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Drawing the Line Between Romantic Love and Emotional Dependency

Romantic love is the safe feeling that develops between a couple as they go through the happy moments and hardships of their life together / Photo by Getty Images

 

From the very start of a human being’s existence, since the time of their birth, people have learned to depend on each other. Everyone is dependent on both practical and emotional level, Mind and Health says. Individuals may need other people to do some things for them or teach them how to do those things.  People need each other because they are designed to be social and emotional creatures. However, that does not mean that everyone suffers from emotional dependence.

Even though a romantic relationship may involve partners relying on each other sometimes, there is a clear distinction between romantic love and emotional dependency.

 

The Difference Between Emotional Dependency and Romantic Love

Emotional dependence, also known as co-dependency,  is when someone completely relies on others to be responsible for their feelings and self-esteem while romantic love is defined by Female Magazine Malaysia as a safe feeling that develops between a couple as they go through the happy moments and hardships of life together.

When someone falls in love, it can come from two internal states, Margaret Paul, a relationship expert says. This can stem from a person’s bruised ego, which is also called the “needy inner child” and from being emotionally self-sufficient, or what Paul says as being a “loving adult”.

Falling in love because of a bruised ego means that an individual is not really in love with the person, but rather the way that the person treats them. They let their partner take charge of their self-esteem and happiness. If that person happens to take care of them in the exact way that they have always longed to be treated, they may confuse it with being in love.

If a person feels that they cannot go on living without their partner, that is no longer love. That is emotional dependency. A person may think they are in love, but this is just a demand from their “needy inner child”. They become desperate for love because they are unable to provide this love for themselves or for others. As a result, they feel an inner emptiness which they hope other people can fill. This happens when they are unable to be in control of their self-worth. Their own self-value is latched onto another person’s feelings for them, which is the reason they feel they cannot exist without that person.

On the other hand, if a person becomes a “loving adult” by first learning to fill themselves with love and recognizing their own value before falling in love with someone else, they will not need someone else to fill them up. Since they have learned to manage their own emotions and needs, they feel satisfaction and fullness within themselves. When they become emotionally independent and have an inner abundance of love, they will want to share this love with someone who is also filled with it. Rather than getting love from others, they would desire to give it.

 

Causes of Emotional Dependence

According to addictionhelper.com, a person may become emotionally dependent on their partner because of their present circumstances, having a previous record of addiction, their past relationships, their childhood experiences and the chemical imbalances on their brain.

Additionally, the Wise Mushroom says that some psychological aspects of romantic desire may be causing this. This includes fixation, the illusion of immediate urgency, and fantasizing.

Fixation is being solely focused on a certain object or individual. This can lead to obsessively thinking that a person is “the one” for them, rather than seeing them as merely unique or “one of a kind”. This may also cause someone to be insecure about the things they convince themselves they “must” get.

The illusion of immediate urgency is the demanding sensation that something has to happen right away or quickly. This is also the desire to be instantly gratified. This may be formed as a habit or a product of wanting to avoid feelings instead of dealing with them.

Lastly, fantasizing is creating scenarios in the mind which may be caused by desperation. When a person becomes desperate, they may think that the individual they are attracted to is the solution to all their problems.  

 

Stages of Emotional Dependence

Being codependent or emotionally dependent on a romantic partner goes through four stages. Based on eyeandco.com’s findings, these stages are:

First stage: Making themselves a necessity to their partner

In the initial stage of being emotionally dependent, the dependent individual tries to make themselves a need for their partner. They would try to elaborate all the ways they have improved their partner’s life to highlight them and add to their contributions. For example, they may tell their partner that no one will do the things they do for them or that they will not be able to find anyone like them.

The emotionally dependent person may also resort to becoming a guarantor. They may tell their partner that as long as they remain close to them, they will not need anything else. They will try as much as possible to make their partner stay with them.

Second Stage: Playing victim or trying to get pity from their partner

If the first strategy fails to get their partner’s attention, they will try to get this by making everyday worries appear to be more tragic than they really are. They do this in such a way that if their partner tries to leave them while they face these stressful situations, it would make their partner look cruel. It is may be a technique that has been mastered by the codependent person because they may have used it many times to acquire other people’s attention.

Third stage: Attempting to elicit hatred to keep their partner from being indifferent

In order to prevent their partner from losing their feelings or not caring about them altogether, they may try to provoke them to feeling at least some sort of emotion towards them. They may attempt to make them angry and induce hatred to create the illusion that their partner still has feelings for them, is completely attached to them and get the sensation that they are still significant in their partner’s life.

Fourth stage: Threatening their partner

If the third strategy still does not work, they may turn to using threats as a way to cling to their partner. They will make it look like their partner is afraid of losing them when in fact, it is the opposite. They are the ones who are fearful of their partner’s potential absence in their life, but they project this onto their partner. Even though this fear is merely a deception, they still think it is a good replacement for love.

They may say to their partner that even if they go, they will be able to manage themselves. They may also tell them that if they break up with them, they will never be able to see them again or that if their partner tries to reach out to them when they part ways, they will not be there for them anymore.

 

 

Signs that a Person Is Emotionally Dependent

Although being attached to a partner is normal, excessive attachment may lead them to unhealthy emotional independence. The signs that a person is not in love but is actually just emotionally dependent are:

1. The person’s self-esteem relies on their partner’s validation

This is considered as one of the earliest signs of emotional dependency. If an individual only feels confident and happy when their partner reassures them or gives them their approval, it will be difficult for them to do anything on their own. Depending their self-esteem and worth on their partner’s validation can cause them to lose their self-identity.

2. They cannot focus on other things

Making the relationship the center of their life can make it hard for them to live their lives in the way they want to. Since their partner is currently the most important focus of their life, they tend to feel empty once their partner decides they want to leave.

3. Being too possessive

When an individual becomes excessively attached to someone, the mere thought of being separated from them becomes painful. This makes a person doubt their partner’s faithfulness and also causes them to be jealous of whomever their partner spends time with other than themselves. This can also cause them to desire to control their partner’s life.

4. Over-sacrificing themselves

When a person begins to neglect their needs to fulfill the needs of their partner, it is an indicator that the relationship is not healthy anymore. All relationships need couples to adjust to each other in some way, but the individual should be able to determine which sacrifices need to be made and which ones should not.

 

Excessive attachment to a partner may lead to unhealthy emotional independence / Photo by Andriy Popov via 123rf.com

 

Dealing With Emotional Dependency

No matter how completely independent or strong some individuals think they are or make themselves appear, their emotional well-being still depends in some measure, what is happening in their lives and being able to have someone who is concerned about them. Everyone wants someone whom they can lean on when they are facing difficult situations.

Despite this, people can conquer their tendency to be too emotionally dependent on someone. One of the ways to do this to create a flexible and resilient mindset. They have to learn to acquire the ability to stay okay not because of their present circumstances, but in everything that that happens to them.

Another way they can stop themselves from being codependent is to change their overly dependent ways of thinking. If they let go of this way of thinking and try to widen their horizons, they may feel more liberated than ever. They may try to widen their horizons by being kinder to themselves, exploring, engaging in relaxing activities, taking care of themselves and being more assertive. This will lead them to truly becoming emotionally independent and responsible for themselves.

 

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