In American culture, there is an excessive focus on being self-sufficient to the point that people are afraid to lose their independence even within the confines of a committed relationship. There are literally jokes about marriage being the loss of a man’s ability to do anything alone or for himself. The saying, “the old ball and chain” refers to feeling as if you volunteered to be imprisoned or for a loss of freedom.
However, it’s important for our emotional health to be and feel connected.
It was discovered by research that if newborns experience prolonged periods of not receiving affection that, even if they are nutritionally healthy, they can still die or suffer negative developmental effects.
We are not good alone, but we also aren’t good if we are smothered by a needy partner. Often because of the way we cling to our independence, we don’t learn how to balance our independence while being in a relationship. When we finally get into a relationship, then some people bounce back and forth between independence and dependence, which is unhealthy and can lead to the relationship falling apart.
What is Interdependence?
Interdependence is when partners respect their differences and prioritize their emotional bond while maintaining their individual sense of self within the dynamics of the relationship. Each partner recognizes their ability to feel vulnerable and appreciates being able to turn to their partner while also being able to maintain their autonomy through the trust of the partner.
Codependence is when either one or both partners believes another person is responsible to meet their needs for them to feel okay with who they are. A codependent person relies heavily on others for their emotional well-being.
Codependent partners do not allow their partners to be themselves, grow, and to be autonomous. Codependent relationships include behaviors such as, manipulation; blaming each other; ineffective communication; no personal interests outside the relationship; and controlling behaviors.
Codependence is often learned from observing unhealthy relationship patterns viewed in childhood. It can be a result of trauma or having addictions.
How Does Interdependence Differ from Codependence?
In an Interdependent relationship, both partners are not basing their worthiness on their partner’s ability to meet their needs. They give each other the space to be themselves and the freedom to make decisions without fear of what will happen to the relationship.
In the relationship, both partners feel as if they can turn to their partner in times of need and know their partner will be present. They practice active listening. They encourage their partners to pursue personal interests without fear or insecurity.
Building an Interdependent Relationship
Some people enter a relationship to avoid loneliness or with no clear goals for the relationship.
• To begin building an Interdependent relationship, you have to know what you want and like, what your values are and what are your hobbies and interests.
• You have to understand that your partner has their own set of values, wants, and interests. You both have to allow each other not to be afraid to say what you want or to say no. You should both continue pursuing personal goals.
• You both have to feel secure in the relationship to feel as if they can turn to each intimately without being afraid they are going to be controlled or manipulated. Partners neither feel guilty nor scared of the other partner, but instead, feel safe.
• The couple approaches disagreements as a team on the same side instead of viewing it as if they are against one another. They don’t see disagreement as a personal affront.
• In an Interdependent relationship, both people respect that the other person has a full life outside of the relationship and allows them to make decisions with the trust that they hold the relationship in high regard.
It’s not impossible to change a codependent relationship to an interdependent one. Both partners have to desire for their partner to have peace of mind, feel loved and be able to enjoy their freedom outside of the relationship. Then create the parameters within the relationship where both feel safe while the other is exploring their boundaries.
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