Your love should be so strong that you can’t live without the other person. You would do anything to be with him/her. They are the first thing you think about when you wake up and the last thing you think about before you fall asleep. You need to need them.
These are the messages we hear from love songs, sappy diamond commercials, and see in our favorite rom-coms. But could some of your #relationshipgoals be unhealthy?
There is a big difference between being in love with someone and being in a codependent relationship.
When you are in a healthy relationship with someone, you feel like your sense of self is stronger because you are loved, supported and encouraged by your significant other. Your significant other or partner is very important to you and may be the center of your world, but you also have a life outside of your relationship, your own identity. A codependent relationship is unhealthy because you are relying on only your relationship for your sense of self-worth and identity.
Dangers of Being in a Codependent Relationship
Your life has become about the other person -- you either don’t see your friends at all, or you will only see them with your significant other. You have a hard time doing new things if your significant other cannot be there with either because you’re lacking the confidence or you are unable to enjoy yourself due to guilt that your partner is missing out. If you do have to be separated from your significant other for any period of time, you become depressed, and/or anxious, and have a hard time being present. That anxiety can manifest itself in many ways, one of your biggest fears being that your significant other will leave you. (Both partners can be susceptible to this.)
Codependent relationships are often covering up something else. You may be suffering from one or some of the following, and using your relationship to mask or divert attention from them.
Addiction/Unhealthy Habits -- you or your significant other drink too much at home or go out and party too much. Neither of you eats well or exercise. You either cover up for your partner’s unhealthy behaviors, or you are also stuck in unhealthy habits to keep you avoiding that reality together.
- Low Self-Esteem -- you don’t know how to feel good about yourself, so you hold onto a relationship believing it is the only way you can have self-esteem. You don’t feel in control of your emotions and spend a lot of time making sure your significant other is happy with you so you can feel okay.
- Anxiety -- you avoid things that make you feel uncomfortable. You feel safe only when you do things with your significant other, or you use your relationship as a way to stay at home. You are possibly using the relationship as a crutch to avoid living your life.
Depression -- you try to mask the sadness and emptiness inside by focusing on your relationship. Your significant other has gotten so used to your low energy that they don’t remember how you used to be.
Distracted Living -- you don’t know what your passion in life is, or you have an idea but have never really gone after your dreams. Your relationship gives you something to focus on so you don’t have to focus on yourself.
Recognizing that you are in a codependent relationship is the first step to making changes. The next step is thinking about who you used to be before you became codependent on your significant other. Or if you have been in your codependent relationship for a long time, you may not know who you really are anymore. Do you have friends that you want to reach out to, but aren't sure how after becoming so separated from your social life? What passions have you left unexplored or want to (re)discover for yourself? It may be uncomfortable to start over or get back in touch with yourself, but it gets easier-- especially with help.
Therapy can help you navigate creating healthier boundaries in your relationship. For example, your significant other may get upset with you if you start to develop a life outside of your relationship. Therapy is a space where you can learn how to communicate your need for separateness and manage your fears about your relationship ending if you make these changes. It will give you tools to voice your concerns and deal with issues that may arise from conversations around having a separate identity.
You don’t have to give up yourself to be someone’s better half. Practice the self-love you deserve.