How To Make Your Relationship More Interdependent And Less Codependent
Being codependent in your relationship is just toxic in nature. According to experts, the best kind of relationship dynamic you can have is interdependence. If you feel like you and your partner rely on each other too heavily, there are ways to create a more healthy attachment in your relationship.
As couples therapist Amy Bishop, M.S., tells Bustle, the definition of codependency varies among professionals. "But I define codependency in relationships as being overly preoccupied with your partner to the point of losing your own sense of who you are and what you need," she says. Ultimately, this stems from a place of fear that your partner will leave. It’s a very "one directional" relationship, where the needs of one partner gets met more than the other.
Partners in an interdependent, or secure relationship, put the relationship first. Not their partner. "They live by mutually agreed-upon rules, that ultimately are good for each individual too," Bishop says. They have identities outside the relationship, but will never do anything that will hurt the relationship.
It's a dynamic that's healthy, but may require some work to get there. So here are some habits you should consider adapting if you want to make your relationship more interdependent and less codependent, according to experts.
1. Keep Working On Yourself
"Take time to evaluate the other parts of yourself, whether professional, spiritual, social, or recreational, and notice what other areas of your life need some building up," Bishop says. Relationships do take work in order to succeed. But that can't be the only thing in your life that you put effort into. So the key to making your relationship more interdependent is to take stock of your life. Find purpose and meaning outside of your relationship. Not only will it make you a happier and more well-rounded person, but according to Bishop, it may even improve intimacy and passion in your relationship as well.
2. Have Regular "Dates" With Your BFF
Counting on your partner to be your person for everything can put a ton of pressure on them. To make your relationship more interdependent, know that it's completely OK to turn to other people in your life for advice, emotional support, or to be your plus one at work events. "It’s healthy to have regular time with your friends without your partner," relationship expert and author April Masini, tells Bustle. Making it a habit to schedule "friend dates" will help you recognize that you and your partner don't have to do everything together. It gives your partner the chance to do the same. "Besides, a little time apart also creates mystique and plays into that tried but true adage that absence makes the heart grow fonder," Masini says. So it's definitely something you should consider trying.
3. Have Weekly Check-Ins
"Too often in a codependent relationship, the individual voice of each person is lost," Benjamin Ritter, founder of The Breakup Supplement, tells Bustle. When you have a relationship dynamic where you both feel and act as if you're just "one person," there's likely going to be a lack of boundaries. For instance, one partner may assume certain things are OK even if they're not. In this case, communication is necessary. "A weekly check-in of pure honesty (i.e. this is where I am at, this is what I feel, and this is what actually bothers me) is a great way to keep lines of communication open and cultivate an interdependent relationship," Ritter says.
4. Establish Healthy Communication "Rules"
In codependent relationships, power struggles are often present. At times, one partner may have unequal power over the other. So as psychotherapist Sophia Goh, M.A., tells Bustle, one way to make your relationship more equal and interdependent is to make sure there is a "healthy communication channel" between the two of you. Good communication rules to keep in mind include actively listening while the other is speaking, no interrupting, and listening first without making any judgements. This will help cultivate openness and respect in your relationship. When both partners feel like their opinions and feelings are valid, the relationship dynamic will be more equal.
5. Get Real With Each Other About Your Fears Every Now And Then
As therapist Brittainy Wagner, LPC, tells Bustle, codependency usually stems from a lack of trust or a lack of self-worth. Either way, communication and vulnerability are the key to working it out. "You must have a conversation with your partner if both of you are engaging in codependent behaviors," Wagner says. "You will need a little self-awareness on your part to realize if it is a lack of trust in your partner, yourself, or a combination of both." Then, you will need to be vulnerable enough to express it out loud. If it goes well, these deeper conversations should reassure you or your partner that your relationship is going to be OK.
6. If Your Partner Is Codependent, Be Patient And Take Breaks
If you know that your partner is the codependent one in the relationship, Mark Borg Jr, PhD, psychologist and and co-author of RELATIONSHIP SANITY: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Relationships, tells Bustle, you need to get into the habit of taking breaks. "Too often, like the term 'needy,' I find that couples I work with use the term 'codependence' as a kind of criticism or slur used to condemn their partner," he says. But reacting in such a way will only make things worse. If your partner is codependent, be patient with them. "Interdependence is usually a process of breaking with previous experiences (of being let down) and expectations (of being unfulfilled) in relationships," Dr. Borg says. Letting go of those feelings won't be easy. So be "gentle and generous" with yourself and each other.
7. Get Outside Help To Figure Out Why Your Relationship Is Codependent
Sometimes turning a codependent relationship into a more interdependent one isn't as easy as watching what you say or planning dates with your friends. For some, deeper issues can be the reason behind why they feel like they can't do or be anything without their partner. As Jor-El Caraballo, relationship expert and co-creator of Viva Wellness, tells Bustle, "Therapy can be a helpful tool in working through origin of codependency issues and addressing issues of attachment." This isn't necessary for everyone. But it's a good option if you always seem to get into relationships that are codependent.
Since codependency typically stems from fear, making your relationship more interdependent is not going to be a quick and easy process. But if you're patient, work at it, and develop better habits, you can have a much healthier relationship dynamic.