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curled around these images
just enough to make us dangerous
Putting it out there... 
18th-Jun-2015 08:45 pm
Ma brother
Pondering this lately because I've been warning to write something about this ('cause of reasons…). Are Sam and Dean actually codependent? Zachariah said they were and they are often referred to by fans as codependent (both negatively and positively). But are they?

of or relating to a relationship in which one person is physically or psychologically addicted, as to alcohol or gambling, and the other person is psychologically dependent on the first in an unhealthy way.

excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.

1. Mutually dependent.
2. Of or relating to a relationship in which one person is psychologically dependent in an unhealthy way on someone who is addicted to a drug or self-destructive behavior, such as chronic gambling.

So is codependency the right word for their relationship? Just curious...

Poll #2014387 Codependent?

Do you consider Sam and Dean codependent?

Not sure
There's no single word that describes their relationship
Don't really care what you call it. It is what it is.
What?! You still thinking the thinky stuff?!
18th-Jun-2015 01:50 pm (UTC)
you left out the only word that should describe them: PSYCHOCHESTERS \o/
18th-Jun-2015 02:06 pm (UTC)
dammit! Yes I did indeed!
18th-Jun-2015 01:55 pm (UTC)
[ok, did some more research, editing]
I did a little research on this some time back, and I am NOT sure my information is correct, but from what I could gather, it doesn't fit them very well. I agree that they are very attached to each other, and take, shall we say, liberties that don't respect boundaries enough. Regardless, shaming people for nit being normative or squeaky-clean healthy, sucks.
The definition above is pretty cruel, imo.

OK - so it isn't even in the DSM, and some argue that it is basically a healthy thing.
According to the proposed and rejected DSM entry, though, yeah, it does sound like them:

Edited at 2015-06-18 02:03 pm (UTC)
18th-Jun-2015 02:14 pm (UTC)
Wow, it does sound like them…

Regardless, shaming people for nit being normative or squeaky-clean healthy, sucks.

this is a little a long the lines of something I want to write about. Or rather…people who watch (and enjoy/am intrigued by) that aspect of their relationship.

Thanks so much for the link. It seems the definition of codependency isn't easily defined...
18th-Jun-2015 02:16 pm (UTC)
Ticked the 'no single word' box because there are elements of codependency in their relationship, elements of disfunction, but there are also a lot of other things going on there that are not dysfunctional, and are actually things you would expect/want to see in a loving relationship. Plus you can then throw in all the sibling stuff - rivalry, competitiveness, teasing, supporting, defending etc etc...

Edited at 2015-06-18 02:16 pm (UTC)
18th-Jun-2015 03:00 pm (UTC)
*nods* I actually think it's not easily defined - quite possibly because it's a fictional (almost fantastical) relationship and therefore doesn't fit any kind of "norm". Perhaps their relationship needs a new definition. A new word...
18th-Jun-2015 03:05 pm (UTC)
Yep - just call is a Winchester relationship and you have it nailed!
18th-Jun-2015 11:43 pm (UTC)
Hee, yes. I'd like to see that one turn up in medical journals. Someone comes in diagnosed with "Winchester" relationship syndrome and the psychiatrist runs a mile. Too hard to sort out!
19th-Jun-2015 04:12 am (UTC)
18th-Jun-2015 02:53 pm (UTC)
I ticked 'there's no single word that describes their relationship' because yes, I think there's definitely elements of codependency there but it's mixed up in whole bag of other issues. Basically they're complicated.

But yes, in fandom I've definitely called them codependent before but I guess I meant it as more of a fandom definition, like our own way of describing the Winchesters that we all understand, but maybe an outsider wouldn't?
18th-Jun-2015 03:07 pm (UTC)
Basically they're complicated.


but maybe an outsider wouldn't?

Ah, yes. That's interesting. I always wonder how "outsiders" view things. Probably just..."shrug* they're brothers. That's what brothers do. (or probably don't even think much about it. I need to take a leaf I think...;D)
18th-Jun-2015 04:00 pm (UTC)
It is interesting, right?! Because I think in my own head 'codependent complicated' is how I would describe them to my flist and I think we all know what I'm referring too, that twisted and unhealthy but wonderful relationship that they share and we love. But an outsider may take a more 'dictionary' definition of that and not quite understand.

