Most of us are always at conflict within themselves in recognizing their real emotions.
The power struggle of emotional dependency vs. love has confused many lovers into believing that their feelings for their partner is love when, in reality, it is a case of emotional dependency.
Study says the emotional dependency is nothing but a manifestation of addictive behavior in interpersonal relationships and the emotionally dependent person assume the subordinate position to retain the affection of their romantic partner. Such person/persons end up losing their personal identity completely.
When we fall in love, we also become attached to that person.
Now, love vs attachment entails that every relationship has two types of attachments – healthy and unhealthy attachments.
But these healthy attachments are part of the normal love bonding process, and then there are unhealthy attachments which indicate a type of dependence on the person that does not create the best environment for the love relationship to flourish.
Let’s examine what it means to be emotionally dependent on a person, and what that looks like in a love relationship.
Emotional dependency vs. love
Now, what does it mean when we talk about emotional attachment? There is a thin line of difference that lies between emotional attachment and emotional dependency.
Is love an emotion? Well! Love is a profound emotion and the person/persons in love tend to feel an emotional attachment towards their partner. Being emotionally attached to someone does not mean you are dependent on them for approval.
Love dependency or emotional dependency occurs once you start relying on them to give you a sense of your own identity.
Emotionally dependent relationships are not considered a healthy form of attachment, because you do not possess your own sense of self or independence. You become emotionally dependent on your partner and will do anything to stay in the relationship, even if it is not a happy one because you fear to be alone.
Love: is it an emotion?
As mentioned earlier, love is an emotion. Love floods us with feelings, so in that sense, it is indeed felt on an emotional level. But because love originates in the brain, there is a neuroscientific element to it.
Researchers have tried to undertand the science behind love but failed to fathom the reason why we love one person and not another. But they hypothesize that we seek partners who remind us of something we experienced in early childhood.
So if we grew up in an unhappy home, we tend to gravitate towards partners who will mirror that experience, in an attempt to try and rectify this as an adult.
On the contrary, if we grew up in a happy home, we will seek partners that mirror that happiness.
The drive to emotional love is motivated by pleasure, so in that way, love is an emotion, one that gives us great pleasure to experience. But never forget that there are chemicals behind that emotion, notably dopamine and serotonin, that flood our brains when we see or think about the object of our love.
Those chemicals make us feel good.
Questions to solve the riddle – emotional dependency vs. love
How can we differentiate between healthy love and unhealthy attachment? Sometimes the line of difference is blurry. But if you are wondering, ask yourself the following questions –
Q1. Are you happy when you are together?
Ans. If your time together is spent laughing, talking about future projects or just chilling holding hands, it is love.
But, if your time together is spent arguing or avoiding each other, and you are going over in your head all the way whenever your partner annoys you, it is probably emotional dependency.
Q2. Are you also happy with your “me” time?
Ans. If you enjoy your time apart from your partner, using it to enrich your personal wellbeing, seeing friends, working out, all while thinking fondly of the next time you are going to be with your partner, this is love.
If time apart fills you with fear and you imagine that your partner is going to find someone else while you are separated, abandoning you, this is an emotional dependency. Not a great place for your head to be, right?
Q3. Does the idea of breaking up fill you with fear?
Ans. If the idea of breaking up fills you with fear, angst, and dread because you just can’t face going through life alone, this is an emotional dependency.
If you look at a potential breakup as the right thing to do because the relationship just isn’t fulfilling anymore, despite you both working at it, this means you are operating from a place of love.
Q4. Your world has become bigger – Is this love?
Ans. If your world has become bigger thanks to your relationship, this is love.
If, on the other hand, your world has become smaller—you do only things with your partner, isolating yourselves from engaging with friends or outside interests—you are emotionally dependent.
Your relationship gives you a surplus of peace, happiness, and bliss which means it is love. In contrast, your relationship causes you stress, jealousy, and self-doubt, then it only means you are emotionally dependent.
You have identified yourself as emotionally dependent. Now how do you become emotionally independent?
How to be emotionally independent?
Here are some steps towards becoming emotionally independent, and growing into a healthier you!
1. Examine yourself
Take an honest look at your past and present relationships and note the behaviors.
Do they all point towards emotional dependence? Ask yourself why you seek approval from others, why you are so fearful of being alone? Does this remind you of something from your childhood?
2. Create your own happiness
Start doing things outside of your relationship, and do not ask your partner for permission.
It doesn’t matter if he approves of your project or not; what matters is you begin to add activities to your life that make you feel good and enhance your wellbeing. You don’t need to start big—try adding a small walk outside each day. By yourself.
3. Carve out alone time
Love-dependent people have difficulty being alone.
So dedicate some alone time each day, time where you are just sitting in self-awareness. You may use this time to meditate or just listen to your world…if you can do this outside, all the better!
If you begin to feel fearful, pay attention to your breathing to try and relax. The goal is to realize that being alone is not a scary place.
4. Affirmative self-talk
Make some new mantras to you tell yourself each day. “I am fierce.” “I am gold.” “I am capable and strong” “I deserve good love”.
These self-messages will be helpful in getting you from relying on someone else for your own happiness to relying on yourself.