Most of us value connection with others, especially in our romantic relationships. In fact, we are wired for connection and it allows us to create bonds and intimacy with our partner. The success of long-term relationships depends heavily on the quality of our emotional connection with each other. When we think of our ideal relationships we often think of a wonderful, close, lifelong relationship with our most important person.
So, how do we build that kind of relationship? That cozy, safe, long-term bond with someone who we know has our back for the long haul? A relationship that gives us the freedom to be ourselves, that supports our growth and allows us to have flexibility with each other?
What Is Interdependence?
Interdependence suggests that partners recognize and value the importance of the emotional bond they share while maintaining a solid sense of self within the relationship dynamic.
An interdependent person recognizes the value of vulnerability, being able to turn to their partner in meaningful ways to create emotional intimacy. They also value a sense of self that allows them and their partner to be themselves without any need to compromise who they are or their values system.
Being dependent on another person can sound scary or even unhealthy. Growing up, we are often taught an over-inflated value of independence, to be somewhat self-contained, with a high value placed on not needing others for emotional support. As valuable as having a sense of independence is, taken to an extreme, this can actually get in the way of us being able to connect emotionally with others in a meaningful way. Emotional intimacy with a partner can be difficult to achieve, even scary or not seen as particularly valuable in a relationship, for those who have an extraordinary sense of independence.
Interdependence Is Not Codependence
Interdependence is not the same thing as being codependent. A codependent person tends to rely heavily on others for their sense of self and well-being. There is no ability for that person to distinguish where they end and their partner begins, there is an enmeshed sense of responsibility to another person to meet their needs and/or for their partner to meet all of their needs to feel okay about who they are.
Traits of a codependent relationship include things like:
- Poor/no boundaries
- People-pleasing behaviors
- Unhealthy, ineffective communication
- Difficulty with emotional intimacy
- Controlling behaviors
- Blaming each other
- Low self-esteem of one or both partners
- No personal interests or goals outside the relationship
Codependent relationships are not healthy and do not allow partners room to be themselves, to grow and to be autonomous. These unhealthy relationships involve one partner, or both, relying heavily on the other and the relationship for their sense of self, feelings of worthiness and overall emotional well-being. There are often feelings of guilt and shame for one or both partners when the relationship is not going well.