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It is important to be able to tell the difference between healthy dependency vs codependency. Healthy dependency is called interdependency and helps you be your best self. Codependency happens when you are taking on most of the responsibility for the relationship, losing yourself in the process.

Interdependency occurs when both people in a relationship give and receive support. They can rely on each other to further their individual and mutual goals. In a codependent relationship, one person is doing most of the work and rescuing the other, to the point of neglecting and ignoring themselves.

Healthy Dependency: Interdependency

Our society is highly interdependent. You don’t understand how to build or fix a computer or a TV, instead you rely on others to do that for you. There just isn’t enough time in the day, or even a month or a year, to learn everything you need in order to do everything yourself! We all rely on electricity, transportation, supermarkets for our food, and many other things.

This reliance enhances our lives greatly. Each person plays a role in making society run well for everyone. We depend on our parents for financial support, love, and guidance. This helps us grow into adults and claim our place in society. We are interconnected and rely on each other for survival, friendship, learning, and to make our lives better.

Interdependency Fosters Growth

In an interdependent relationship, there is mutual give and take. Both people feel supported, respected and safe. Interdependency increases your self-esteem and self-confidence. It makes you feel like you can accomplish your goals more easily, and overcome your problems. Healthy dependency gives you the support you need to go out into the world and grow into the person you want to become.

In a relationship with healthy dependency you feel competent, yet still able to ask for help. You can develop a powerful sense of yourself, respectfully ask for your needs to be met, all while continuing to feel good about yourself on the inside. You help each other maintain your individuality and be the best person you can be.

Unhealthy Dependency: Codependency

When you are codependent, your identity is wrapped up in your partner. You many not even know who you are or what you want without them. This type of relationship is usually about power and control, resulting in a power imbalance. If you need to control someone else in order to feel ok, you are being codependent.

In a codependent relationship, you might be taking on too much responsibility for your partner. The only way to feel okay is to control the other person. You don’t have a solid sense of yourself as a separate person, so you look to your partner to satisfy your need to feel secure.

You feel like you can’t function without your partner. Blaming your partner for your own unhappiness, it’s difficult to take responsibility for yourself. You are simply too focused on the other person.

Instead of feeling happy and self confident, you feel fragile and insecure. These relationships are often abusive and unsupportive. You become over-reliant on another person and you lose your own identity. Instead of feeling that your needs, goals and interests are supported, you feel rejected, defective and undeserving.

The only way a codependent feels worthwhile is when they are taking care of someone else. You spend all your time fixing or rescuing them. One person is the giver and the other is the taker. Giving to them makes you feel needed and worthy of love.

Childhood Trauma And Neglect in healthy dependency vs codependency

When it comes to healthy dependency vs codependency, childhood neglect and trauma are at the root of feeling fundamentally unworthy. If you have a healthy supportive childhood, you develop a feeling of self-acceptance, feeling lovable at a deep level. Codependents, on the other hand, learn that the only way to feel loved is to figure out a way to earn it.

Early on, you learned that the only way to be valued was to give your parents what they needed. For example, if you made your parents drinks, or prepared their breakfast. Maybe you had to clean the house or get good grades. The point is, you had to work hard to be noticed. You learned that the only way to feel self-worth was by getting others to validate you.

Sometimes, when you were a child, you felt that taking care of your parent was the way you justified your own existence. When you take this fundamental, deeply held core belief into adulthood, it wreaks havoc in your life. Codependency becomes the normal way of being in relationships.

Childhood Relationships Repeat In Adulthood

Your parents didn’t know how to encourage you and nurture your strengths. For whatever reason, they didn’t know how to help you feel accepted and loved for who you were, deep inside. You became too focused on them, instead of getting to know and understand yourself. This is how you lost yourself and why you lack self-esteem.

Now, you don’t know how to nurture and take care of yourself. Instead, you get trapped in abusive and unhappy relationships. You don’t know how to break that pattern. You just don’t feel like you will ever be loved if you aren’t caregiving in some way and neglecting yourself.

On top of that, you aren’t encouraging the other person to be an independent person because you are always doing too much for therm. Instead of helping them do things for themselves, and empowering them to grow, you are stifling their development. Don’t forget, they need to encourage your growth, too!

Healthy Dependency vs. Codependency

Changing these relationship patterns is possible. With supportive, informative talk therapy, you can learn to identify patterns that don’t serve you, and what to do instead. Learning how to set limits is key. Tools such as journaling, pursuing your own interests and self affirmations are important, as well.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing EMDR can help you work through the core patterns so they don’t dominate your life. These core issues took root when you were young. Although change takes time and patience, EMDR can speed up the process.

Neurofeedback can help calm your nervous system from the fight/flight/freeze reactions to trauma. It can help you feel more resilient so you can make changes more easily.

Understanding what healthy codependency is vs codependency in a relationship can be difficult. You’ve already taken the first step by starting to educate yourself and understand what a healthy relationship actually looks like.

If you think I can help you on your path to healthy and supportive love, feel free to call and leave me a confidential voice message at 310-314-6933 or email me at