PDS Logo, the Tree of Life
PDS Logo, the Tree of LifeClose
Go Back

Codependency versus Interdependency


Reading time:

7 min


Published on:

Wed Mar 27 2024


Last updated:

Wed Apr 24 2024


Written by:

The Personal Development School

Many people can’t tell the difference between codependency and interdependency.

It’s important to know if your relationship is independent enough or if you have become heavily dependent on each other.

Let’s take a look at codependency versus interdependency by looking at:

  • What is codependency
  • What is interdependency
  • The signs to look for each one
  • The difference between them
  • How to stop being codependent

Firstly, let’s look at what is codependency.

What is Codependency?

Codependency is an unhealthy reliance on another person, becoming "dependent" on them to live their life. That dependency takes the form of mental, physical, and emotional support.

So, what is a codependent relationship?

It’s when one or both parties may prioritize the needs of the other that compromises their well-being.

The codependent (the person relying on the other) does it for their validation, identity, and self-worth. The person who supports the codependent is incidentally their dependency on them while preventing both of them from growing personally.

Codependency can stem from various factors, including family dynamics, past traumas, societal expectations, and attachment styles.

For example, anxious preoccupied (or anxious attached) individuals raised without the necessary love and support in childhood results in them becoming codependent on their partner. This is because they need reassurance and validation they didn't get in childhood.

Similarly, fearful or dismissive avoidants (who grow up in dysfunctional families) present and may develop codependent tendencies as a means of coping with chaos and instability.

Codependent individuals also tend to be attracted to narcissists because they share similar traits, and their attraction meets each other's needs. However, it is an unstable relationship.

Let's take a look at the signs of a codependent.

codependency couple

Signs of a Codependent Relationship

How do you know if you’re in a codependent relationship?

Here are the key and most obvious signs of a codependent relationship.

Excessive Caretaking

One partner consistently prioritizes the needs of the other at their own expense. These behaviors include rescuing their partner from their problems or putting them on a pedestal. They have people-pleasing behaviors.

Low Self-Esteem

Codependents tend to have low self-esteem, so they look towards their partners to make them feel worthy of love or acceptance. They are actively meeting the needs of their partner. Also, because of their low self-esteem, they struggle to separate from their partner, fearing they'll be alone or can't heal from the breakup itself.

Constant Approval from Partner

If one partner constantly seeks validation and approval from the other person to feel worthy or loved, that’s an unmistakable hallmark of codependency. In many cases, the partner might go to extreme lengths to earn the approval of their partner, even if it means compromising their own values or needs. This can include taking the blaming or avoiding conflict to keep the peace.

Lack of Boundaries

Difficulty setting boundaries or saying no is common in codependent relationships. This can lead to resentment and exhaustion as one person constantly sacrifices their own needs for the sake of the other. The codependent will tend to overstep the limits, becoming excessively concerned about the partner's unhealthy behaviors or becoming super clingy. It can also lead to enmeshment.

Based Their Lives Around Their Partner

Codependents base their life on their partners, which can impact their moods. They might feel guilt or shame for doing something for themselves instead of their partner or the relationship. They all put their personal and emotional needs second, which may foster resentment.

Fear of Abandonment

An irrational fear of losing the relationship drives many codependent behaviors. This fear can lead to clingy or controlling behavior as the individual seeks to maintain the connection at all costs. Learning how to heal your abandonment issues can prove helpful in overcoming codependency.

Now, what does interdependency mean?


What is Interdependency?

Interdependency is the ability of two people to work together and have a healthy reliance on one another in a relationship while maintaining independence to meet their own needs.

An interdependent relationship has healthy expectations, boundaries, respect, support, and cooperation, where each person brings their own unique strengths and perspectives to the relationship.

But they still maintain their identities and pursue personal goals.

Rather than relying on the other person to fulfill all their excessive needs, both interdependent partners in an interdependent relationship understand that they are responsible for their own happiness and well-being.

Signs of Interdependency in a Relationship

Healthy interdependence in relationships is a key indicator of secure attachment style. It's because the relationship dynamics are build emotional stablity, greater autonomy, mutual reliance, and effective communication skills.

Here is how you can tell if you’re in an interdependent relationship.

Clearly Defined Boundaries

Healthy boundaries are crucial for any relationship to survive. You need personal time and space to tune into yourself to get what you need. Both partners need to be free to enjoy themselves and have self-care while not becoming enmeshed in their partner. Trust is crucial in building these strong boundaries so that the relationship can strive.

Mutual Respect

Both partners actively support each other's goals, aspirations, and personal growth instead of competing with each other. Wins are celebrated by both parties, with both interdependent partners acknowledging each partner's feelings and needs.

Absolute Trust

As we know, trust is the foundation of a strong relationship. In an interdependent relationship, there is a strong sense of trust in each other. You have to accept that your partner will want time for themselves, and they will give you the same in return.

