Codependent and Interdependent Relationships – What’s the Difference?

Though codependent and interdependent may sound very similar, each term describes very different types of relationships. To make things even more confusing, they are often not only used for describing romantic relationships but also for friendships or family relations. So you can technically use them in various scenarios. 

So, what exactly is the difference between the two?

In short, interdependent relationships tend to be healthier for each individual involved, and codependent relationships are often more damaging to one or both individuals.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. And, as the official definitions vary, it’s easier to provide you with various points of comparison and ways you can recognise what type of relationships you have in your life.

If you feel you identify with being in a codependent relationship or have codependent tendencies, you’ll also find some tips on how to shift into more interdependent relationships.

What is a codependent relationship?

Codependent relationships are often described as unhealthy. In many cases, one or both partners have few to no boundaries and it may often be the case, that one partner is viewed as more important than the other. Adding to this, the person who has more codependent tendencies has a higher chance of neglecting their own needs by continuously putting the needs of the other first.

Poor self-esteem and heavily relying on the praise or recognition of the other to feel validated and seen are also behavioural signs related to codependency.

Signs you may be codependent:

  • You often find yourself in situations or relationships where you feel you want to help/save your partner.
  • You often put other people’s needs first and feel guilty about treating yourself, including having poor or no boundaries.
  • You have low self-esteem and often doubt yourself and the decisions you make.

What is an interdependent relationship?

In interdependent relationships, individuals often share responsibilities equally and are able to rely on themselves and each other. This also means they can build each other up and support their partner when needed.

Both have a healthy amount of self-esteem and a sense of self-worth. They can express their thoughts and feelings clearly and without much hesitation, while the other respectfully listens and acknowledges them. In interdependent relationships, both partners are happy to pursue their individual goals, while still keeping the other person’s needs and ambitions in mind. 

Signs you may be interdependent:

  • You have clear boundaries and aren’t afraid to say “no”. 
  • You communicate openly and effectively.
  • You take responsibility for yourself, including for your actions and emotions, as well as allowing yourself to take some “me-time”.

Shifting from co- to interdependence

If you feel you recognise yourself or aspects of your relationship as codependent and want to change that, there are ways that you can move into becoming more interdependent.

It all starts with you and increasing your self-worth. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, you can always work on your sense of self through self-reflection. Gaining an understanding of what you want and need is a great starting point that also allows you to see how your needs are as important as other people’s needs. 

With a greater understanding of self through focusing on your wants and needs, you’ll also begin to define your boundaries. Learning to effectively communicate all of these is the next step to becoming less codependent. You maybe find that learning to say “no” won’t be easy, but will be worth it.

Invest more time in yourself. Take up a hobby or simply block out some time in your calendar for YOU. Take the time to do whatever you want to do.

All of this takes work, time and effort. You might fall back into old habits, but the fact that you’ve already recognised your codependency or codependent tendencies is a step towards healthier and more interdependent relationships.

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