From Codependent to Interdependent

From Codependent to Interdependent December 3, 2014

Codependency can be synonymous to not living one’s own life in some aspects for both people in a dysfunctional relationship. Codependency is a learned behavior which is great because that means it can be replaced with new learning or relearning and behavior! Dependent people and enablers are really good at attracting each other, after all they have practiced codependency for quite a while by default. Codependency often renders one person failing to challenge themselves and the other person losing respect for themselves, and often the dependent, at the hands of their own “doing” for the other. This practice feeds a continued cycle and confirmation of low self-esteem, directly and indirectly, for both the dependent and the enabler. Not until a breaking point or new self-responsible behaviors are learned and practiced will either partner change their behaviors.

For Example:

  • Is there someone in your life who you say “yes” to their requests, knowing inside that you want to say “no” but are afraid of the outcome? Have you ever said “no” to others in your life and seen, even felt, positive results for doing so? Do you tend to be helpful to others only to find that your helpfulness becomes expected? If so you most likely are experiencing aspects of the enabler role of codependency and have the ability to move toward interdependency.


  • Is there someone in your life who you rely on too heavily? Do you experience discomfort around some of your needs or abilities? Have you ever experienced getting your own needs met by rising to the occasion? Is there an aspect of your behaviors that you attempt to deny, though are reminded of by someone else in your life? If so you are most likely experiencing the dependent role of codependency and have the ability to move toward interdependency.


Both the dependent and the enabler can gain short-term satisfaction from codependency. For the dependent, being saved and “cared for” feels great. Getting their needs met through another can allow them to have their cake and eat it too. For the enabler, having saved or “cared for” someone else provides a sense of purpose or “being needed”. Each can build a life together quite easily based on these reciprocal behaviors. Though these behaviors lose their flavors and end up leaving a bad taste over time… Indeed, both the dependent and the enabler suffer over the long term. Through codependency each partner respectively stalls their psychological growth, both stagnate in low self-esteem which can manifest in psychological symptoms such as depression, frustration, anxiety, worry, anger, rage, self-hatred, entitlement, etc. Fear and shame are key components in codependency. They can paralyze the dependent and the enabler from making healthier decisions or taking healthier actions for themselves, and in essence for each other. Examples of codependent issues might be: one partner attempting to manage or tiptoeing around the other’s emotional reactions due to their explosive anger; one partner overlooking or denying responsibility for their addiction while the other holds in confidence the addict’s behaviors through accommodation, clean up, or lies to others; one partner expecting the other to task for them while the other makes concessions for their laziness or learned helplessness. In codependent relationships, as observed above, there are always unhealthy aspects inhibiting each individuals growth and often there can be blatant or subtle abuse occurring. Should abuse be occurring in your relationship, get help! It only takes one person to decide to stop the cycle of abuse.

Codependency is learned from parents or primary caregivers by observation and/or by a parents behaviors toward their children. Though both the dependent and the enabler’s parents were coming from a place of love, care, and concern they provided a disservice to their children, usually because of their own co-dependency issues consciously and unconsciously passed down to them. For some, having parents who OVER DID for their children because they LOVE THEM SO MUCH creates codependency. And for others whose parents were, or still are, acting as saviors in attempts to protect their children from the “hard knocks of life” creates codependency. For people who grew up in this way they have been consciously and unconsciously taught how to pick and choose what they will and won’t be responsible for related to their own choices, actions, and behaviors i.e. dependence upon another. On the flipside, observing parents who engaged in codependent behaviors can create codependency and enabling by skewing and holding an unconscious perception of codependency as being an aspect of what love looks like. Enablers also may have had the experience of walking on eggshells around one or both parents. Continuing a belief into adulthood that their role is to save, clean up, hide from the public, or pick up the slack for their dependent loved one as observed and experienced during childhood.

For both afflicted at opposing ends of codependency… Repositioning the self to voice needs, wants, and desires empowers one to be become more behaviorally independent, secure in and of themselves, and interdependent within their relationship. Interdependence is a healthy reliance and is mutually satisfying as opposed to codependence where one person is left feeling victimized and the other martyrized, each actually by their own hand of course. Interdependence happens when two people claim their independence of each other, own what is theirs in the way of behaviors, yet also depend on their relationship for true support from each other. There is shared empowerment by nature of two interdependent people who utilize each other’s strengths and encourage each other to overcome weaknesses or limitations. Acceptance of responsibility for one’s choices, actions, and behaviors naturally impacts self-esteem in a positive direction, though this can be a bit more complicated when it comes to accepting *addictive behaviors. However in general, with acceptance comes healthier choices and healthier actions as opposed to denial or stagnation. Recognizing and accepting one’s enabling behaviors can be freeing from burden. Many enablers have never taken the time to really know and take care of themselves. Developing boundaries and assertiveness for both the dependent and enabler are paramount to interdependence. Developing a positive relationship with one’s self can be highly beneficial for all other relationships. After all, we teach people how to treat us by how we treat ourselves. If you should on yourself, so will others and this applies to both Enablers and Dependents.

**If you or your loved one are suffering in addiction –reach out for 3rd party help now! There is no denying that it’s a matter of issue or concern for you and your loved one. There is no sense in going at it alone whichever role you play.

Aaron Foster

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