18th-Jun-2015 02:57 pm (UTC)
I think at the time when Z. said it it was a willfully reductive analysis. And I think that it was significant that what went wrong in S4 happened mostly because they stopped depending on each other and erroneously placed their faith in external agencies instead.
20th-Jun-2015 12:32 am (UTC)
*nods* and continues to be so I think. They often play with the consequences of them not depending/trusting each other.

I wonder though if the term codependent as a way of describing their relationship was first used after Zach mentioned it. Hmmmm
20th-Jun-2015 12:49 am (UTC)
Oh, yes. I'm certain that's where it's all come from.
18th-Jun-2015 04:34 pm (UTC)
In seasons 2 and 3 they were. After season 4, not really.
20th-Jun-2015 12:34 am (UTC)
Yeah. I'd say it crept back in during S8-S9 also (but seemed more destructive in those later seasons I think…).
18th-Jun-2015 05:23 pm (UTC)
...and I'm seeing and hearing Sammy in my head, "It's conjoined twins!" I clicked 'no single word' and 'is what it is.'

I don't think you can put a clinically accurate label on their relationship. I don't think you could reproduce their relationship with another pair of siblings, given the irreplicable circumstances of their upbringing and the personal idiosyncrasies of their personalities, and how those combine to give us these characters and the relationship they have, not forgetting the fictionality of all the above.

Ultimately, it is what it is, and I don't think the brothers or their relationship benefit, or suffer, from labels except as how labels serve to further separate them together, in viewers' eyes, from "normal" society.

I'm not sure I answered the question?
20th-Jun-2015 12:36 am (UTC)
I'd say you did answer the question…:)

And I'd agree with that. Also, it helps with what I'm thinking about writing about. Especially the fictionality of their relationship.
18th-Jun-2015 06:09 pm (UTC)
Codependancy is one of those words that has crossed over from psychology into maintstream without people really understanding it's meaning. It literraly means 'being dependant on somebody elses dependancy/addiction'

It originally just referred to close relatives of addicts who continue enabling the addcits over a prolonged period of time (covering up, being supportive, putting own needs second) to meet their own psychological needs (fear of abandonment, being a carer, confirming own sense of worthlessness).

More recently it has been broadened out to include enabeling other kind of unhealthy or inacceptable behaviour patters in a partner (less commonly child/parent).

Criteria for codependancy are: it is a one-sided relationship (where one person provides care and support but does not receive it), the relationship is emotionally distructive or abusive to one partner and sustains the other partners addiction/unhealthy or unacceptable behaviour.

I cannot really see how that applies to the Winchesters. This is not to say that they have a healthy relationship (Hell no! And where would be the fun in that anyway?) but it's a very reciprocal relationship where they both 'give and take' and hurt and support each other in (fairly) equal meassures.
20th-Jun-2015 12:41 am (UTC)
Thank you for this. I think there are certainly some aspects of that that creep into the definition of what they have. I don't see them having a one sided relationship though. I think their "need" for each other along with their need for feeling worthwhile alternates. It's played out differently, due to their personalities, and it fluctuates between being healthy and unhealthy I think.

18th-Jun-2015 06:11 pm (UTC)
No, because "codependent" is a word with a specific meaning. Maybe not quite a clinical meaning, but a specific meaning which doesn't fit the situation. What fandom describes the Winchesters as having (not, IMO, what they are, but the commentary that I see attached to "codependence") is amour fou.

Edited at 2015-06-18 06:12 pm (UTC)
20th-Jun-2015 12:45 am (UTC)
*looks up* "amour fou". Hmm… excessive passion. Could well be. Perhaps that "codependent" doesn't have a clinical meaning makes it an "easy" word to use in when describing them. Even the word "dependent" seems to somewhat describe their relationship.

Thanks for that. Never heard that term before and I would say that some fans would agree that maybe that is what they have (I certainly know I seem to have it when it comes to the show!)
18th-Jun-2015 06:44 pm (UTC)
Hmm. The definition seems kinda out of left field for common usage, right? Connotation vs denotation? But regardless, if you take one brother as psychologically addicted to the other (makes self-destructive decisions based on keeping his "addiction" around) and the 2nd brother is psychologically dependent on the first, then they are textbook-definition codependent.
18th-Jun-2015 10:48 pm (UTC)
psychologically speaking this is one of my most favorite parts of their dynamic ,its hard to explain but I think you got it
20th-Jun-2015 08:51 am (UTC)
Oh hi!

I would say so too. And interchangeable I think.

