I love social media. It’s great for connecting, but it’s also a people-watcher’s dream! I love seeing how people interact, how they present themselves in posts and pictures, and what types of things go viral. (Shameless self-promotion: If you’re not following The Thriving Self on Facebook, you’re missing out!) Social media says something about our culture. One interesting cultural trend is the idea that someone can be your “everything.” Call me an anti-romantic, but my husband is not my everything and I’m certainly not his everything. Interestingly, I think this is part of the reason we have such a strong relationship.
As a therapist, I see all kinds of toxic relationships. One sneaky kind of toxic relationship that seems perfectly healthy is the codependent relationship where one partner relies on the other to meet all of his or her needs. Here’s the thing: it doesn’t seem so bad at first. In fact, it’s often thought of as romantic. Ideas like “I couldn’t possibly go on with life without him/her,” “You are everything to me,” or “You’re my reason to live” may sound sweet on the surface, but they actually demonstrate some unhealthy dependence.
If you rely on someone else to fulfill your every need, I 100% guarantee you will be let down.
People are not perfect. Even a great relationship with a great person is not going to be able to meet your every need. I wouldn’t want it to anyway.
The best relationships are those where each person is comfortable in their own identity, and then the relationship encourages this individual growth.
So what can you do if you aren’t quite at this point? Here are a few ideas:
- Spend some time alone. This is so important but people overlook it. Take some time to get to know yourself. Dig up the good, the bad, and the ugly so you can appreciate your uniqueness and see clearly what you need to work on personally.
- Reconnect with God. For me, as a Christian, I know that the only thing I can truly rely on is God. Everything and everyone else will disappoint me at one point or another. Having a rock-solid relationship with God helps me to be better in all my relationships, but especially my relationship with my husband.
- Expand your social supports. If you’re in a relationship where you’re expecting the other person to meet your every need, consider taking some time to really connect with other important people in your life like friends and family. Having a network of support instead of a person for support is extremely helpful for relationships.
- Encourage your partner to work on himself/herself, too. One of the best things you can do for your relationship is to encourage your partner in their personal endeavors. Encourage their hobbies, faith, friendships, and alone time. Their well-being and your relationship will be better because of it.
Let me be clear here: my husband is my very best friend, biggest supporter, and the love of my life. But the interesting thing is, when each of us is finding fulfillment and pursuing our own self-improvement at the same time, our relationship flourishes and we become closer than ever. I see this with other couples as well; the more each person invests in themselves, the healthier the relationship becomes.
So what do you think? How much co-dependence do you think is healthy? Have you ever been in a relationship where you lost your own identity? Start the discussion in the comments below!