Which Are You: Independent, Co-Dependent or Interdependent?

Written by on November 9, 2017 in Conscious Living, Relationships & Sex, Thrive with 3 Comments

By Katie Paul | Head Heart Health

It was my husband’s day off and he seemed in a pleasant mood. Mid-morning — late enough for him to be awake and early enough for him not to have started drinking — he was in the kitchen tidying up from the night before. Years of beer and takeaway had made him heavy and slow. The weight had settled on his belly; his once handsome face now bloated, his neck grown thick. I was near enough to smell the stale sweat on his body. I took a depth breath.

‘Can I talk to you about something?’ I asked, leaning against the bench. I had replayed the conversation in my head thousands of times trying to work out what I was going to say and his possible responses. I knew, however I phrased it, once I’d spoken the words I could never take them back.

‘Yeah,’ he said, stacking empty beer bottles in the recycling bin.

‘I’m not happy,’ I said, my voice breaking. I cleared my throat. ‘We hardly speak, we don’t do anything together and we barely touch each other.’ I still sounded as if I had a heavy cold. I cleared my throat again but nothing helped. ‘I’m lonely — I want to go out to dinner with you, go for walks together, talk about things. It feels like we’re two strangers living in the same house.’

‘I don’t get it,’ he said, wiping his hands on a tea towel. ‘I thought you liked your independence.’ He turned to face me and frowned. ‘When did you become so needy?


That day, my husband used the word needy as an insult. He was suggesting that my desire for greater intimacy signaled some kind of character flaw. And in that moment I agreed with him. I didn’t want to transform into a clingy, co-dependent, smothering wife. I wanted to maintain my independence, but at the same time, I also wanted a loving, nurturing relationship.

At the intersection of independence and co-dependence lies another path. It is called interdependence. It is the path I was trying to describe during that conversation in the kitchen.

  1. independence — I don’t need you
  2. co-dependence — I can’t live without you
  3. interdependence — I acknowledge you, respect you and treasure you

Interdependence is a dynamic of being mutually and physically responsible to, and sharing a common set of principles with many others.

In an interdependent relationship, all participants are emotionally, economically, ecologically and/or morally self-reliant while at the same time responsible to each other ~ Wikipedia

Interdependence is what I craved during those long dark days of my marriage. I wanted someone to see me, to hear me, to acknowledge my struggles and to offer a helping hand. I realise now my husband could never have been that person as his whole existence was taken up with fighting demons larger than mine.

That day in the kitchen, I was needy. am needy — but needy isn’t a flaw, it’s a survival instinct.

I need love, and respect, and connection. I need to feel comfort, and safety and support. I need to know that even in my darkest hours I’m not alone.

And I’m not alone anymore — I now have a loving boyfriend who celebrates and supports all of my strengths and weaknesses.

And I have you, my dear readers. You offer me such warmth and comfort and I thank you for that. You ooze with unconditional love as you battle your way over your own obstacles. You reach out even when your hands are bleeding from the fight.

We’re all needy, because we all need each other. 

And I’m more than happy to be a part of that.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared as “N is for Needy: Not a Flaw But a Survival Instinct” as part of Katie Paul’s A-to-Z Blog Challenge. Check out the other articles of her challenge at her website Head Heart Health.

Katie Paul small headshotKatie Paul has survived adoption, bulimia and the suicide of her husband, more or less unscathed. She attributes her resilience to her guardian angels Bob, Fred and Hugo.
She used to be a stage manager but gave it all up to write stories about loss, love, lust and longing. Her characters get a bit raunchy at time because that’s the way life should be – full of big juicy moments. She is sure Bob, Fred and Hugo agree. You can reach via her blog here, or order her fiction books here.

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  1. I’ve heard my need/want for independence thrown at me in a similar way. Interdependence is a great way to describe it. Needy in this way is not a flaw. It’s recognizing what you need to live your life fully and that’s not a bad thing at all.

  2. j.dareema@yahoo.com' D.jones says:

    Independent does not mean you don’t need anyone, it means that there is a network of positive people in your life that inspires you, which promotes independence, in which the individual gives back to others in the same way, mainstream America gives the wrong concept of independence, especially in someone’s material possession, interdependence, is someone who so busy helping others that they forget to take care of their own needs.

  3. swaling@yahoo.com' Steven says:

    I would have to disagree with j.dareema, I think this person is thinking of the dependent:co-dependent relationship.
    Moreover, this article gives a nice intro into the topic, but the only caveat I’d add would be that what we need to understand are the roles, such as described here, but also that we are in a continuously changing state. Understanding the differences between dependent/independent/codependent… and even counter-dependent are merely descriptions of our current state. The ability to recognize when we begin to shift from a more healthy role to an unhealthy role so that we can avoid certain pitfalls that makes out relationships with others feel unfulfilling, unsatisfying, etc.
    They can help us better reflect upon our “Self”… do I feel unappreciated because of my own insecurities or because the one I’m with so “independent” that they are not vested in the relationship? We also can use them to help us tactfully approach these topics and be more open to others when they approach us and open up about what they’re feeling. It’s not about judging but learning how to be complete and whole as individuals but enhanced by the shared common experiences, goals, and perspective of the other person.

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