Healthy Relationships: Who’s on First? What’s on Second?

Ken Donaldson Who's On First? Independence, Codependence or Interdependence?

Who’s On First? Independence, Codependence or Interdependence?

Who’s on First? What’s on Second? Navigating In, Through and Around the Independence, Codependence and Interdependence of Loving Relationships


Remember that old Abbott and Costello skit where the two of them go back and forth and round and round trying to have a clear conversation about “Who’s on first,”etc.?

If you do, then surely your head will nod and you’ll probably smile and snicker a bit.

If you don’t remember or have any idea then I’d highly recommend and encourage you to go online and watch the video. It’s classic comedy at its best.

So, what does “Who’s on first and what’s on second,” have to do with loving relationships?

Everything! So, please read on…

The foundation for a happy, healthy, harmonious and lasting relationship is built on the cornerstone of honesty, openness and willingness.

This is commonly referred to as the H.O.W. factor.

This is HOW relationships succeed.

But let’s also look at how, unfortunately, relationships don’t succeed.

There are three primary dynamics of relationships that determine how healthy or unhealthy a relationship is. Think of this as a continuum, with independent relationships being at the extreme left side and codependent relationships being on the extreme right side. And, finally, imagine interdependent relationships being in the middle.



Independent relationships have the following characteristics and dynamics:

  • Distant
  • Disconnected
  • Disengaged
  • Distracted
  • Superficial
  • Avoidant

In other words, these are almost like non-relationships. They are usually based on convenience and familiarity. Additionally, they also have a deeper foundation steeped in fear, probably the fear of change and perhaps the fear of aloneness. Therefore, even though neither of the two people in the relationship is fulfilled, they “settle” for what they have because they don’t want to change and they don’t want to be alone. (Neither, generally, are good reasons to stay in relationships.)

Diversely, codependent relationships have the following dynamics and characteristics:

  • Enmeshed
  • Conflict-avoidant
  • Unequal responsibilities
  • Over-caretaking
  • Enabling
  • Denial

Like their opposite counterparts (but also very similar in some core ways), people often stay in these relationships because they don’t want to change and they like the “comfortableness” of the familiar. They also stay in them due to fear: The fear of feeling abandoned, rejected and unworthy, as well as the same fear of change and aloneness.

Both of these ends of the continuum are NOT very healthy (actually they have varying degrees of dysfunctionality), but yet there are many people who stay in these types of relationships. And the common underlying, hard-driving denominator is that of fear.


BUT WAIT…there IS hope!

The healthier and more balanced middle path.


Yes, the happy and healthy middle path, which, quite paradoxically, is probably the most difficult to find and stay on. It’s the most unknown choice and therefore it’s also probably the most “uncomfortable” path, at least initially, because it’s very unfamiliar, filled with uncertainty and, because of its novelty, it tends to be more unpredictable

AND uncomfortability, unfamiliarity, uncertainty and unpredictability are all the core ingredients of creating a happy, healthy and harmonious relationship.

It probably sounds a bit weird or backwards, but think about it: If you want new, better and different, you can’t repeat what you’ve always done.

The middle path of relationships is the path of interdependence, or the interdependent relationship. “Interdependent” isn’t even a commonly used word, much less a word that’d be used to describe relationships. The interdependent relationship is honest, open, and willing (H.O.W.) and is manifested by the following characteristics and dynamics:

  • Open communication (including healthy conflict resolution)
  • Emotionally intelligent (“say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean”)
  • Shared together time AND separate time
  • Equality and mutuality
  • Caregiving (the giving of care, rather than the taking of care)
  • Intimacy (sexual, emotional and spiritual)
  • The willingness to be vulnerable

So…which one do you want?


Probably, if you were like most people, you would, without hesitation, pick the interdependent relationship path. BUT, again, that’s the “road less traveled.” Actually, it’s the road least traveled, as we don’t really have much of an already designed map or a GPS to guide us.

Here’s the bottom-line: If you want something really great and wonderful and fulfilling in your life, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll need to step WAY out of your comfort zone to get it. You’ll have to go WAY past what’s been familiar and predictable, and instead, embrace the uncertainty of what is new, but highly functional.

SO…create your own map and GPS. Make a list of what you really want in a relationship, as well as what you really don’t want. Then make plans to build the skill-sets that’ll help you achieve a healthy interdependent relationship.

  • Read books
  • Listen to audios
  • Go to workshops
  • See a therapist
  • Hire a coach
  • Set and write the new standards for yourself
  • Get your friends to help hold you accountable

Then, above all else, be true to yourself. Actually I borrowed that (and hacked it) from Shakespeare (they talked funny back then, hence my modern day translation):

This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Make your list and check it twice (daily), and then go co-create the relationship of your dreams. After all, you DO deserve it!


Click here to Marry YourSelf First!




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