While codependency in a relationship is something I’m well-acquainted with, counterdependency is a new word to me describing a concept I understand quite well. The opposite of being all-consumingly clingy and codependent, a counterdependent individual tends to resist intimacy, clearly defined relationships, and uses pet names like “dude” to keep distance from you. Need a face to illustrate counterdependency? Consider the following two words: Justin Bobby.
I know I’m very late to the early-aughts game, but I’m currently watching The Hills for the first time, and I have all-caps STRONG and AUTHENTIC FEELINGS about each and every character. But no one makes my blood boil like Justin Bobby and his manipulative, counterdependent BS directed at on-again, off-again flame Audrina Patridge.
Counterdependency signs can include a fear of commitment, a fear of intimacy, and a resistance to monogamy, says sex and relationship therapist Tammy Nelson, PhD. Regarding the last point, I understand that monogamy is hardly the only desired relationship construct, with setups like swinging, polyamory, and open relationships being more gloriously mainstream with each passing day. Still, plenty of people still seek monogamy, and plenty of counterdependents drag them through the mud in pursuit of it. (Ahem, Justin Bobby.)
Counterdependency signs can include a fear of commitment, a fear of intimacy, and a resistance to monogamy,
If you are seeking an exclusivity, it’s easy to get stuck in an exhaustingly ill-fated game of chasing a counterdependent person. I’m four seasons deep into The Hills at this point, and I can’t believe Audrina continues to wait for Justin Bobby’s I-hate-labels ways to change. Because I have seen no change. I’ve seen a lot of really bad hats, but no change.
Basically, counterdependency can keep all parties involved from enjoying the fruits of a real, committed relationship—whether you’re the avoidant Justin Bobby or the hopeful Audrina. To stay aware of what’s going on with your life and situation, below, Dr. Nelson shares three signs of counterdependency that don’t exclusively hinge on a reality TV show from the early aughts as a case study.
Spot the following 3 signs of counterdependency in your partner before they wreak havoc on your relationship.
1. They reject long-term love because they claim it’s “restrictive”
A counterpendent person is self-involved and revels in the notion of not “needing” anyone. This lone-wolf persona can seem sexy at the outset, and while you may initially dismiss this aloofness as mystery, when you take a deeper look, you realize the person mostly just…doesn’t care for others. They don’t seem to have any close friends, strong family ties, or a desire for titles such as “partner,” “boyfriend,” or “girlfriend” (“why can’t we just be people?” they ask).
Dr. Nelson says to look out for someone who’s never had a long-term partnership, rejects any connection to children or their own family members, and describes love as an initiative that’s ‘holding them back’ or ‘holding them down.’
2. They’ve had relationships, but never a long one
If you learn the person you’re pursuing has never hit the one year mark with an ex, and most of these former flames barely even qualify as bona fide exes due to lack of significance in the first place, you might have a red flag on your hands. “[A counterdependant] person refuses to date anyone for longer than a few months, because they feel like it ‘cramps their style’ or that it takes away their freedom,” Dr. Nelson says.
3. Their attachment style is avoidant
There are four main attachment styles: secure, anxious, fearful-avoidant, and dismissive-avoidant. Fearful-avoidant focuses on avoiding intimacy in light of anxiety about abandonment, since allowing anyone to get close invites the potential for abandonment. Dismissive-attachment is, well, the Justin Bobby kind. These people are simply not in the business of being someone’s dedicated life partner.
“Anytime they feel close to someone, they sabotage the relationship or move away, disappear, create a conflict or a breakup, or just simply ghost, with no explanation, other than that it feels too ‘stifling’ or they just need ‘space,'” says Dr. Nelson.
So, in the event that you ever hear an awful rumor about your newish partner cheating on you with your friend, and your partner has been essentially ghosting you for a week? Consider it a possible self-sabotaging case of counterdependency. (Although seriously, LC hooking up with Justin Bobby? I cannot believe that.)
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