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7 Minutes Read

Intimacy vs. Codependency – What’s the Difference?

Intimacy and codependency are two entirely different things that can be easily confused. When it comes to intimate vs. codependent relationships, it is important to understand the difference and strive for real intimacy which offers support and understanding between two people.

What is intimacy?

The word 'intimacy' comes from the Latin word 'intimus,' which means 'inner' or 'innermost.' People can connect with each other in many ways when they are close. Relational intimacy refers to a sense of closeness and emotional support between two people. It involves being able to communicate the full range of human emotions, thoughts, and experiences. It entails revealing your innermost feelings to another person by having heartfelt conversations, letting your guard down, and sharing your aspirations with them.

Intimacy can also refer to sexual relations between two people. However, sex is not synonymous with intimacy. Intimacy between two people can grow through sexual encounters, but that's not the only sign of intimacy. You can have sex without being close, and you can also be close without having sex.

Intimacy is an essential part of a healthy relationship. It involves the emotional connection between two people. It can help to build self-esteem and foster trust and understanding. 

Unfortunately, some people can become addicted to intimacy, seeking it out as a way to escape from the reality of their lives or relieve distress. This type of behavior can be toxic and lead to codependency in relationships where one partner depends on the other for their own emotional fulfillment. 

What are signs of intimacy?

Intimacy can be a powerful force that brings two people closer together and creates a strong bond between them. Here are some signs of genuine intimacy in a relationship.

Healthy communication

Healthy communication involves being able to express one's feelings and thoughts openly, without fear or judgment. It also involves listening actively to the other person, understanding their perspective, and responding in an appropriate manner. 

Healthy communication allows for more effective problem-solving as both parties can express their opinions freely and work together to come up with solutions that are beneficial for both of them.

Respect for boundaries

Respect for boundaries means respecting the other person’s physical, emotional, and mental space. This could mean not invading their personal space or not pushing them to do something they are uncomfortable with. It also means being aware of their feelings and respecting their decisions even if you don’t agree with them. 

Respect for boundaries is an important part of any relationship as it allows both parties to feel safe and secure in the relationship.

Mutual support and acceptance

Mutual support means that both parties are willing to help one another out when needed, whether it’s lending a listening ear or offering advice. Acceptance is when two people can accept each other’s differences without judgment or criticism. This helps create a safe space for them to express themselves openly and honestly. 

Mutual support and acceptance is a type of support that is essential in any relationship as it allows both people to feel valued and appreciated.

Honesty and openness

When two people are honest and open with each other, it creates a deeper level of trust and understanding. Honesty allows both parties to be vulnerable and share their true feelings without fear of judgment or criticism. 

Openness encourages communication, which is key to any successful relationship.

What is codependency?

Codependency is an addiction to unhealthy behavior in a relationship, which can be with a partner, family member, or friend. The term "codependency" is often used in a casual context to describe relationships in which one person is excessively reliant on, or "codependent," with another. In a codependent relationship, one partner provides care while the other partner takes advantage of the caretaker. The codependent person's whole existence is structured around the needs of the enabler. 

Codependency is a dysfunctional disorder that can be difficult to recognize. It is characterized by an inability of the caretaker to let go of relationships, even when they are abusive or unhealthy. People who suffer from codependency often feel frustrated but they may not know why. They may try to manipulate the situation in order to accommodate their partner’s needs, but this only leads to further despair.

What are signs of codependency?

Codependency is damaging to both partners. It permits one spouse to fall even further while requiring the other to entirely sacrifice her own desires and needs in order to take care of the other. Here are some indicators that your relationship may be a codependent one:

Unhealthy dependence on the other person

Unhealthy dependence occurs when one person in a relationship relies too heavily on the other for emotional and/or physical support, often to the point where they become overly dependent and unable to function without them. Codependent relationships can be damaging as they can lead to feelings of insecurity, low self-esteem, and even depression. 

Signs of codependency include an inability to make decisions without consulting the other person, sacrificing personal needs for the sake of the relationship, and feeling responsible for the other person's happiness. If you recognize any of these signs in your own relationship, it may be time to take steps to break out of this unhealthy cycle and focus on developing a healthier connection with your partner.

Fear of rejection or abandonment

Fear of rejection or abandonment can be caused by a variety of factors, including past experiences, low self-esteem, and a lack of trust in relationships. People who are codependent may feel like they need to please others in order to be accepted and loved. They may also struggle with setting boundaries or saying no to requests from others. 

This fear can lead to unhealthy behaviors such as over-giving, people-pleasing, and sacrificing their own needs for the sake of others. It is important for those struggling with codependency to recognize this fear and learn how to set healthy boundaries in order to create healthy relationships with themselves and others.

An inability to express feelings or needs effectively

Codependence is a condition in which an individual is unable to express their feelings or needs effectively. This can manifest itself in various ways, such as difficulty expressing emotions, avoiding conflict and confrontation, or relying heavily on others for approval and validation. It can also lead to feelings of low self-esteem, guilt, and shame. 

People who are codependent may also have difficulty setting boundaries and asserting themselves in relationships. They may also struggle with communication, finding it hard to express their thoughts and feelings openly. Codependence can be damaging to both the individual and their relationships, as it can lead to resentment, frustration, and even depression. 

A desire to control others or the relationship

Codependence can manifest in different ways, such as trying to control how the other person behaves or dresses, or even trying to dictate who they spend time with. It can also be seen in attempts to control finances or decision-making within the relationship. In extreme cases, codependent behavior can lead to emotional and physical abuse. 

Difference between intimacy vs. codependency 

In a codependent relationship, one partner often feels ashamed of their need for emotional intimacy, leading them to conquer the habit of relying on the other partner for emotional support. This can lead to a situation where one partner doesn’t know how to be emotionally independent, and may even start to believe that they don’t love themselves or deserve love.

In contrast, an intimate relationship allows both partners the luxury of learning how to be emotionally independent while still having someone they can rely on. The first step towards achieving this balance is often the simplest: learning how to communicate your needs without fear or shame. Once you’ve mastered that, you can begin building a strong foundation of trust and mutual respect in your relationship.

Here are some examples of different communication between an intimate and codependent relationship:

Codependency: If you're not happy, I'm not happy.

Intimacy:  I accept you as you are, without attempting to change or improve anything about you. You have your own identity and you should embrace it.

Codependency: Please support me, or else, I'll guilt you in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

Intimacy: I don't snap out if the help I need isn't given to me in the manner I want it to be, and I don't limit my requests for assistance to only my partner.

Codependency: You should have no trouble figuring out my needs. If I have to explain it to you, it just isn't the same.

Intimacy: I tell you exactly what I need and desire without making excuses.

Intimacy is when two people are connected in a healthy way, while codependency is when one person relies too heavily on the other for their emotional needs. 

People who are codependent may use intimacy to avoid facing their own issues and overlook any potential problems in the relationship. They may quietly hope that their partner would meet all of their needs without hesitation, but this isn't realistic. In order to feel accepted, they may act as if everything is okay even when it's not.

What help do you need?

With the right support and guidance, it is possible to break free from codependency and lead a healthier life.  Recovery from codependency often involves therapy to learn how to build healthy relationships and heal from past traumas. This can help codependent people develop healthy boundaries and self-esteem as well as recognize toxic behaviors in others. 

If you think you may be codependent, click the button below to schedule a free initial consultation — we can help you relate better with others and learn how to let go of unhealthy relationships.


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