“I can’t live without you!” Many people long to hear those words. It is a common expression used to articulate how much you are loved, wanted, needed. Hearing those words can surely make you feel safe and secure, warming your heart with the joy of love… until you discover it is literally true!
Everyone wants someone they can count on, and it feels equally good when you know that someone counts on you. When this feeling is mutual and reciprocal, it becomes a large part of the foundation of a relationship. In balance, harmony is created. Out of balance, the relationship that was once a joy can become an anxiety-ridden drag – emotionally exhausting and painfully confusing.
The health of dependency
Being able to depend on someone is good, but being too dependent on someone is not. There is a significant difference between healthy and unhealthy levels of dependence. So how do you know if the line has been crossed?
In a healthy relationship, you can count on assistance from your partner, and your partner can count on you. However, each of you is consciously aware that you are individuals and capable of handling yourselves and your lives. You may assist one another, but the world isn’t going to stop turning if you have to deal with things yourself. Each of you has and understands personal responsibility and control.
In a dependent relationship, the dependent person can be likened to an addict – and the other person is the drug. That may not be a pretty analogy, but it doesn’t make it any less true. A dependent relationship is parasitic. One person has surrendered or voluntarily given up power and control, creating a situation of helplessness in some or many arenas. This state of being places what should be their own personal responsibility on the shoulders of their partner. Dependent people are often “clingy,” and can be quite good with the guilt-trips and emotional manipulation.
You don’t need a degree in psychology to know if you are involved in a dependent relationship. Usually it’s quite the contrary! You may not know or understand how you got to this place, but you do know that you feel burdened and suffocated by your partner. Their needs and well-being have become your problem, and the pressure can build up to just being too much. You know it isn’t healthy, and you certainly aren’t happy with the arrangement – but what are you supposed to do?
Recognizing that you are caught in a dependent relationship is a blazing sign that something needs to change. While it may be personally challenging, decide to change things. You basically have two choices: You can try and help your partner to become a healthy individual in hopes of making the relationship healthy, or you can start plotting and planning your escape. Neither path is easy, but one way or the other, you have to do what’s best for you.
Whether you are going to a counselor or hunting for an apartment, your dependent partner is going to have a problem with your decision, so be prepared. Most times, the drama that comes with your decision is unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean that you have to play into it – disengage! Your parasitic partner can only feed off of your life force as much or as little as you permit. Be firm in your decisions, and keep moving forward with your plans – or nothing is ever going to change. Sympathy and guilt are finely honed weapons in the hands of a dependent person. Know that your decision was made to take care of you, and a side effect is the dependent person in your life dealing with their own issues. It may be heartbreaking, but it is also necessary – for both of you.
Relationships intertwine lives, emotions, and possessions. Sometimes the lines can become blurred. By deciding what to do and allowing yourself to disengage, things can quickly snap back into focus! Material concerns and things can always be replaced, and broken hearts eventually heal. Understanding that you are responsible for yourself and your actions is a personal obligation, but your level of obligation to those you let into your life is ultimately defined by the boundaries you set. No matter how much you love someone, you must realize that you can’t heal all their wounds – nor are you supposed to.
When it comes to adult relationships, there is only one life you are responsible for and have control of – and that life is your own. Just as you decide what holds you back, it is also your decisions that can set you free.