Relationships hold a special place in all our lives. We define ourselves through our relationships and somewhat prefer being in the circle of familiar faces or names we can relate to.
But while we tend to put a lot of emphasis on the importance of relationships, we should also understand that, in all relationships, it is vital to ‘not’ define ourselves completely through the bonds we foster. The worst mistake in any relationship is to put our companion(s) on a pedestal. Instead, it is wiser to understand that we are all ‘individuals’ before being part of a relationship.
The downward spiral
But this is easier said than done. Our natural tendency drives us to treat our companions with affection and love, and give them attention − sometimes a little beyond what can be called ‘healthy’. This could have manifold adverse consequences, and things could quickly go south if we were to ever hit rough patches in a relationship.
Dependence – a little too much
Excessive dependence on our loved ones, especially partners, is often referred to with the term ‘emotional co-dependence’. According to some experts, emotional co-dependence is common in people with a troubled past who fail to overcome it. A common pattern in such people is their constant need for assurance. This leads to insecurity and an unhealthy level of attachment, which causes them to lose their identity, and, in turn, respect, sometimes in their own eyes. Such people find it hard to lead in relationships, make decisions, maintain individuality; instead, it appears as though their very survival becomes a function of their partner’s behaviour, which may not always be what they expect.
The greatest loss
The greatest loss in emotional co-dependence is the total loss of identity. A co-dependent person is quick to give up on everything they did before a relationship and replace all of that with the person or subject of their attention and affection. The backlash is, obviously, that they start to get seen as clingy, possessive, etc. – adjectives that shatter them afterwards. The person is often left with a blank mind that struggles to understand what went wrong.
A way out
There is no one-solution-fits-all approach to achieving emotional independence. It is a skill that can be mastered through conscious effort only. The greatest hurdle is always ‘restraint’. But this would cease to be a hindrance if we ask ourselves a simple question: ‘Would I rather be myself or be called names?’ All of us know the answer. There can perhaps be a domino effect of your self-contentment on your relationship: Do what makes you happy. Engage in creativity. Learn a new skill. Build your resumé. It is vital that you increase your self-worth to be seen as valuable by others.
But it won’t all happen overnight. You might feel frustrated. The key is ‘don’t stop’. Put yourself first. Be the person you used to be. You are the source of your happiness. Use your unique capabilities, build your self-worth and don’t beat yourself up for making mistakes – we have all made our own.
Abhijit Chakraborty is a senior content editor at upGrad, a digital education organisation in India. He is also a mental health advocate.