What is the Opposite of Codependent? | How to Foster Interdependence

opposite of codependent

What is Codependency?

Many people are familiar with the concept of codependence from social media and pop culture. However, the opposite of codependent, and a healthy, sustainable way of functioning in relationships, is less talked about.

Partners who are codependent are overly reliant on each other mentally, physically, and emotionally. These partners give more than they take from the relationship. Often times, they take a “caretaker” role for a partner who may require a high level of support due to illness or addiction.

Codependency is not a mental health diagnosis, but a pattern of behavior similar to the concept of attachment styles. This may involve operating to please the other out of fear of abandonment. These behaviors often originate in childhood and are repeated without partners realizing it.

opposite of codependent in relationships

People who are overly reliant on others for their own sense of self-worth or feelings of safety in the world can open themselves up to pain and may lack skills to regulate themselves. They may also avoid dealing with their own emotions or issues by focusing externally on their partner.

Plus, people who are codependent often lack self-esteem which keeps them from holding appropriate boundaries in their relationships.

Codependent people may actually derive their self worth from their ability to help others, rather than having a sense of self worth on their own.

Identifying with yourself only as part of a relationship creates an excessive reliance on the relationship for a sense of identity as an individual and your own worth as a person. This reliance on the relationship can make it hard for either person to step away from the relationship when it becomes dysfunctional or unhealthy.

In codependent relationships, a dynamic occurs where one person needs the other, and the other’s worth is validated by being needed.

Some signs of codependent patterns include:

  • Partner avoids conflict with the other at all costs
  • Ask partner for permission / apologizing when they have not done anything wrong
  • Putting the other person’s needs and comfort levels above their own
  • Feeling the need for other people to like them
  • Cannot find time to take care of themself
  • Try to control environment in order to feel safe

I’m going to break down how to move from codependency into a more healthy relationship pattern.

What is Counterdependency?

On the other side of the pendulum, yet still ineffective, is counterdependency.

Instead of overly relying on others to glean a sense of worth, these people resist placing any trust in others. These people may display more avoidant attachment styles which causes them to fear letting others in.

Often, these partners have a fear of intimacy with others and fear that they will ultimately get rejected if they show their partner their true, full self.

What is counterdependency?

Individuals who resist relying on others to protect themselves will usually end up pushing others away. Even though they fear rejection, they may inadvertently drive others away from them, leaving them to feel rejected, alone, and depressed.

These partners may also experience anxiety because they are vigilant to scan others as threats constantly before they decide the extent they will open up. They can feel disconnected from their self as they dismiss their own need to connect to others.

  • Belief that if you get too close to someone you will ultimately be disappointed
  • Independent and prefer to do things on your own than to seek help from others
  • You think to need others is a weakness
  • Others have hurt you and are unreliable. You’d rather rely on yourself
  • You focus on tasks, logic, and getting things done more than you focus on feelings

Opposite of Codependent- Effective Interdependence

The antidote to codependency that we actually want to cultivate in relationships is called effective interdependence.

Instead of overly relying or avoiding reliance on others, effective interdependence is an entirely different state of relating. The concept is a bit of a paradox. The more we can trust others, the more we can go and have our own experiences in the world, knowing that if we were to fall, they would be there for us when we need them.

The reverse is also true- the more you can go out and have experiences and be independent, the more you can trust that your partner supports you in developing your own identity, which cultivates more trust.

How to become interdependent

Effective interdependence has secure attachment as its steady base- a foundation of trust, stability, and security.

Partners in this place known that when they need one another, the other will reasonably be able to be accessible, engaged, and responsive to them.

  • Accessible- (Within reason) you can access your partner when you need them
  • Responsive- You know that when you reach your person, they will respond
  • Engaged- When your partner responds, they are emotionally in-tune with you

If you are in a relationship and you notice that you struggle with falling into patterns of codependency or counterdependency, therapy can support you and your partner to create a new dynamic.

A counselor trained in systems therapy will guide you and your partner to build the trust needed to feel the connection to your partner to give and receive interdependent behaviors. Codependent patterns may be instinctual, but therapy can help you create new patterns and move toward the opposite of codependent.


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