What is emotional dependency?
Emotional dependency is the feeling that our happiness and personal worth depend entirely on our partner. When we are dependent, the other person is often the be-all and end-all to us. When they’re not there, we can feel:
On the other hand, if our partner is dependent, we can feel:
- Obligated to stay with the other person or reassure him/her all the time.
In a healthy, loving relationship, our happiness doesn’t depend on the other person. Of course, we want to spend time with our partner but we’re able to keep our relationship and our personal activities in balance. A dependent relationship can turn unhealthy very fast.
A question of balance
The diagram here shows a healthy relationship. You’re S and your partner is P. Each one of you is a whole circle. The red part represents what you are, what you think, and what you do without your partner. The part in the middle corresponds to what you share in a relationship: doing things together, consulting each other about certain decisions, etc.
As you can see, in a healthy relationship, there’s a shared portion and a personal portion for each partner. Emotional dependency is when the shared portion takes up too much space.
Am I dependent on my girlfriend or boyfriend?
Here are some clues that might help you decide:
- You feel empty when your partner isn’t there; you don’t like being alone.
- You stop seeing your friends or family to be with the one you love.
- You need your partner to constantly reassure you that he/she loves you.
- You get jealous or possessive; you’re scared that the other person will leave you.
- Your partner is your whole life! Without him/her, life has no value.
- You put up with the other person treating you badly (for example, insults, psychological violence, physical abuse) and you have trouble setting limits.
If you recognize yourself, take the time to identify your problem:
- When do you feel dependent? For example, when your partner goes out with his/her friends.
- How do you feel when that happens? For example, sad, abandoned.
- Does it have negative consequences for your relationship? For example, the other person gets mad.
- What do you need and what can you do to feel better? For example, remember wonderful times spent together to comfort yourself.
- Have you asked your partner for what you want? Think about how you could do it. For example, “I need to know you love me, even when you go out with friends. How could we do this?”
When you feel ready, talk about what you feel with your partner and try to find solutions together.
I’m suffocating! What can I do if my partner is dependent?
If your partner is dependent, here some questions you might ask yourself.
- Do you feel your own needs are respected? You have a right to express what you feel.
- Are you constantly reassuring your partner? You don’t have to be his/her crutch.
- What are your limits and private areas in the relationship? You can define them.
- What are you ready to do to make the situation better without taking responsibility for everything?
How are things in your relationship? Do you think you might be in a dependent relationship? If you have any doubts, talk to an adult you trust or call us!