If you’ve had even one hour of therapy, chances are you’ve heard the word “codependence” tossed around. It’s a buzzy term psychologists use to describe a person who relies on someone else—usually a romantic partner—to fulfill all of their emotional needs. (A Star Is Born’s Jackson and Ally, anyone?) Being in a codependent relationship has always been a huge, unhealthy no-no. And if you throw an addiction or an abusive relationship into the mix, welp, then it gets really tough.
But Robert Weiss, PhD, MSW, a sex, intimacy and relationship specialist, has a fascinating theory. By labeling relationships (and people) as codependent, we’re essentially punishing poor Jackson and Ally for what is actually a good instinct: loving and caring about your partner. In his new book, Prodependence: Moving Beyond Codependency, Weiss coins an entirely new term. You guessed it: prodependence.
What the heck is prodependence? In a nutshell, Weiss explains that prodependence “is an attachment-focused (rather than trauma-focused) term I’ve created to describe relationships that are healthfully interdependent, where one person’s strengths fill in the vulnerabilities of the other and vice versa, with this mutual support occurring automatically and without question.” So basically, it’s a positive, symbiotic relationship in which the couple is supportive of, but not overly relying on, one another. Hmm. That sounds…healthy.
But didn’t RuPaul tell me that if I don’t love myself, how in the hell am I gonna love somebody else? Sure. And that’s true, in theory. But connecting with a great person is a strength, and it’s possible that you’ll feel even more confident, happy and healthy with a supportive S.O. by your side. And according to Weiss, no, that doesn’t make you codependent.
So what’s the difference between prodependence and codependence? When a codependent relationship is spotted by a psychologist (especially when addiction or abuse is in the mix), the patient is often told that they are part of the problem, that their love is enabling and harming the other person, and that detaching from the whole situation is the best solution. But when a therapist encourages prodependence, the patient is instead praised for their efforts to help and doing their best to address what’s going on. They also need to acknowledge that without professional help, they will be unlikely to be able to solve the issue—but ultimately there is nothing wrong or bad about the initial instinct of loving and supporting your partner’s positive traits.
Cool. How do I find out more about this? Grab Prodependence: Moving Beyond Codependency ($12) on Amazon. Your relationship looks healthier already.