Beyond Codependency: What is Your Relationship Built On?
We hear a lot of buzz about codependency as a common relationship dynamic. However, there are several other types of dependency in relationships, and determining yours can provide valuable insight into the health of your partnerships.
Both interdependency and independency are other forms of relationship interaction along the dependency continuum. When you can better understand how your relationship is built, or your general tendencies – codependency, independency, or interdependency – you can make more mindful and aligned choices as you strengthen your present and future relationships in your life.
This dependency pattern stems from a childhood of having to meet caregiver’s needs for the individual’s needs to be met. This dynamic creates a pattern of caretaking in lieu of taking care of one’s own needs and compromising oneself to meet the needs of an unhealthy relationship.
As you might imagine, codependency, is common in a relationship that is fueled by problems (e.g., addictions, ongoing illnesses, instability in major areas of life, etc.). Both parties generally identify problems, feed those problems, and benefit from those problems continuing. Codependent couples often battle for control, power, and skirt responsibility. There may be a feeling of “walking on eggshells”. Efforts to resolve conflict often end in blame, drama, and insecurity, as the resolution of conflict threatens the “security” of the relationship – dependency on one another. Both partners often feel they can’t survive without one another, so they stay in a dysfunctional relationship and may hold a tremendous amount of resentment.
Those with anxious attachment types may be more prone to this type of relationship as codependency is often coupled with a fear of being alone, fear of abandonment, less developed sense of self outside of a relationship, and a consistent need for approval by the other partner.
Nearly the opposite of codependency is independency. Patterns of independency stem from a childhood of having needs go unmet so frequently and consistently, that the child resolves to not have or express needs, meeting them entirely on his/her own. They grow up self-reliant and functioning autonomously.
Adult relationship dynamics of independents may look like each partner having their own friends, social circles, and priorities beyond those of their “coupled” life. This type of relationship may require higher levels of trust as couples generally spend more time apart. These types of couples don’t generally “check in” with each other frequently and probably desire more “alone time” than traditional relationships.
These dynamics are generally healthy, when compared to codependent dynamics, and coupled with good boundaries. The issue with this type of relationship is that sometimes the needs of the individual come before the needs of the couple. This can make is difficult to sustain the relationship long-term. Those with avoidant attachment systems may be slightly more prevalent to independent relationship dynamics than the other attachment types because they may pull away to ensure that they don’t lose themselves, and their independence, as the relationship progresses. Sometimes independents are just too comfortable on their own to have success in long-term coupling.
Interdependency originates from a child having healthy dependency needs met consistently and responsively as an infant and child. As a result of caregivers meeting those needs, the child grows up feeling they are worthy of having their needs met and are able to meet others’ needs as well later on in life, without sacrificing their own.
In interdependent relationships, couples live life in two worlds – theirs together and theirs independent of one another. They rely and lean on each other, but still have time to explore their own interests and pastimes. They have mutual friends and their own friends. They must be capable of autonomy, yet choose couplehood. There is a sense of balance, confidence, respect, and equality in the relationship. They honor and appreciate the ways in which they are different and rarely take things personally.
Those with a secure attachment type are most likely to fall into this category. Because they feel a healthy connection to one another and feel fully supported, interdependency is the most natural outcome.
Moving from codependency or independency into interdependency first begins with an awareness of your tendencies. Once identifying those, looking at the roots of your behavior, which may even stem back to your earliest relationships with caregivers, will help begin the process of change. Learning to love and care for yourself, independent of a partner, is an important step to cultivating a life where secure relationships and interdependency is possible.
If you recognize unhealthy dynamics in your past relationships and want to learn more about working toward interdependency, contact the team at Center for Shared Insight. We specialize in relationship therapy, and want to work with you to help you overcome your patterns and tendencies around codependency or independency. We offer a free consultation and invite you to contact us to schedule yours.