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by Jake Colton

Codependency and Relationship Addiction

Codependency is relationship addiction. When people are in a codependent relationship they “lose themselves” in it and a separate sense of self is either non-existent or vague and blurry. No relationship can survive long-term (without dysfunction) when those involved are codependent on each other.

Although codependency is most often found in romantic relationships it can also exist in other relationships (e.g. mother / son relationships).

Relationship Independence vs Dependence

We all enter this life fully dependent on others for our survival. Over time we gain knowledge, skills, and talents that slowly allow us to become more independent from our caregivers.

For example, for many, adolescence is a particularly volatile developmental stage in which the “individual” asserts independence by aggressively defying caregivers (e.g. breaking rules, breaking free from family norms, spending more time with friends and less time with family, etc).

Parents are often distraught during this time period, however assuming the adolescent isn’t going overboard (e.g. doing hard drugs such as heroin) this should be perceived as a normal, healthy, and necessary part of the developmental process.

Of course, even though independence is an essential and valuable characteristic to develop nobody was meant to go through life totally independent.

Relationship Interdependence is the Goal

Somewhere between codependency and complete independence exists “interdependence.” Interdependence occurs when two people value the relationship, but still have a strong sense of self and value activities and interests separate from the relationship.

Interdependent relationships have healthy “separations” and “reunions.” More simply described as the every day “goodbyes” and “hellos” that happen when couples separate to go to work, complete tasks, and engage in hobbies outside of the relationship.

When a person is codependent on another he or she may snap at the other during a reunion moment and “drill”with questions, “Where were you?” “Why did you take so long?” or with passive-aggressive comments, “I hope you had fun while I did the dishes and took care of the dog.”

In an interdependent relationship people will still express curiosity in the others activities, but the motives are different. The role is not as a probation officer, but rather a best friend wanting to hear about and support you in your highlights and lowlights during your time away. “I’m glad you had fun!” and “I missed you, AND I’m happy that you were able to meet some new people,” are comments more typical and reflective of people in interdependent relationships.

The goal is to be connected, but also allow for some temporary disconnection so that both the self and the relationship can be nurtured.

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