What Is a Counter-Dependent?

By Heather Rolland Most people want intimacy in their lives. Giving up some independence in order to enjoy closeness with others is, for most of us, a normal and joyous part of adulthood. For people with counter-dependent issues, however, intimacy is much more difficult. Others are kept at arm’s length, and intimacy is fraught with peril. We’ve heard all the platitudes about relationships: expect to give and take. You have to learn to compromise. Even traditional marriage vows suggest that there are ebbs and flows in relationship dynamics — sometimes you are the strong one, supporting your partner, and sometimes you’re the one who needs support. In healthy relationships, both partners move in and out of these roles as situations and circumstances demand. Not so when one-half of the partnership has the constellation of intimacy issues labeled counter-dependent. These behaviors, explained by authors Janae and Barry Weinhold in the book Flight From Intimacy, are described as the opposite of co-dependency. Instead of needing relationships and intimacy at any cost, people described as counter-dependent need to appear self-sufficient.

Signs of Counter-Dependent Issues

  • Trouble with intimacy. It’s hard to let yourself be truly close to other people.
  • Brittle self-image that relies on being right all the time. People like this get labeled “know it all.”
  • Self-centered to the point of being a bore. It’s always all about you.
  • Perfectionism to a fault. Unreasonably high standards for yourself and others.
  • Independent regarding problem-solving. You have a hard time asking for help, and often don’t.
  • Vulnerability is seen as weakness, and to be avoided at all costs.
  • Driven and relentless, it can be hard to relax.

You can see how initially a person like this may seem appealing or even charismatic: they come across as smart, confident and energetic. These are excellent qualities in a casual friend or employee, but in intimate relationships these qualities end up being too intense and unbalanced. If you recognize counter-dependent qualities in yourself, reach out. A therapist and/or support group can help you understand your issues with intimacy, and ultimately be able to enjoy all that relationships have to offer.

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