Emotional Dependence: Information and advice on this dangerous addiction
“They made us believe that each one of us is the half of an orange and that life only makes sense when u find that other half.
They did not tell us that we were born as a whole and that no-one in our lives deserves to carry on his back such responsibility of completing what is missing on us: we grow through life by ourselves. If we have a good company it’s just more pleasant.”
What is Emotional Dependence?
Emotional dependence is like any other drug dependency, plain and simple. Like the one who has an addiction to alcohol, cocaine, tobacco, etc. The emotional dependent suffers a strong attachment to his significant other.
This disorder affects both men and women, although men show less of it, either through educational patterns or shame, which usually aggravates the problem. This pathology affects more than 10% of the population.
The emotionally dependent person has an extreme and constant need for affection and a dreadful fear of being abandoned by a partner. Normally, these people tend to cover their need for affection with complicated relationships. They can lead them to neglect their work, their friendships and even distance themselves from their family.
This situation leads the dependent person into a dangerous spiral from which it is sometimes difficult to escape.
Characteristics of an emotional dependence
Usually, the dependent pattern is repeated with each partner, it is not a one-time thing. The emotional person will look for partners that keep and aggravate that dependence. They tend to look for dominant, possessive, narcissistic, egocentric and inconsiderate personalities that, in some cases, can even go as far as physical and/or psychological abuse.
Although these people are aware that they are mistreated by their partner, they are not able to quit the relationship.
Characterized by low self-esteem, emotional dependence makes us more and more submissive, so our partner loses respect for us, and even if you break off the relationship, they will come back again and again.
What we achieve when our partner leaves us, is to reaffirm that “I am not worth anything”,”in the end they always end up leaving me” without being fully aware that we have really caused ourselves this deterioration of the relationship.
To be emotionally independent, we must begin by taking responsibility for our own feelings and thoughts.
The 5 phases of emotional dependence
1- Initial phase of euphoria
Our need to have a partner makes us we idealize our future “Prince Charming” or “princess”, creating expectations that are very difficult to fulfill.
We love, or rather, we believe we love our partner so much that everything he says or does is fantastic.
The couple becomes difficult to maintain and fighting becomes constant, which generally leads to a rupture.
4- Breaking up is related to high suffering (anxiety symptoms and depression)
It’s usually when we feel overwhelmed and family or friends can’t help us anymore. That’s when we need to go to a psychologist or psychotherapy.
5- Transitional relationships
“A new worry takes your mind off the old one” We decide to jump into another relationship to try to forget the previous one because we can’t bear to feel alone. It may be an exact replica of our previous partner, or on the contrary, something totally opposite.
6- Restarting the cycle
The last phase is when we think that we will find prince charming next so we engage again in the cycle of someone with the same patterns as before.
Consequences of emotional dependence and advice to overcome each moment
When a relationship ends and we have been emotionally dependent on it, we can go through a real ordeal. This withdrawal syndrome (which can last several months and even years) may resemble the mental disorder we experience when we leave alcohol, cocaine, or different types of drugs.
The psychological blow is so brutal that we can feel “broken inside”.
During the abstinence from emotional dependence, it is common to have obsessive or recurring thoughts, around the lost relationship and everything that goes with it: future plans, memories, remorse for the mistakes, etc.
We tend to idealize the good times lived, and minimize or ignore the bad, which makes this phase much more painful.
TIP: Evaluate the “here and now”: Don’t waste time thinking about what your partner was like before, at the beginning of the relationship, how he cared for you, etc. Ask yourself if it makes you happy right now and thinks about it critically.
Need to contact your ex-partner
Despite the suffering and humiliation, there is an illogical and poignant need to contact the ex-partner.
With any excuse, we produce this contact, since we do not conceive of a definitive rupture and that person is no longer in our lives. Social networks rarely help us, and their easy access is a constant danger to our rehabilitation. Constantly checking WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
TIP: As with any addiction, the idea is to cut contact completely, overcoming temptation and asking for help if necessary. As the smoker who during the abstinence phase struggles not to smoke a cigarette, the emotional dependant will have attempts of equal intensity of contact.
If you think you’re going to be weak or you don’t think you can do it, erase their number, their Facebook, their Twitter and whatever else you need to make it easier for you to get in touch with this person.
Be careful with self-deceit, which can manifest itself in phrases such as “There is nothing wrong with being friends. His family loves me like a daughter-son I just can’t leave. I’m gonna call him and see how he’s doing.”
Big mistake. You need your time to help yourself, so stop being deceived or emotionally manipulated by your ex-partner.
Anguish, despair, anxiety
Apart from feeling immense sadness, we can feel the extreme anguish that prevents us from concentrating or being efficient in our day-to-day work, social relationships, etc. putting our identity in jeopardy.
Physical discomfort or unpleasant sensations are common, such as stomach pain, feeling weak or dizzy, frequent crying, choking sensation when breathing,”knot” in your stomach.
In some cases of emotional withdrawal, anxiety attacks and/or panic attacks, and even feelings of strong detachment from life can also occur. The latter is very dangerous, if you feel that feeling dominates you, do not hesitate to contact a professional.
The use of other drugs or abuse of those we already use is also recurrent at this stage of abstinence.
TIP: Sometimes we have a hard time asking for help, but there are times when it’s necessary. If these feelings and sensations are beginning to interfere with your daily life, contact a professional. They will give you tools to help you work through this phase.
Attempts to resume the relationship
Even if it is humiliating and violates our dignity (which we know) we cannot avoid it. We will beg, promise a thousand and one changes at the cost of the person returning to us. We don’t care about our self-esteem the only thing that matters is filling that emptiness that the person has left us.
TIP: Work on your emotional intelligence. Learn to respect yourself and love yourself more than the other person.
Difficulty falling asleep
A common trait in all withdrawal symptoms. The lack of the drug causes an overexcitation in our brain that prevents us from falling asleep.
TIP: I recommend not resorting to sleeping pills or tranquilizers, try mediation or other natural ways to relax.
Love is not a necessity, it’s a choice. Any relationship based on emotional need is irremediably doomed to failure.
A healthy couple relationship is one based on respect, recognition and love; and mutual enrichment based on these principles.
True love doesn’t hurt.
Feel free to leave a comment below! 🙂
This article is originally in Spanish written by Cristina Martínez de Toda, translated by Alejandra Salazar.
Alejandra is a clinical and health psychologist. She is a child specialist with a diploma in evaluation and intervention in autism. She has worked in different schools with young children and private practice for over 6 years. She is interested in early childhood intervention, emotional intelligence, and attachment styles. As a brain and human behavior enthusiast, she is more than happy to answer your questions and share her experience.