Passive Vs. Direct
By: Javan
July 11, 2013

Are you a people pleaser?  A controller? A SuperMan? A SuperMom? Highly confident? Are you always in your head? Are you the fixer or rescuer?

How would others describe you?

The use of labels can help discern between behaviors and reactions. Describing people’s tendencies without a name for an observable behavior or thought process can be challenging and cause confusion. I’m not a huge fan of labels because people are more complex than a simple definition of a behavior. Therefore, I use labels when it’s helpful in communicating and identifying observable characteristics. There is plenty of literature on co-dependency (passive), but very little on counter-dependency (direct). In our culture, counter-dependency is rarely seen as an issue. It is financially rewarded. Below is a list of general characteristics that describe the two personality styles in more detail. Neither perspective is the healthiest way to intimacy.


Insecure – doesn’t have to appear strong, independent, is okay with people knowing they are vulnerable.

Dependent – openly dependent on others, able to ask opinions, get information from others.

Needy – openly reliant on others for support or advice.

Other-focused – in critical moments or decision making, relies on data from others to make a decision or follow-up on action items.

Passive – non-confrontational, does not openly share strong personal opinions.

Triangles – shares with a third party regarding another person, due to non-confrontational nature.


Grandiose – thinks highly of one-self’s skill or self identity.

Independent (needy) – Independent to a fault, representing strength, confidence at a high level outwardly, but privately needy, only sharing insecurities with intimate partner or trusted people.

Oblivious – living in one’s head, unaware of others’ opinions, more aware of own opinion, likes, dislikes, desires. Can  appear self-absorbed.

Controlling – “Must Haves” or “Must do like this” in order to feel secure, under control. An effort to manage hidden shame and anxiety by controlling outside people or things.

No person is just one personality type or the other. Many people tend to shift between these two types depending on life situations, work demands, and family. Knowing and understanding these concepts can help you identify which trait you are using during a particular situation. Knowing how you respond can help you identify where and when you feel insecure, unsafe, and afraid. The need to become co-dependent or counter-dependent is a flag to say that you are perceiving something to be harmful. Being reactive means experiencing something larger than it is intended. If you tend to be co-dependent in your marriage, then it’s likely you aren’t sharing enough of your likes, dislikes, and frustrations. This can result in feelings of unfairness, resentment, or both. Being counter-dependent could mean that your spouse is drowning in your opinions, desires, and control. You might be managing your own insecurities through busyness, controlling, perfectionism, etc. Either way, neither one is feeling truly safe, grounded, and vulnerable. Both “styles” can lead to disappointment and alienation.

Counter and Co-dependency are based in childhood. It’s the brain’s way of deciding how to best survive. But surviving out of fear is not the best way to live as adults. These two intimacy styles were developed at some point in your life to predict people’s behaviors and respond to scary situations, when you were less empowered. When you were a child. Both are overly concerned with the outside world. If your parents got divorced when you were a kid, you might have started becoming overly concerned with how you feel about yourself, counter-dependent. Or, you might have started to focus on how everyone around you was behaving and feeling in order to gain a sense of control and predictability, co-dependent. Both ways are just the simplest way a child can gain a sense of control. When we grow older, we hold onto what we know. What worked best in childhood and carry these tendencies into adulthood. When we go to work, we use these skills. When we talk with family and friends, we use what we know and what comes naturally. When we interact with spouses, we use these finely honed tools as they are the sharpest in our emotional shed. However, they ARE sharp and can be harmful to our partner and to our selves.

Being overly counter-dependent and co-dependent in relationship means being out of balance with yourself. It’s also an indicator that you are feeling insecure, both with yourself and in your relationship. If you are making decisions out of feeling insecure, you are reacting. Reactivity is the behavior that shows you believe you are in a fight or flight situation. In other words, an angry place, triggered by fear. If your perception of a situation or person is triggering fear, you’ll probably use one of these types of characteristics to respond. Reactivity is a need to swing heavily in either direction, co or counter. Neither is a healthy choice. Being too passive or co-dependent is abandoning and being too counter-dependent is also abandoning. The goal is to become interdependent. Able to rely on others, remain vulnerable, and empowered all at the same time, knowing you will always be okay.

Interdependent means you accept the brokenness of yourself, do not need to manage it in an unhealthy, indirect way, and can apologize to others when you influenced someone in a negative way. Interdependent also means accepting the brokenness of others, not feeling victimized by your loved one, and accept their perspective as another reality, in addition to your own. But not in place of your own. To be interdependent is to know that I do not need to react with anger, but with vulnerable sadness, disappointment, hurt. Openly with honest feelings. That I share my true experience regardless of the reaction of another. It is the ability to be yourself, accepted as the gift you are to your self, so that you may be a gift to others.