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Three Boxes

In this exercise we will look at the difference of codependency and interdependency. Of note, codependency is lesser used in therapy circle these days, replaced with Self Love Deficiency Disorder. Codependency involves dynamics of control, manipulation, enabling, loss of self, and poor boundaries. Interdependency involves partners expressing their thoughts, feelings, and needs without being codependent. We want to avoid Karpman’s drama triangle, trying to offer support without erasing agency, allowing the opportunity to grow.

Box 1 Control (Codependent)

This is the classic definition of codependency, in which feelings of fear and anxiety lead the person to
try to assume control over outcomes, their partner, and out of control situations.

Feelings, usually fear-based, high anxiety, often angry and resentful. The person’s own needs are on the back burner, but he/she is always on alert for the next disaster.

Motivation, assumes control and responsibility for other’s (often) bad choices and behaviors damage control.

Behavior does anything that might help control the situation, using guilt, shame, pleading, excuses, and ultimately denial of the extent of the problem or consequences. Unintentionally enables others by  interfering with the natural outcomes others would experience as a result of their behavior.

Box 2 Expressing Feelings (Interdependent)

Interdependence refers to the mutual responsibility each partner has for understanding the other’s perspective. It is the ability to express emotions and needs without controlling or manipulating the other.

Feelings, negative emotions such as: unease, worry, anxiety, or fear, sadness etc. Positive emotions such as: serenity, happiness, relief, joy, gratitude, etc.

Motivation, to be honest with partner about feelings.

Behavior, describes own either positive or negative emotions (non-judgmentally) about the issue. May state preferences and hopes, but in a way that simply informs. There’s no effort to convince the partner of anything; rather, once the concerns and preferences are stated, the person has “gone on record” and it generally stops there.

Box 3 Offering Support (Interdependent)

Interdependence also refers to the mutual responsibility each partner has to the other to ask for and give support whenever possible. Simply put, support is doing something to make your partner’s life a little easier, as long as it is not harmful to the person giving that support.

Feelings, empathy, concern, caring. May also include worry or anxiety.

Motivation, to reach out to the partner, without assuming control or responsibility to assist in some way that helps a situation or a need.

Behavior, asks the partner what she or she needs, and if there is anything that would be helpful.

Have any thoughts, questions, suggestions, or comments on this article? Wondering how to this can be applied, modified, or adapted to your polyamorous, swinging, kink/ BDSM, or otherwise interesting relationship? Feel free to reach out to us here.