When you’re in it, emotional dependency can be hard to detect. It is a complex state and often feels like it is out of your control. It is generally a dependence on negative, unhealthy emotions, such as anger, aggravated forms of grief, and depression, but can also occur with pleasant emotions, too. The emotional addict often finds themselves in unhealthy, stressful patterns of attachment, and feelings of love and emotional pain or stress merge and become one.
It is a form of immature emotional attachment that manifests itself in excessive reliance on another person. These other people are perceived as the only source of security and love. Emotionally dependent people are often insecure and lack self-confidence, so it seems easier to rely on someone else to them.
In a partnership between adults, the attention they pay to each other varies in intensity and quality, but none of that is a problem. Emotional addicts behave like neglected children in relation to their partner, who never get enough attention, seek to be the center of attention and never succeed, use tricks to divert and retain attention, and continuously need proof of love and affection. You can see a trend here, it’s all about needing and working on getting attention.
Signs of Emotional Dependency
Emotions can be a hard drug, and emotional dependence is extremely destructive behavior, disrupting the relationship by eroding basic values, such as trust, understanding, and support. The emotional addict is constantly looking for more, is never satisfied with what they have, and never examines their own needs. Emotional addiction can be severe or borderline. If you are worried that you might be an emotional addict, test yourself by answering the following questions:
- Do you need an emotional partner to be happy?
- Is your relationship or your partner the center of your universe?
- Can you be alone, or do you need to be constantly in a relationship?
- When you are alone, are you constantly on the phone or social media?
- Do you feel bad if your partner does not involve you in everything that happens to them?
- Are you jealous?
- Do you often feel like a victim?
- Do you often blame other people for how you feel?
- Do you think that you will not survive if…?
- Do you think that life will have no meaning if…?
If you have recognized yourself or others in these issues, you should consider whether or not you have an emotional dependency or an immature form of emotional connection with people. This behavior makes life quite difficult in many ways. It creates unhealthy relationships that can rarely survive, and, when they break up, lead to great suffering and sadness often for both people who were in the relationship.
Emotional dependency is a form of immature emotional attachment when happiness, fulfillment, security, well-being depends on some other person. This does not mean that an emotional addict is a bad person. But it is necessary to understand and accept it in order to get out of it. No one likes to learn unpleasant things about themselves, but when we do and accept them, we can slowly work on taking responsibility and control over our lives, building emotional independence.
We most often develop an emotional dependency in childhood when we are reliant on parents to meet all our emotional needs. When we grow up, we look for someone else (replacement) who will meet our emotional needs. In some cases, if we did not have anyone who provided the right emotional support, we will continue to look for it in others. So, when we become adults, we ask someone to fill every hole left in childhood.
Examples of Emotional Dependence in Partnership
The following example will illustrate the behavior of a friend of mine who had a problem called “loved addiction”, aka “emotional dependency.”
Out of fear that they would be left, they started checking their partner’s letters, Facebook, and text messages. They did it secretly, knowing that their partner would get angry if they found out and probably leave the relationship. However, when their partner found out, my friend did not show any of that fear. On the contrary, they went on the counterattack, becoming angry, crying, and making wild accusations as a defensive reaction. My friend accused their partner of being unfaithful stating that their partner “made” them behave like that.
This is how the basic distrust that a loved one, intolerance of loneliness, and the possibility of that person leaving us (due to an unstable internal connection with him) motivate the person to control and, covertly or openly, violently do everything he/she can to not be left. If we believe that we cannot live without a loved one (although that is rarely true), we are talking about emotional dependence.
How to Tell If It’s Love or Emotional Dependency
It is important to note that emotional dependence should not be associated with love. Although seemingly similar, these two terms refer to entirely different relationships. Healthy love is a supportive emotion that makes life better and easier.
On the other hand, when a person is capable of healthy love, they can also love themselves and function as an independent individual. This is not the case with emotional dependence, which stems from self-esteem issues and the need to bond with someone.
Steps to End Emotional Dependence
You can’t force someone to end their emotional dependence, but you can support them through the process if they choose to do so. The first step is to recognize that we may be emotionally dependent but to realize that other people cannot be the sole source of fulfillment and happiness. We are responsible for our own happiness, although certainly, we can be happy to be around the special people in our lives.
When we accept that we are responsible for our own emotions, thoughts, and actions, we learn how to let negative thoughts go and what to do to create a sense of satisfaction within yourself by being satisfied with you as you are, no matter where you are on your journey.
Emotional independence essentially brings us emotional freedom. The more we are ready to accept it, the more we will be able to spread our wings. We all need relationships, so it can difficult to be completely emotionally independent. However, it is important to be aware of where you are, acknowledge the work you have done, and what you have left to do. It is important to know how to be alone and not lonely, it is important to know how to be in a close relationship and still be yourself.