17 Jul Independence Versus Dependence: What’s the Difference? by Sara Loughlin, LCSW
This month’s blog is about interdependence- the midpoint between complete independence and codependency. We are social creatures and are happiest when we have secure connections and bonds with others. However, our society values independent traits such as self-reliance, putting your own needs and goals ahead of a relationship, and confidence in your ability to make decisions for yourself. Codependency is at the other end of the relationship spectrum. Codependent traits are: putting your partner’s needs above your own needs, excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, and losing your own sense of identity in a relationship. People who are overly independent can have a hard time maintaining a relationship, and people who are in codependent relationships do not get the benefits that come out of being in a healthy relationship. Interdependent relationships are characterized by each partner maintaining his or her own autonomous identity, but he or she is also mutually reliant on the other person for support and emotional connection.
Another way of looking at our level of dependence in a relationship is through our attachment style, which is established in early childhood and continues to function as a working model for our relationships as adults. In a nutshell it summarizes how we go about getting our needs met in relation to others. People who have struggled with addiction or have endured abuse in the past tend to have “anxious” attachments and their relationships are often codependent in nature. Those who are very independent can have an attachment style labeled “avoidant” and people with this style can sometimes have difficulty with intimacy in relationships. “Secure” attachments have the same qualities as interdependent relationships: intimacy created by each partner being open and honest, which results in trust. Both partners maintain their own identity through having their own interests and friendships outside of the relationship. Emotional support is a feature of these relationships as well. No relationship is perfect but if we strive towards these goals, we will become closer to the healthy relationship that will help us feel connected and supported.