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Dependency in relationships.

Relationship Difficulties — admin @ 7:12 pm

This week at counselling connections we thought we might take a look at dependency in relationships. For the purpose of this journal piece we will look at how this manifests in adult romantic relationships. Dependency, although often described as love, is not love in the true sense. It is based on one having one’s needs met as a primary concern, with little regard for the other as a person in their own right. A relationship based on dependency will eventually choke itself to death. If there is a co-dependency where each depends on the other, the relationship may last but there is little room for growth individually or as a couple.

Inherent in us all is a desire to be cared for and nurtured. We like it and it is an indulgence from time to time. For the passive dependent person, however, being cared for is a necessity. It rules his life. He cannot survive without it. He all the time is seeking to be loved and therefore has little energy left to love. Dependency in adult relationships usually results from failure of parents to provide the love the child needs. This failure leaves a child feeling insecure and unloved. Naturally then, he goes about his daily life looking to fill the void, the emptiness within. He elicits the care and attention he didn’t get as a child. Once he finds this love, he clings to it desperately and will often stay in relationships that aren’t good for him in order to have his emotional needs met. This type of person also lacks self-discipline because he was not taught it. As a consequence, it is difficult for dependent people to wait for attention and care as they are desperate for it. Waiting for a text or a call can be excruciatingly painful.

Dependency causes people to form overwhelming, unhealthy attachments to lovers. This is why it is often mistaken for love. To hear someone utter the words, “I can’t live without him”, signals dependency rather than love. To be dependent on the other for survival leaves the relationship void of real choice and freedom and these are necessary for a healthy relationship. The dependent person gives their partner little or no space to be themselves. They relate everything to themselves and can only live their lives through the other.  In the face of rejection or perceived abandonment, the dependent partner may turn to suicide because the pain they feel is intolerable. Loneliness is unbearable and so they will go to great lengths to avoid it.

In marriage and long term relationships we see examples of co-dependency in everyday lives. He deals with finances, while she sees to the housework and the children, for example. Stereotypical roles like this should be interchangeable so that respective partners know they are capable of success in either role. Too often in these types of relationships, both partners are happy with leaving it up to the other. It assures the other that their partner will never leave them and so they have their needs met. This is a classic co-dependent relationship in which both partners will never have the opportunity for spiritual growth. Often these couples will die in quick succession of each other, literally being unable to live without their partner.

We also see examples of this with some parents towards their adult children. Parents who live their lives through their children refusing to let them separate out and become independent individuals are sucking the life out of their children in relying on them to have their own emotional needs met.

In therapy we can work through the dependent feelings and teach people skills in order to be able to deal with the intense emotion they feel. This can lead to healthier, more fulfilling relationships where both partners can live without each other but they are choosing to live as a couple. It is not restrictive and encourages the other to grow as an individual. Of course this is the ideal we are striving towards and perhaps the place to start is with an awareness of how your relationship works and how you are in it.

Counselling Connections, 10th Nov 2011

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