stop emotional dependency

Emotional dependency in a relationship: What it looks like and how to stop it?

Staying emotionally dependent on your partner can affect your relationship as you are constantly seeking assurances and support for all your troubles in life.
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In a relationship, who doesn’t want to feel validated, encouraged, or be taken care of by their partners? There is nothing wrong with seeking a bit of comfort or guidance when you feel stressed out or while facing certain challenges in life. But when this need passes the point of support wherein you depend on your partner for all your emotional needs, that is emotional dependency. If you are not careful, it can cripple your relationship and impact your overall wellbeing.

In her book, Emotional Dependency: Essential Steps in Overcoming Emotional Dependency, author Ester Novak writes, “Emotional dependence is dangerous, and even more so when we fail to recognise it in time to prevent its nefarious patterns. Depending on others for our happiness is to build a castle on shifting sands. You’re setting yourself up for failure and you’re setting yourself up for danger.”

In simple terms, when you become emotionally dependent, you stop taking responsibility for your own feelings. Emotionally dependent people don’t look for solutions on their own when they are distressed or upset, rather they depend on their loved ones to find the answers for them. This is not a good sign in any relationship as you are constantly seeking reassurance and support from your partner. Over time, these dependencies can even cause negative feelings such as jealousy, possessiveness, anxiety, et cetera. If you don’t notice these behaviours early on, you can become so attached to your partner that you won’t able to imagine a life without or away from them.

If you have observed such behaviours in yourself or your partner and are looking for solutions, here are a few ways to curb emotional dependency in a relationship.

Identify your triggers

The first step to eliminating emotional dependency is identifying what triggers this behaviour. For example, is it a stressful situation that makes you go looking for your partner for support? Does your self-esteem recede when you make a mistake and only assurances from your loved one can make you feel better? It is important to identify what causes such feelings to occur so you can take appropriate measures to deal with them.

Acknowledge your emotions

An effective way to stop being emotionally dependent in a relationship is to acknowledge all your emotions. Dependency often springs when your feelings are neglected. But when you accept and take responsibility for your emotions, no matter how unpleasant they are, you take a step towards making yourself whole again. You develop emotional awareness, which helps you differentiate between what you need and what you don’t. This also lets you know when things aren’t going well so that you can take the necessary measures to rectify them. This simple act can go a long way in helping you overcome emotional dependency.

Practice living by yourself

Being alone can seem like a scary thought for those dealing with emotional dependency issues, but it gives you the space to get acquainted with your thoughts and know yourself fully. In solitude, you can truly be yourself without worrying about hurting anyone else’s feelings. According to Psychology Today, “solitude is a state of being alone without being lonely and can lead to self-awareness.” You can spend this time doing things that give you joy, which will help you find comfort on your own. This also reduces your dependency on your partner for happiness.

Learn to set boundaries

Boundaries are important in any relationship. Even partners who share a deep bond need space and freedom to pursue their own interests and hobbies. But if one of them is emotionally dependent, then that line is easily and often crossed. It is healthy to notice if you or your partner is overstepping the boundaries by making decisions on your behalf, asking too much, or behaving possessively. Setting boundaries is critical if you want to increase self-esteem and protect your identity as an individual. It lets your partner know which behaviours are acceptable and which are not.

Cultivate patience

If you want to overcome emotional dependency, you have to find out your strengths and focus on improving them. However, developing your skills can take time and commitment. You need to stick to the path of self-development. But since life is unpredictable and can throw challenges in your way, cultivating patience is necessary if you want to keep going in your pursuit. It keeps you calm so you don’t make any rash decisions. Cultivating patience can improve your abilities, which can help you thrive on your own.

Attend to your own needs

In an emotionally dependent relationship, people tend to prioritise their partners’ needs ahead of their own. But taking care of others can be difficult when you aren’t feeling great about yourself. Think about it, how can you make others happy when you are struggling just to go through the day? Give your needs the same amount of importance as you give to your partners’. For example, when you feel low or down, look for healthy ways to improve your mood. Try going out for a walk, listen to uplifting music, practice self-care, or note down your feelings in a journal. These activities can do wonders in cheering your mood. When you will learn to make yourself happy, you will stop seeking happiness from others.

Seek professional help

It can be difficult to overcome emotional dependency as it can be a result of attachment issues that go back to your childhood. For example, you could face such problems if you didn’t have a consistent emotional connection with your parent or your primary caregiver. However, you must take appropriate steps to address the problems before it ruins your relationships. The suggestions mentioned above can be of great help, but speaking to a mental health professional, who can guide you and suggest steps to overcome your issues, can go a long way in solving the problem. Some potential therapies that can be helpful include couples therapy, personal growth therapies, emotion-focused therapy (EFT), et cetera.

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