How to escape emotional dependence
We all dream of The One, but when your soulmate becomes your obsession, it’s a slippery slope towards a codependent relationship. Discover the signs of codependence and how to get over it.
Julie sends multiple texts to her husband every day. Marian agonises over whether or not her boyfriend says “I love you” enough, and Philip doesn’t buy any clothes without first seeking his wife’s approval... This need for the other person to be there and the fear that he or she will leave are both symptoms of codependence.
This kind of relationship is based on the idea of fusion. “This is a necessary step at the beginning, but if it continues, it can prevent the couple from building an adult relationship, “ explains psychotherapist Marie-Lise Labonté. “Being wrapped up in the other person to start with gives you a sense of happiness, but this kind of connection will quickly turn sour and cause problems later on,” adds Hélène Roubeix, founder of a school for humanist neurolinguistic psychology.
Codependence comes in many different forms, but it nearly always hinders personal development. To get past this kind of relationship, you first need to be able to recognise the signs...
Have you started to think that after everything you’ve done for him, he hasn’t given you anything back? You’ve really supported him in everything’s he’s done – what has he done for you?
Emotional blackmail is a sign of codependence in a relationship. This kind of behaviour is rooted in childhood, where the individual’s parents said: “If you’re not good, we won’t love you.” As a result, “loving someone means doing what the other person wants so that he or she will love you back,” explains Florence Escaravage, founder of Love Intelligence. In a relationship, these individuals will try their best to please their other halves so that their love will be reciprocated.
To break away from this way of thinking, you have to try and shelve the idea that nothing will ever be enough. “Concentrate instead on everything he does for you, even if it’s not what you ‘expected’,” Marie-Lise Labonté suggests. Remember also that men are generally bad at expressing their emotions, especially if they’re under pressure to.
His phone rings on a Sunday and you immediately ask him who it is. He’s stopped playing tennis and you want to know why. You want to know about everything that’s going on in his life.
“This kind of intrusive dependence on someone usually stems from a mother who wanted to keep tabs on everything when the individual was a child,” Florence Escaravage says. It could also be that the person’s mother made her child her confidant. “An intrusive mother takes her child hostage almost, and uses him or her to suit her own ends, albeit unconsciously,” adds Hélène de Roubeix.
As an adult, the person will have an irrepressible need to know everything as well. This attitude can endanger a couple’s intimacy. To remedy the situation, you must first establish the boundaries so each can have their own space. Choosing a personal place like a drawer, cupboard or area is a good way to start. It’s helpful to have some time alone, just for yourself, after work or after putting the children to bed. The aim here is to redefine yourself and work out your own personal identity.
You lead a busy life organising your joint social life, managing your in-laws and saving up for that holiday. You’ve got everything covered in this relationship!
In this situation, you’re both codependent. Being in charge is often linked to the (unconscious) desire to control the other person. “This need is also driven by fear of the other person and not being able to trust him or her so you always have to be on your guard,” Hélène de Roubeix explains. This attitude is rooted in the past, and often created by controlling parents who didn’t know how else to express their love.
The first step to developing a more equal, autonomous relationship is to start looking at who does what. “Try to list out who’s responsible for what in the relationship and what concerns the other person and what doesn’t. Then try and leave your other half to it where you would normally hold his hand,” suggests Marie-Lise Labonté. You need to be brave, but the results will be worth it.
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