Co-Dependent, Interdependent, or Independent: Which one are you?

A question I get asked often is what is the difference between Co-Dependence, Interdependence and Independence.

From a social perspective and by virtue of the fact that we are part of the “system” (such as the need to pay bills and work for boss man/woman), we are all co-dependent in some capacity. To survive in the current economy/environment, we need to depend on institutions and individuals to ensure we can meet our own needs and get on with living.

However, from a psychological perspective, aside from the obvious examples of substance abuse or any addictive behavior, co-dependence can be less outwardly visible and hard to identify.

As adults, I feel we should be always working towards some a sense of independence, to constantly look at what is holding you back and dig deep in deciding if you want to continue this way or to change.

To do this, it is useful to look at the behavioral traits of independent people. Here is what I look for:


  • Taking risks and speaking their mind despite the consequences
  • Refusing to be defined by their negative emotions
  • Depersonalizing the attitudes of others
  • Accepting others are entitled to their opinion and having no need to change their idea’s to match yours
  • Taking regular time to self-reflect (not self-judge) and consciously learn from experiences

Inter-dependence is ideally when 2 ‘reasonably’ independent people make a conscious decision to genuinely work together.

Here is what I see in inter-dependent relationships:


  • Being conscious of each others time, effort, etc.
  • Focusing on strengths and respecting weaknesses (we can’t be good at everything)
  • Limiting excess criticism
  • Dealing with issues directly
  • Excusing mistakes

And then we have co-dependence. This is some of the traits I see regularly:


  • Regularly apologizing for something they didn’t do
  • Regularly apologizing for something they did do but which offended someone
  • Regularly using a passive aggressive communication style
  • Refusing to take responsibility/Having an excess of responsibility
  • Lying awake at night worrying about a problem
  • Adapting attitudes/behaviors out of fear of repercussion or a need for approval (such a lying or exaggerating)
  • Finding reasons to tolerate any form of disrespect in a relationship

No one chooses to be psychologically co-dependent and we all could probably identify with one or more of the above.

Circumstances play a big part here, you may be strong in other area’s of life but find co-dependence manifests itself in work or in specific relationships..

However, one key indicator is self-esteem…and there are many contributing factors to how high or low our self-esteem is:

  • Early experiences of conflict, grief and bereavement and any subsequent trauma
  • The style of parenting adopted – Authoritative (good), Permissive (not good) or Authoritarian (bad)
  • Experiences of alienation or struggling to find someone who ‘get’s you…especially during formative teenage years

The above is just a starting point to explore what area’s we need to work on. But like everything in life, Independence is a relative concept and only you know what it means to you.

More importantly, only you know HOW much it means to you and whether it is time to focus on bringing more independence into your life.

If you have any questions, I would love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading and please don’t hesitate to share this article.

Take care


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