Attachment is one framework for considering the way we relate to each other. Another is patterns of dependency in relationships. Insecure attachment styles can appear in stronger forms as elements of counter-dependency and co-dependency.
Counter-dependency refers to the fear of depending on other people. If you are counter-dependent, you will go to great lengths to avoid asking for help. You may have a great fear of feeling, or appearing to feel, in need, and find it exhausting to meet the needs of others. You can see the connection to avoidant attachment!
Co-dependency, the other side of the coin, is characterized by a person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person expends all of their energy other meeting the emotional and self-esteem needs of the other. It also describes a relationship that enables another person to maintain their irresponsible, addictive, or underachieving behavior. Characteristics of codependents include low self-esteem, people pleasing, care taking and poor boundaries.
Healthy relationships, over time, have an equal balance of give and take in terms of fulfilling needs, rather than favouring the needs of one partner. Codependent relationships are built around an imbalance of power that favour the needs of the taker, leaving the giver to keep on giving. This is an imbalanced relationship pattern where one partner assumes a high-cost ‘giver-rescuer’ (codependent) role and the other the ‘taker-victim’ (counter-dependent) role.
A partner’s emotional dependence on one another is a normal human need, and therefore should not be shamed. A 2006 MRI study by James Coan that demonstrated how partners can regulate each other’s psychological and emotional well-being. Codependent partners live through or for each other, while ignoring their own needs and wants, thus leading to resentment and other emotional distress. Secure functioning relationships, on the other hand, are based in true mutuality, which allows both partners’ needs and wants to be honored.