I've heard this terms used for twins I know - but I think it wasn't meant in the way its defined in text books (or, on line…). I felt like it was used meaning they can't live without each other - or can't do anything without the others approval etc. I wonder if that's the way fandom sometimes uses it too.

I know I'm psychologically addicted to both of them!
3rd-Jul-2015 04:00 am (UTC)
Hi :) totally delayed here, but I do think that's how fandom uses the word. and I kind of think, who cares what some psychologist defined it as 60 years ago? Times change, words change, and this is what codependent means now :)
18th-Jun-2015 08:02 pm (UTC)
I checked no, single word. I do think the relationship is complicated. I also don't see a lot of co in the codependency. Dean has a very hard time living without Sam or at least without someone to take care of i.e. Ben when Sam was in the Cage. However, he managed when he was in Purgatory. Sam is able to have a life without Dean and is able to picture a life without him. I will say that parts of the rejected definition of codependency come close to describing the relationship, but even that doesn't quite fit in my mind.
20th-Jun-2015 08:54 am (UTC)
I think there are times when the term fits them quite well (as defined as psychologically addicted), but then we'll see examples of that not being the case. Though, in those examples (Sam in the pit and Dean in purgatory), it's usually used to show us their need to be back together or how their separation fails in some way. That's more to do with necessity of story telling I know, but I think there is also an attempt to give us reasons why they seem to have trouble being apart.
19th-Jun-2015 02:11 am (UTC)
As usual, your thinky stuff makes me think thinky stuff. 8-)

Codependency is a weird term because although it isn't recognized in the DSM, there is a kind of clinical definition that has to do with one person in a relationship being dependent on the other person being addicted to something. I think there are elements of that there but that leaves out a lot that goes on between the boys. In addition to that though, there seems to be some sort of different understanding of the term codependency in pop culture that has broadened to mean two people in a relationship that can't seem to stay apart from each other, almost like they are addicted to each other and the relationship itself. In the fandom dictionary under codependency, it says see Winchester. Then there is the emphasis the show puts on the family aspect of this relationship. I think Lisa said something about unhealthy, tangled up, and crazy.

Whatever it is, I think watching the relationship over the course of the 10 seasons has been a crash course in the progression of a number of psych problems left uncared-for. I'll be interested to see what you write about those of us interested in that aspect of the show. I really hate to admit how invested I am with the continuation of this largely (at least at this point) unhealthy relationship. For the last 7 years, there has been a thread of SPN that has figured in every major realization I've had about myself. For better or worse, the show has been a big piece of who I have been all through my 40s. I wonder who I'd be without it.
20th-Jun-2015 09:05 am (UTC)
As usual, your thinky stuff makes me think thinky stuff. 8-)

I'm glad! I always like your thinky! I'm wanting to write about individual reactions to the brothers relationship but realised that if I use the term "co-dependent", it might not be the correct word.

And yes, I think you're right about that definition. The fact that the show itself explores the nature of addiction (Sam with blood, and Dean to the Mark) could link to how they feel about each other. I know I'm grasping at straws here (*g*) but the idea of them being addicted to each other is interesting.

For the last 7 years, there has been a thread of SPN that has figured in every major realization I've had about myself. For better or worse, the show has been a big piece of who I have been all through my 40s. I wonder who I'd be without it.

That is really interesting. And I suspect it must be quite confronting. Their relationship isn't the easiest to accept at times and made worse, I think, because the show seems unable to fully realise the issues they raise.

I wonder who I'd be without it.

That's an interesting thought too. I often think the same due to my rather heavy involvement in fandom over the years. I often wonder what else I would have been doing. I'm not at all unhappy about it as I know I've had a lot of fun - but it does cross my mind.

19th-Jun-2015 02:24 am (UTC)
So complicated! But I CHOOSE to believe that their relationship is NOT unhealthy, that in fact they have a healthy response to the world they live in, which is to love and depend on each other in the face of the madness all around them. They make sense and define their universe by NOT letting it control them and tell them what's healthty or normal or sane. They decide, despite the evidence to the contrary, that what they're doing (and how they are together) connotes a better reality than the one they were born into, and that's what makes them heroes, in my book :)
20th-Jun-2015 09:14 am (UTC)
It is indeed very complicated and I don't think there is a single definition or term.

It's good to read your interpretation as it's an area I want to write about - how fans respond to it. I suppose each response will be as different as the response to this post.

