the needs of the partner
As you can see in these characteristics, codependency is the complete neglect of oneself to make another person happy. Even though the person may have a set of core values before the relationship, it vanishes to make room for the partner’s demands. Demands can be in the form of sexual activities, finances, lifestyle, and other aspects.
When a person becomes codependent, the sense of self is lost, out of fear of being alone or rejected. Because of the obsession to make their partner happy at all times, they give too much into the relationship and can no longer function without the approval, validation, or affection of the other person. It is the complete abandonment of oneself, that even when red flags and abuses are happening, the codependent clings to the partner. It is toxic and dysfunctional and leaves the codependent taken advantage of and abused.
Interdependency: The Mark of a Healthy Relationship
Dependency and codependency are unhealthy so what is considered healthy in relationships? The answer is interdependency. Neither are independent or dependent relationships. Two independent individuals who enter into a relationship are also considered unhealthy because it creates a lack of emotional intimacy between partners. Too much freedom can be detrimental to a relationship as well. A good balance between dependence and independence is the best mark of a healthy relationship.
Characteristics of Interdependency:
- Respect for healthy boundaries
- Clear and open communication
- Active listening
- Taking accountability for behaviours
- Both have time for personal interests
- There is a feeling of security and safety
Ways to Have an Interdependent Relationship
Before you commit yourself to another person, you need to know what an interdependent relationship is so you can avoid dependency and codependency in the future.
First and foremost, you need to have a strong sense of self. What are your personal goals? Who are you? What are your values? You need to be able to pursue your goals and practice your values when you are in a relationship. Any person who demands you to sacrifice your sense of self, values, and goals is a red flag because interdependent relationships are characterized by the freedom to be yourself while also making sure you are making easy compromises for each other.
Here are some tips to start and maintain an interdependent relationship:
- Spend time with friends and family
- Enjoy hobbies and interests
- Be mindful of your values
- Pursue your personal goals
- Is it a date or just friends hanging out? Clarity is important
- Communicate what you feel and what you want
- Listen to what your partner is communicating to you
- Create a safe space for your partner to be him or herself
- Provide comfort, support, and guidance when needed
A healthy relationship occurs when there is a healthy give and take in the relationship. Too much giving and taking leads to codependency, which is destructive to both partners. It’s okay to give a little and take a little, but it’s never okay to overdo any of the taking and giving.
Dependent Relationships Or Codependent Conclusion
A good balance of dependency and independence must occur in the relationship so both parties grow and thrive without sacrificing anything.