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Is Codependency Bad in Relationships?

Apr 24, 2024 | Relationships

In the fabric of human relationships, a certain degree of dependence isn’t just expected; it’s essential for fostering connection and intimacy. However, when dependence goes too far, what begins as mutual reliance can become codependency, where one’s sense of self and decision-making become entangled with the needs of another.

Recognizing the fine line between supportive reliance and codependency is crucial for the health of any relationship. It’s not about labeling codependence as bad but understanding the conditions under which healthy dependence supports growth versus situations where codependency impedes personal and mutual development.

Understanding Dependency in Relationships

Dependence is a natural and healthy relationship dynamic that involves relying on others for mutual support. In healthy relationships, dependence is offset by independence and mutual reliance, where both individuals simultaneously rely on and support one another.

At birth, we are entirely dependent on caregivers for support and growth. As we develop, we become more independent, often to the point of rebelliousness or angst in youth.

As adults, we recognize that we are not alone and, despite being self-sufficient, can still depend on others. Interdependent relationships occur when both individuals maintain their autonomy while mutually supporting one another, striking a balance between independence and dependence.

Context Matters: When Dependency Becomes Problematic

However, when reliance from one party becomes over reliant, healthy dependency can become a situation where one partner’s needs and behaviors overly control the emotional state of the other.

This level of dependency stifles personal growth and autonomy, creating a dynamic where individuals feel unable to make decisions or feel complete without the validation or presence of their partner. In cases where the other partner acts as an enabler and caretaker, fulfilling the dependent’s role, codependent relationships can form.

Codependency is a mutual and cyclical dependency between two parties. One individual is totally dependent on the other for emotional support, validation, and decision-making. In contrast, the other derives their sense of worth and identity from their ability to care for and meet their partner’s needs.

This codependent relationship is characterized by an unhealthy balance where both parties rely on one another for emotional stability but at the cost of their independence and personal development. The dependent may feel incapable of facing life’s challenges without their partner, while the caregiver might feel indispensable, believing their worth is tied to their role.

Signs of Codependency in Relationships

Breaking the cycle of codependency starts with recognizing its signs within a relationship. By identifying and addressing the root causes of codependent tendencies, individuals can work towards fostering independence and strengthening their relationship on a foundation of balanced interdependence rather than necessity.

  • Excessive Need for Approval: One or both partners constantly seek validation from the other to feel worthy or make decisions.
  • Difficulty Making Decisions Independently: Struggling to make even small decisions without the input or reassurance of others.
  • Poor Boundaries: Blurred lines between where one partner’s identity begins and the other’s ends, leading to a loss of individuality.
  • Neglecting Personal Needs: One individual regularly putting their own needs, interests, or well-being aside to focus on their partner or the relationship.
  • Fear of Abandonment: An overwhelming fear of being left alone.
  • Difficulty Expressing Disagreements: Avoiding conflict or suppressing one’s own opinions to keep the peace or satisfy another’s needs.

Signs of Healthy Dependence in Relationships

Dependence in relationships is not inherently detrimental. In fact, a certain level of reliance on one’s partner is natural and can foster a deep sense of connection and security. Healthy relationships thrive on a balance where individuals can maintain their unique identities and grow together without feeling overwhelmed.

  • Mutual Respect for Autonomy: Both partners appreciate and encourage each other’s independence and decision-making capabilities.
  • Confidence in Making Decisions: Each person feels capable of making choices on their own, while also feeling comfortable seeking advice and support.
  • Strong Boundaries: Clear distinctions are maintained between individuals’ needs and desires.
  • Prioritizing Personal Needs: Both individuals understand the importance of self-care and actively make time for their own interests and well-being alongside the relationship.
  • Security in the Relationship: A stable sense of confidence in the relationship allows for independence without fear of abandonment.
  • Open Communication: Conflicts and disagreements are addressed through healthy communication, respecting differing opinions and finding common ground.
Relationship Parameter Codependent Manifestation Interdependent Manifestation
Autonomy Sense of self is heavily influenced by a partner’s presence and approval. Both partners maintain their identities and are encouraged to pursue their interests.
Decision-Making Decisions are heavily influenced or controlled by a partner with fear of disapproval. Decisions are made collaboratively and respect different viewpoints.
Boundaries Boundaries are blurred. Clear boundaries are set and respected.
Personal Needs Personal needs are neglected in favor of the other partner’s needs. Both partners prioritize their own needs while supporting others’ personal needs.
Security Fear of abandonment persists when one partner isn’t present. Confidence in the relationship allows for healthy attachment without fear of abandonment.
Communication Communication may be dishonest or manipulative. Open, honest, and direct communication is practiced and held sacred.

The Journey From Codependency to Interdependence

For individuals navigating the transition from codependency to a more balanced state of interdependence, cultivating independence and self-reliance within the relationship is key.

Strategies such as setting boundaries, engaging in activities independently of one another, and learning to make decisions on one’s own can empower individuals to establish and maintain healthier boundaries. Additionally, these steps not only foster independence but also contribute to the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship.

The best way to facilitate your journey to interdependence and develop personal growth is in a therapeutic setting. Here, individuals can explore their thoughts and emotions in a safe, supportive environment free from judgment.

Therapy provides a space for individuals to develop the tools and insights needed to build independence, establish healthy boundaries, and transition toward an interdependent and mutually reliant relationship.

Embrace Your Independence With Start My Wellness

While codependent relationships may appear stable, over the long run they typically evolve into highly unsatisfactory relationships where anger, upset, and conflict is not resolved in productive ways. Conversely, in exploring the role of dependence and independence in relationships, we see that both are necessary in establishing healthy relationships based on respect, boundaries, and open communication.

However, we all have different journeys, and sometimes, the journey from codependency to interdependence in relationships can be difficult. At Start My Wellness, we’re ready to guide you through this transformative journey. By working with us, you can develop strategies to cultivate a resilient sense of self while creating a nurturing and mutually supportive partnership.

Call us today at (248)-514-4955 and meet our therapists today to take the next step towards happier and healthier relationships.


  1. Start My Wellness: What Does it Mean to be Codependent or Independent? And in What Situation?
  2. Start My Wellness: The Overlap Between Codependency and Narcissism in Relationships
  3. Start My Wellness: The Difference Between Codependency and Interdependence
  4. Start My Wellness: Finding Harmony in Codependency: The Unexpected Advantages
  5. Psychology Today: Boundaries and the Dance of the Codependent
Dr. Anton Babushkin

Author: Anton Babushkin, PhD

Looking for a Therapist? Start My Wellness has highly experienced Licensed Therapists that are currently accepting new patients.


Blog Posts Tags: Relationships
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