I can't say I think they have a healthy relationship exactly, though in light of the lives they have it's probably remarkably healthy. I think they have done questionable things to keep each other alive - but it's that aspect of their relationship that makes it so compelling (to me).
19th-Jun-2015 02:50 am (UTC)
At a glance, it would seem they are...until you factor in their background.

Dean is a parentified child. He was Sam's primary caregiver under difficult and dangerous circumstances. He learned early and hard not to take his eye off the ball(Something Wicked). We see the line between parent and brother blur with both action and word - mostly in earlier seasons, but even as late as Dark Dynasty. And parents don't outlive their kids.

Sam will always be...well, the Child. Constantly running either to or from Dean. Clandestinely scheming and secretive. He wants so badly to 'save' his brother, to make Dean proud, he misses the forest for the trees. But he never stops trying, that validation means so much.

So, I don't think codependent. I think they are each chasing their own tails while orbiting the black hole that is John.
19th-Jun-2015 07:15 am (UTC)
This! This right here was what I was so badly trying to say and failed miserably at, lol!
19th-Jun-2015 03:13 am (UTC)
I checked the 'no single word' option, because I don't think you can reduce their complicated relationship to 'codependent'. There are elements of it, in the blurred boundaries and intense fear of being abandoned and willingness to go to great lengths to prevent it, but theirs is a more reciprocal relationship instead of one person enabling the other's addiction or dysfunction. They are so many things to each other, it's hard to fit the Winchesters into any boxes easily - brothers, parent/child, abandoned children, partners, in the most literal sense 'significant others'. Sort of defies quick and easy description, which is one of the things I love most about them.

ps - I also love your thinky thoughts :)
21st-Jun-2015 09:34 am (UTC)
*nods* and *nods* and *nods*. This. :) I agree it's too hard to pigeon hole. Which is why they are so fascinating and compelling.
19th-Jun-2015 07:13 am (UTC)
I think they are to a certain extent codependent, but I don't think it runs to the normal descriptors of the condition. If we watch them in their day to day, they tend to grate on each other, need space from each other, and sometimes don't even like each other that much, which is normal in any sibling relationship, or indeed any relationship in general. Sometimes you just have to walk out the room in order to gather your thoughts. And especially considering the amount of time they spend with each other. To be honest, the fact that they get along as well as they do the majority of the time is a miracle.

However, where they do display extreme codependency is in their inability to *let* the other go/walk away/in some cases die.

This I think is linked heavily with John's insistence that Dean make sure he spend his entire life working to look after Sam, whether that be putting food on their table or saving him from monsters of unspeakable evil, or even himself.

They both seem to have an overwhelming need to make sure the other does not check out, and if they do, they are damned well coming back, whether they like it or not.

They can both live quite happily apart, as long as they are in fact alive!

Just my random thoughts on it ;)

Edited at 2015-06-19 07:14 am (UTC)
21st-Jun-2015 09:39 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for sharing those thoughts. It's the "can't let each other die" that's the most curious thing about the relationship. I agree that, at times, they can live apart and even need time apart from each other. But I think it's the lengths they are prepared to go to to keep the other from death that's fascinating. I've always thought that letting the other go would be the better option sometimes (I've often thought that about Dean bringing Sam back in S2), because each time they come back there is much suffering to be had. But the show must go on, so they must also! (yay!)
22nd-Jun-2015 02:06 pm (UTC)
Hee, you know how much I love your discussion and thinky thoughts posts hun, so you're welcome and thank you for making this creaking brain work ;)
20th-Jun-2015 06:45 am (UTC)
I'd have to say yes, absolutely. I've actually been doing some research along these lines recently, both out of interest for personal reasons and for a meta I'm thinking about writing. My theory is that part of the reason why Sam and Dean are co-dependent is because John is really narcissistic. He seems to have most of the associated qualities, and it's affected the brothers in various ways. For example, he expected Dean to look after Sam and took off for weeks at a time, which resulted in not only physical but emotional neglect. He was just a kid and not ready for the responsibility. It shouldn't have been his problem to deal with. Instead of being a parent and setting proper boundaries, what John showed them was that they would have to depend on themselves because he had checked out. But they lacked the maturity or coping skills to care for themselves and just did the best they could. So their bond is not really healthy, but it's in response to their upbringing and makes sense in that context to me.
21st-Jun-2015 09:43 am (UTC)
Yes, I can see that. I don't know enough about narcissism to comment on whether John had that. He was definitely obsessed with hunting and because of that denied his children a proper childhood (especially Dean). I also agree that the characters are s a product of their upbringing - and because that was unconventional, so is their relationship. I'd be interested to see what your meta is about. I'm wanting to explore the audience reaction to their relationship and talk about why some fans think it's unhealthy to enjoy it the way it is.

