Understanding Interdependence Vs Codependency

Relationships can be hard to manage and maintain, but they are often worth fighting for. In many cases, though it can be difficult to see when a relationship is growing toxic and needs to be ended. The line between interdependence vs codependency can easily get blurred. What exactly defines these words? How do you know which path you’re on? Many times people who have been in relationships that go sour believe they were codependent when in fact the relationship was one of interdependence.

What is Codependency?

Codependency occurs when one person in a relationship is overly reliant on another. This can be due to mental health issues, substance abuse or pathological dependence disorders. It’s also common for codependent individuals to be enablers who equate happiness with making their significant other happy. Essentially they put the needs of their partner above their own and lose themselves in the relationship. The codependent person will often feel responsible for, or guilty about, things that don’t necessarily concern them. They can become manipulative and try to control situations through guilt and passive-aggressive behaviors.

What is Interdependence?

Interdependency, on the other hand, occurs at a healthy stage of a relationship where both parties are mutually supportive and equally responsible for maintaining the stability of their bond. Each person will have his or her own strengths and weaknesses that complement those of the other. In this case, people are concerned with taking care of themselves as well as the people they love. Tension and conflict will arise, but both parties are willing to work through them because they share common goals.

When relationships display signs of codependency it’s best that both parties seek help before things get out of hand. Not only can couples counseling be helpful for individuals involved in unhealthy relationships, but it can also be beneficial for people desiring to build healthy, interdependent relationships.

Related: How To Handle Out Growing Friendships

Interdependence vs Codependency


Interdependence is the opposite of codependency. Interdependence vs codependency: the two terms are often used interchangeably because they are both associated with relationships, to describe how much an individual relies on others to complete tasks and certain situations. Interdependence is typically considered a positive trait in couples; whereas, codependency is often seen as an undesirable quality because it can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and depression.

Interdependence is defined as “requiring the cooperation of others to attain a goal.” This definition implies that interdependent people do not rely on others for everything, but only when it’s absolutely necessary. People who are codependent might need assistance with more than required and it can cause them to feel helpless and incapable of completing tasks. A spouse or roommate who does not take any initiative and only asks the other to complete chores and errands would be considered codependent. However, a spouse or roommate might also not be considered interdependent if they don’t accept assistance when it is offered by the other person.

Interdependence requires that each individual be mutually responsible for the other’s happiness and well-being. Codependency, however, is more concerned about one individual satisfying their needs at the expense of another person. For example, if a man who moves to a new city expresses interest in meeting someone but his friend begins trying to meddle in his dating life by setting him up with women he knows, this man may begin to feel as though his friend is being codependent because the friend wants him to be close and a part of a clique.

Interdependence also implies that there is a sense of equality between two people who have a mutual understanding of how much they rely on one another for support. In contrast, codependency is more likely to occur in relationships where one person has a greater emotional burden than the other tries to carry. For example, a couple in which one of them has been battling cancer for several years and their spouse begins giving up their time and energy outside of caring for their partner to increase the sick partner’s quality of life could be considered codependent if they begin to neglect their own needs.


Codependency can be categorized as an addiction because the codependent individual will require more and more help from others to avoid feelings of despair and inadequacy. Interdependence is not considered an addiction because it implies that both people in the relationship enjoy having a mutual understanding of how much they lean on each other for support.

Related: 60 Powerful Codependency Affirmations

When viewing interdependence vs codependency, knowing who you are and how you relate to others is an important aspect of a healthy life. Whether your current relationship status has you feeling codependent or interdependent it’s crucial that you realize there are ways to balance the dynamic. For example, if a person feels as though they have been giving too much of themselves in their relationships, it may be time for them to start learning how to be more self-reliant.

The key to healthy relationships, whether you are single or in a committed partnership, is reciprocal support. Make sure that you know your relationship expectations and what you require from the person(s) involved in order for you to feel fulfilled. One of the most necessary aspects of interdependence is that each person understands the level of reliance expected from their partner and is upfront about it. It’s important, to be honest with yourself and your partner(s) about how much you are willing to give, receive and compromise.

If you are willing to compromise then the chances are that your relationship will be successful. The best thing you can do for yourself is to find a partner who is willing to work on the relationship with you rather than one who is too dependent upon you to give anything back.

You are not codependent if you have a healthy, interdependent relationship with your partner. Don’t forget what makes you happy and don’t fear confrontation just because it will upset someone else. Relationships are meant to be equal partnerships and if they’re not then you need to learn how to communicate and meet each other halfway. Understanding the difference between interdependence and codependency is an essential aspect of developing healthy relationships.