Before getting to the heart of the matter and finding out the different steps that will help you escape the trap of emotional dependency, it’s important to know what exactly we’re talking about.
I’d like to start with a famous saying: “You can’t lose what you never had.” Keep that in mind, because I’ll come back to it later in this article.
Now, let’s talk about emotional dependency and how to get over it in 4 steps.
What is emotional dependency?
Emotional dependency isn’t only a burden for the emotionally dependent person; it’s truly poison for both of the people who make up a couple.
When a person is emotionally dependent, they end up in a romantic situation that is unbalanced and unquestionably unhealthy. The source of emotional dependency is a profound fear of abandonment. An emotionally dependent person thus finds themself completely emotionally dependent on the other person in their relationship. This other person’s presence or absence will control the behaviors of the dependent person.
Their emotional dependency causes them to be jealous, anxious, possessive, invasive, etc. A bit like alcohol or drug addiction, for example. Essentially, it’s impossible to be calm because everything revolves around the person that they think they love – and I emphasize “think they love” because a healthy love should not normally involve this kind of dependency.
How can you tell if you’re emotionally dependent on someone? What are the signs? How can you rid yourself of emotional dependency? How can you find a healthy balance in your romantic relationship?
I’m going to answer all of these questions through 4 specific, detailed steps.
1. Becoming aware of your emotional dependency.
In order to stop being emotionally dependent, you have to first start by being aware of it. You must clearly recognize your emotional dependency, because if you refuse to see the truth for what it is, you won’t be able to get out of this trap.
There are certain unmistakable signs that will let you recognize true emotional dependency, like:
• Always needing to ask someone’s advice before saying or doing something related to your romantic partner.
• Depending on other people in your social circle to take on a certain number of responsibilities, whatever they might be.
• Avoiding and being afraid of fighting with your partner.
• Being afraid of being rejected by your partner.
• Having difficulties taking the initiative and making your plans a reality.
• Constantly seeking approval and support from the people around you (friends, family members, coworkers, etc.).
• Having your mood change according to your partner’s.
• Always wanting to make others happy by adapting yourself to what they like, in order to win their approval.
• Only feeling happy when your romantic partner is present.
• Always feeling that your need for attention and love is unsatisfied.
• Often going to extremes: when things are going well or going badly, or regardless of the situation, really, it’s always the absolute best or the absolute worst.
• Staying with your romantic partner even if you are suffering a great deal.
• Staying with your romantic partner only because you’re afraid to end up alone.
• Wanting to control even the smallest actions of your romantic partner.
• Making your romantic partner the focus of your attention and your life.
Although these numerous signs should be sufficient in helping you recognize an emotional dependency, it isn’t always obvious to see something as it is when you’re affected by it. Plus, even when an emotionally dependent person’s friends try to sound the alarm, they will often deny or find excuses, rather than admitting they have a problem.
When you’re very attached to another person, constantly need assurance and proofs of love, when you always want more and only feel happy if your partner feels that way, too, you are clearly emotionally dependent.
If this describes you, in order to heal from emotional dependency, you have to re-center your focus to yourself rather than continuing to spend all of your time and energy on your romantic partner.
2. Shifting focus onto yourself
In order to break free from emotional dependency, your priority is to shift your focus onto yourself.
It is vital to stop focusing on your romantic partner because that is where the dependency started.
The goal is to understand how to channel your emotions without necessarily expecting someone else to help, whether your romantic partner or someone you know, like family members or friends, for example.
Focusing on yourself can be done in several ways, like getting involved in activities that are just for you (exercise or artistic activities, for example).
You could also see and spend time with friends without your romantic partner or even go out by yourself, with the idea of making yourself happy and to meet other people so that you can step outside your usual social circles and also not be tempted to spend time talking about your romantic partner when they’re not around.
The goal is to feel good about yourself so that you can have a healthy romantic relationship, rather than an emotionally dependent one. This means you have to be able to love life, yourself — not through the acts and gestures of another person.
Focusing on yourself will let you get to know and understand more about who you are. This is essential for finding balance first within yourself and then with your romantic partner. By being emotionally dependent on someone, it’s impossible to know yourself and thus to assert yourself and let your true personality shine.
By trying out new activities or new hobbies or foods and more, you’ll discover how you react in certain situations. Adding a touch of novelty and freshness to the things we’ve been familiar with for a while – there’s a great way to focus on yourself and make yourself happy.
The idea here is to be as busy as possible doing things for yourself so that you won’t worry about the time that’s going by and feel tempted to take refuge with your romantic partner. Doing things for yourself also lets you open up towards others rather than staying in your typical routine and only focusing on your partner.
3. A positive state of mind
A positive state of mind is also an essential part of the process of healing from emotional dependency. When you come down to it, the positive attracts the positive, so when you put yourself into such a mindset, the consequences and results have an excellent chance of being positive, too.
You could start by trying to replace negative statements with positive ones, as much as possible. For example, instead of saying “I don’t like coffee,” say “I prefer tea.”
When talking or thinking about yourself, instead of saying “I don’t like my thighs,” you could say, “I love the shape of my mouth.”
You have to concentrate on everything that’s positive, everything that makes you happy. This will also teach you to like those little flaws that have been tormenting you.
Make a serious attempt to remove negative statements from your vocabulary. You’ll see – at first, you’ll have to take some time to stop and think in order to make your affirmative phrase, but this is normal, and with practice, it will become automatic.
Believe me, you’ll notice a difference and you’ll even smile the moment you do.
After all, why focus on the negative when there are so many positive things you’ve given priority to instead?
If you’re talking to someone who says, “I love Brussels sprouts”, which you hate, instead of saying something like “Oh no, I don’t like them at all, they’re disgusting” – which will put you and the person you’re talking to in a negative dynamic – choose instead to say something like “Well, to be honest, I prefer cabbage, especially cauliflower.”
Not only will you be using an affirmative reply to express your preference; you’ll also keep things in a generally positive dynamic because the person you’re talking to made an affirmative statement that makes them happy and you responded in the same way.
You’ll even have avoided risking making them annoyed by insisting that you hate Brussels sprouts (that said, everyone has their preferences).
Of course, you can certainly make negative statements, but the important thing to remember is to use them as little as possible and to replace them as often as possible by an affirmative statement, to keep things in a positive state – which will, on top of all that, probably be contagious.
Your positive state of mind will have a direct, positive impact on the people around you and will do some good for everyone, yourself included. That’s exactly why you should work on having a positive state of mind.
4. Taking some distance
Taking distance works for two scenarios: the first, physically being distant from your romantic partner in order to prioritize taking care of yourself.
The second is taking distance emotionally in order not to constantly refer to others or to your romantic partner once emotions are involved.
By taking physical and emotional distance, you will maximize your chances of escaping from emotional dependency. This will require some effort but believe me, it’s for the best. You’ll feel a lot better and a lot more confident when you stop being emotionally dependent on someone else.
When I told you at the beginning of this article that you can’t lose what you never had, that was directly tied to emotional dependency, and I hope that if you’ve read this far, you understand the connection.
When you’re emotionally dependent on someone, your deep fear of losing that person paralyses you.
But in love, and in life, more generally speaking, no one belongs to anyone. Your romantic partner does not belong to you and thus you must absolutely be able to leave behind the mindset that tells you otherwise, and that you would be so afraid to lose them.
This constant fear of abandonment will make itself felt by your partner in a massive way and he or she will feel oppressed and will want to leave, rather than stay with you and feel suffocated. Remember this.
As for you, you’re constantly suffering because of your emotional dependency, so rise up and chase it away.