Open Communication

We all know honest and transparent communication is how relationships thrive. And it’s most obvious in interdependent relationships. Both partners feel comfortable expressing their needs, desires, and concerns, knowing they will be listened to and respected. Most significantly, there is a continuous effort to improve their communication as the relationship grows older.

Shared Decision-Making

No partner takes the lion’s share of the decisions regarding life-changing moments or problem-solving. Decisions are made collaboratively by both partners to ensure they meet their needs while respecting shared responsibility. There is also a greater level of intimacy, individual development, and shared experiences for both partners.

Emotional Independence

While connected, each partner maintains a sense of self-worth and fulfillment outside the relationship. They understand that their happiness is not solely dependent on their partner and actively pursue activities and interests that bring them joy and fulfillment.

Codependency vs. Interdependency: The Differences

Now that we have a definition of both codependency and interdependency and the signs to spot them, it's time to break down the differences:

Autonomy vs. Dependency

In interdependent relationships, both individuals maintain a sense of autonomy and self-worth. In codependent relationships, one or both partners may feel dependent on the other for validation, self-worth, and aligning their identity.

Healthy Boundaries vs. Enmeshment

Interdependency is characterized by healthy boundaries, where each person enjoys their freedom to meet their own needs. Whereas codependency often involves enmeshment, which is when there is a blurring of the lines between where one person ends and the other begins.

Mutual Support vs. Caretaking

Interdependency fosters mutual support and encouragement. Codependency involves one partner excessively caretaking the other, often to the detriment of both of their needs. However, this doesn't apply when partners support each other during difficult times. Instead, it's a constant caretaking relationship.

Communication vs. Conflict Resolution

Interdependent relationships prioritize open communication and conflict resolution, basing their relationship on trust. Meanwhile, codependent relationships may involve avoiding blame or conflict to maintain peace.

Now, it's quite clear that being in a codependent relationship can be unhealthy for both parties. That's why it's imperative that you look towards interdependence.

How to Stop Being Codependent

Being in an interdependent relationship can help both you and your partner create a beautiful relationship while embracing your own freedoms and enjoyment.

That means ending codependency.

Here are some tools to help you:

Recognize & Acknowledge Codependent Patterns

The first step is recognizing and acknowledging the codependent patterns within your relationship.

Take inventory of your patterns and actions between you and your partner, looking at the reaction of both of you. Most importantly, consider whether either of you is neglecting your needs in favor of the other person.

This will give you a keen insight into any codependent traits you or your partner might have.

Prioritize Self-Care & Self-Esteem

Prioritizing self-care and nurturing a robust sense of self-esteem is the next step.

Consider what you want in life, what you like to do, and set independent goals you want to accomplish. The same goes for your partner.

Then do them!

Engage in activities that bring you happiness and fulfillment, practice self-empathy, and give priority to your physical and mental well-being.

But while you’re doing all this, consistently tell yourself positive self-dialogue while steering clear of negative self-perception that leads to codependency.

Create Healthy Boundaries

Establishing and upholding personal boundaries is imperative in overcoming codependency.

Learning to tell your partner about your unmet needs is essential. That way, they understand where you’re coming from and why you want it, and will make setting boundaries easier.

Implementing and respecting boundaries contributes to a more balanced long-term relationship dynamic, fostering mutual respect and individual autonomy.

Reprogram Your Beliefs

Your subconscious beliefs are what drives your need to be codependent.

This exercise aims to reframe the stories you tell yourself that you need codependency, challenging them by telling the opposite stories. This will reprogram your thoughts and help you break away from being codependent.

Understanding your attachment style can significantly impact the process of overcoming codependency for some individuals, making it worthwhile to explore yours.

You Can End Codependency

For many people, moving away from codependency and becoming interdependent can be extremely difficult. Childhood traumas and attachment styles can impact your ability to change, making it difficult to break loose from your partner.

If you are one of these people, there is nothing to be ashamed or worried about. We can help you embrace the journey of self-discovery and reclaim your sense of self through our Healthy Balance in Relationships: Ending Codependency & Enmeshment course. Sign up our All-Access Pass to take it!

Share this Article


Let's stay connected!

Get personal development tips, recommendations, and exciting news every week.

Become a Member

An All-Access Pass gives you even more savings as well as all the relationship and emotional support you need for life.

Mockup of PDS courses on the student dashboard.

Top Articles

27 JUN 2023

How to Overcome Dismissive Avoidant Attachment Style

Does the thought of commitment make you cringe? Yet, deep down, you crave the closeness and connection of a romantic relationship?

If you nodded yes to or recognized these patterns in your partner, ...

27 JUN 2023

How to Overcome Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style

Do you crave intimate connections – only to withdraw if someone comes “too close”? Maybe you prefer to leave before someone can leave you?

If so, you might have a fearful avoidant attachment style. ...

31 AUG 2023

8 Ways to Heal a Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style

People with a fearful or disorganized attachment style typically experience some form of childhood abuse or trauma in the form of emotional, physical, or most commonly, verbal abuse. Luckily, healing ...