Codependency Vs. Interdependence
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Codependency Vs. Interdependence

Relationship dynamics are shaped by the interplay between dependency and codependency in the complex environment of human interactions. This built-in rhythm of dependency encourages self-assurance and mutual trust. It is comparable to a dance in which both partners create mutual harmony. The foundation of a good relationship can be built through interdependency which allows each person to maintain their independence and strong sense of self while creating a strong emotional bond. For this to happen, it is essential to understand the difference between codependency and interdependency.


What Does Codependency Mean?

What Does Interdependence Mean?

How Does A Relationship Become Codependent

Can Someone Who Is Codependent Change?

What Type Of Therapy Treats Codependency?




What Does Codependency Mean?


When two people in a relationship are emotionally, physically, cognitively, and/or spiritually dependent on one another, codependency develops. This dynamic can exist amongst friends and family as well as romantic partners, and it frequently leads to dysfunctional patterns in relationships (American Psychological Association, 2023). In simple words, codependency can be called “Relationship Addiction”.


This type of dependence often appears in relationships where one partner struggles with addiction, whether it be to alcohol or other substances (Salonia et al., 2021). The concept of “codependency” was first used in the context of Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1950s. It was created to help partners of individuals who were struggling with substance misuse, individuals who were caught up in the challenging and unsafe lives of the people they loved (Wright & Wright, 1991).


In a codependent relationship, one individual is focused entirely on fulfilling the needs of the other partner. This type of dependency shows up as a persistent focus on what is required of the other partner and all the decision-making and worries are centered on how the thoughts and actions may produce an effect on the codependent person. Furthermore, the codependent person can experience a severe sense of personal meaninglessness in their partner’s absence and think that their entire existence would end without the other person’s involvement and presence. The relationship’s complicated codependency can be explained by the delicate interaction between over-reliance and emotional attachment.



What Does Interdependence Mean?


In an interdependent relationship, partners maintain a strong sense of individual identity while also acknowledging and appreciating the importance of their emotional bond (Rusbult & Van Lange, 2003). Interdependence in a healthy relationship refers to striking a balance between looking after yourself and your partner. Together, they strive to fulfill each other’s needs without becoming controlling or depending on one another to feel important.


It’s similar to allowing each other the room to be who you are, the flexibility to get together when necessary, and the self-assurance to make choices without contemplating too much how they will impact your relationship.


Codependency Article

Photo By: Andrea Piacquadio

How Does A Relationship Become Codependent?


Relationship dependence or over-attachment can frequently be traced back to a person’s previous experiences. Though they may not be aware of it but the dynamics of their families can nevertheless have a significant effect on them. Furthermore, the nature of their early relationships with their parents or other primary caregivers can have a lasting impact on their adult behaviors. Another factor that may contribute to their feeling of being unduly dependent or linked in relationships is their present self-perception, or how they now see themselves in relation to others.


Problematic Family Interactions

Putting the needs of others ahead of one’s own can become ingrained in some families, particularly when there is a family member struggling with addiction, chronic sickness, or mental health concerns. When caring for such person, the other family members ultimately overlook their own needs. If such a scenario exists, then that person might have formed the bad habit of putting other people before themselves.


In some households, problems in go unnoticed and are never discussed. In such scenario, people learn to suppress their feelings where abusive conduct occurred but was never addressed. Such people may have grown accustomed to keeping silent if they are mistreated.


The Impact of Relational Bonding Approach

The bond one share as an infant with their primary caregiver shaped the way they interact with people in the present time. If such bond was not secure, issues with over-reliance on others may arise in adult life.


Challenges Related to Self-esteem

When self-esteem is low, codependent behavior may become more likely to occur. If they think they are not worthy of love, they may find themselves going to great lengths to win others over and feel important. This could entail giving someone undue attention and prioritizing their demands above their own.



Can Someone Who Is Codependent Change?

Codependency is a problem that many people deal with, that renders it difficult to establish fulfilling relationships. While it’s not simple to change these habits, people who struggle with codependency can learn how to do so and establish rewarding, healthy relationships with others by attending therapy, caring for themselves, and employing helpful coping mechanisms.


What Type Of Therapy Treats Codependency?

Psychotherapy is the best treatment option for both individuals in a codependent relationship. The goal of therapy is to help patients understand their habits and alter their responses for better results.


The following are a few of the codependency interventions that have been most effective:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: It assists people in recognizing and modifying harmful codependent thought patterns, allowing them to differentiate between their own problems and those of others—especially those who are battling addiction.

Family Therapy: Couples therapy provides targeted support for those in codependent marriages or intimate partnerships, whereas family therapy breaks unhealthy codependent dynamics by establishing new ways of communicating and reducing the strain on parents, kids, and extended family.

Group Therapy: Codependent people can talk about their experiences with others who can relate to them, learn new communication techniques, and express sentiments in a safe environment in group therapy.


There are numerous variations and different levels of codependency. It frequently results in a toxic relationship dynamic. The first step in treating codependency is identifying its symptoms. Then, the keys to lessening your codependent traits are self-awareness and proactive redirection along with professional help. Don’t be harsh on yourself as you go through the steps of reversing years of conditioning.






American Psychological Association. (2023, November 15). APA Dictionary of Psychology.

Rusbult, C. E., & Van Lange, P. A. M. (2003). Interdependence, Interaction, and Relationships. Annual Review of Psychology, 54(1), 351–375.

Salonia, Dr. G., Mahajan, Dr. R., & Mahajan, Dr. N. S. (2021). Codependency and Coping Strategies in the Spouses of Substance Abusers. Scholars Journal of Applied Medical Sciences, 9(7), 1130–1138.

Wright, P. H., & Wright, K. D. (1991). Codependency: Addictive love, adjustive relating, or both? Contemporary Family Therapy, 13(5), 435–454.


Article Written by Dr. Wasif MD

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, LMFT

Publication Date: 12/26/2023



Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives. We do this through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. Inspired by this, we write content for your own education. Also, our content is researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals.  However, the information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Additionally, it should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.

Written and reviewed by

Dr Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, ACS, LMFT

Dr. Kyle Zrenchik is the Co-Founder of ALL IN, the Creator of the Couples Erotic Flow model for treating sexual issues in individuals and couples, Designer of the Deep Dive programs at ALL IN, and is one of the most well-respected couples counselors in the Twin Cities.

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