Thanks for your thoughts.
21st-Jun-2015 08:55 am (UTC)
1. Mutually dependent.
2. Of or relating to a relationship in which one person is psychologically dependent in an unhealthy way on someone who is addicted to a drug or self-destructive behavior, such as chronic gambling.

See, I'm old and the mutually dependent definition of the word is the one I use as that's how I was schooled, things like trade, pollination etc, those things were always co-dependant or mutually dependent which is a highly beneficial relationship.

The second definition, if you trace it back, goes only to the early 80s and came about from first AA addressing the family problems and using the term co-alcoholic, then on to co-chemically dependent, which was later shortened to codependent.

This is an age and culture/language thing to me as the two meanings seem totally opposite to each other and I often forget it's newer more clinical usage.
21st-Jun-2015 10:42 am (UTC)
which is a highly beneficial relationship.

Hmmm, yes. And interesting when thinking of it like that for the Winchesters. And maybe the discussion is more about whether their relationship is indeed highly beneficial. Perhaps to each other (if staying alive is indeed beneficial) but maybe not for the world? Or dammit, maybe it IS good for the world if they're out there keeping (some) people safe.

which was later shortened to codependent.

Oh that's interesting. It's not a word I've come across before hearing it as a way of describing the Winchesters. I've always thought as is simply as mutually depending on each other - which I think describes the boys. It seems though it has a much deeper, darker clinical meaning that some fans seem to like to use when demonstrating how negative the relationship is.
21st-Jun-2015 12:15 pm (UTC)
Yes, it was a word for mutual dependency long before it became a clinical diagnosis, which is I think causing many of the problems with fans arguing over how it's horrendously negative and destructive or the corner stone of their lives. One of these things is not like the other, so you can't really discuss it as the meanings are totally opposite of each other.

I guess I've always seen them as knowing deep down they can only rely, trust, work, really know each other in the whole world, an isolation that makes them incredible attuned to each other, the ultimate fighting unit because each is the other half of the other and I've never seen anything wrong there. Tom Burke, when talking about the Musketeers, always talks about their 'codependency' and he always means how they ultimately only totally trust and rely on each other, the bond that has been forged in fire of war and brotherhood and there is nothing unhealthy there.

I think maybe we need to actually drop the word 'codependency' because it is obviously not meaning the same to everyone? Yeah, oh look - there's a piggy up there behind that cloud...
21st-Jun-2015 12:48 pm (UTC)
I think maybe we need to actually drop the word 'codependency' because it is obviously not meaning the same to everyone?

Which is precisely why I asked the question. *g* I was starting to write some stuff up about their "codependency" as though it's a given. I then thought that everyone will have their own idea of what that word means and that many won't even use that word to describe their relationship (and I think the poll confirmed that. Though many do consider them "co-dependent" - but I'm sure each have their own definition of it).

You know, I'm mostly (still!) trying to get my head around being told I'm scary because I was showing some excitement about the boys relationship. I wanted to write something about that but maybe it's more about understanding that everyone reacts to it differently and that's just the way it is.

Still might write something in defence of liking it though…;)
21st-Jun-2015 01:41 pm (UTC)
I'm positive the two different takes on the word are not helping matters.

Individuals and their circumstances are always going to affect everyone differently; how we interpret show scenes is dependent on our own histories and experiences which are all unique and this naturally spills over into fandom. However, I'm of the opinion we can't be expected to understand each individual's nuances only try to be open minded; triggers, no matter how careful we are, are as individual as a finger print and there's always going to be something taken for granted that another will interpret differently on both sides.

You ain't scary honey, I do appreciate though that an accusation like that, coming out of the blue, is deeply disturbing and bewildering because it wasn't meant in the fashion it was taken, but that often is the case with personal upsets and triggers. Maybe writing some of it out in the context of this differing meanings of a single word will help - *shrug* I really don't know, but good luck - you know how scared fandom makes me!
22nd-Jun-2015 12:03 pm (UTC)
in seasons 2 and 3 they were, then it wasnt there again until 8 and 9, in some obvious instances where you can clearly see it. i clicked it is what it is and no word to describe there are positives and there are negatives to it i hope i didnt sound mean. *backs away from this topic*

Edited at 2015-06-22 12:44 pm (UTC)
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