Many people are somewhere between being fiercely independent and joined at the waist when dating. When newly in love, we have an endless desire to please our partners. Hormones are released at this time that cause us to want to bond with our partners and feel euphoric, among other emotions. I recently read a meme that said, “Validation is for parking.” But with love-induced chemicals flowing through our brains, is it also for people? I read another quote that said, “Being wanted feeds the ego, being valued feeds the soul.” Hmm. There is a difference between seeking value and validation. Someone can consider you highly and affirm your self-worth. But when you seek approval or worthiness from others, you can cross into the territory of codependency.
So, what is it to be codependent?
Codependency is characterized by a relationship in which one partner is compelled to meet the needs of the other who is often affected by a debilitating physical or mental condition that makes them reliant on the other. A codependent partner may neglect aspects of their wellbeing to control, fix, or help another person. This partner not only feels the need to help but also finds their significance in their caretaking itself. If this rings a bell or you are asking for a friend, here are some questions to consider: Do you want or need to help a significant person in your life? Is your helping stopping them from doing what they capable of doing themselves? Do you find yourself seeking their approval on your preferences, desires, or decisions?
Now on the flip side, what is wrong with being independent?
Nothing. Destiny’s Child made that absolutely clear. Independence is the foundation of healthy relationships. Though codependency and extreme independence may seem like polar opposites, they are actually two sides of the same coin. While codependency demands caring and commitment for the sake of others, warped independence or isolation eliminates the need for anyone else to without their awareness. Both tendencies look self-sacrificing in their own right, loving even. But a closer look may reveal that pride is found is how much they can unreasonably give of themselves or how little they unnecessarily require of others. Both appear to be noble, but keep intimacy at bay, serving to benefit others at the expense of one’s own needs. Some people don’t even know they are isolating themselves. They may be around others but not with them. This can make the difference between being together and being partners. In the case of isolation within a relationship, the connection can be implied, but trust and intimacy may not be accessible. This person may physically present but emotionally unavailable. Questions to consider: Do I ask for help when I need it? Do I allow myself to be vulnerable? Do I allow others to love or care for me? Do I feel connected to my partner?
A better question is: How do we become interdependent?
Two separate people grounded in their individual self-worth allowing each other to need and be needed, but also seek to meet their needs and their needs to be met. It is a tall courageous order, but the most fulfilling ones usually are. Questions to consider: Do you feel safe and challenged or seen and connected in your relationship? Would you like to? Reach out to a Family Therapist today.