As someone who recently started a relationship after six years of singledom, I say with full confidence: This coupling sh*t is hard. Singles get a lot of flak, but the truth is, despite some outdated social stigma, being single is easy for the most part. When you're solo, there's no compromise, no one with opinions on your intimate, private life, and no questioning your independence. Forming a new duo or navigating through changes in your existing partnership, however, can leave you wondering where to draw the line before things reach dependency. Luckily, there are some red flags you're too dependent on your partner that you can look out for. However, they won't always be entirely easy to spot.
When you join romantic forces with another human, some level of codependency is a given. Having someone to share experiences with, vent to about your problems, split chores with, and permanently act as your travel buddy and wedding date are some of the greatest points in my inner debate against why I shouldn't opt for the life of the loveless for all eternity. On the other side of that argument? I've seen, and been in, relationships where partners do everything together, are incessantly in touch, do not have their own lives, and change who they are to make it work.
"You can't be looking for someone to 'complete you' or for your 'other half.' You should be enough on your own," says relationship expert James Preece. "If you aren't thinking that way, then you could [very] well be too dependent on [your partner] for your own happiness." Yikes. So then what are the signs that you're being too dependent on your partner?
There's No Me Time, There's Just Us Time
Spending endless, lazy hours in bed with someone you are madly attracted to is the actual aspiration that I think drives people to date. It's like this dreamy, cozy vision of a pillow-filled fairy tale. But like all dreams, there is a waking world on the other side with a lot of amazing personal pursuits to be had — one of those being keeping up bonds with the other people you care about. "Neglecting your family and friends is never a good idea, but it can happen if you make your partner the priority," Preece advises.
Of my coupled friends, the ones I admire the most are the ones who still make the effort to have their own groups of friends, go out separately, intentionally spend time apart, and take solo trips. Actively putting in the time to be with yourself and others outside of your relationship allows for personal growth, valuable time with loved ones, and the much-needed space to exist as an individual.
Their Interests Become Your Only Interests
It is really exciting to discover unfamiliar hobbies, interests, and schools of thought. It's awesome if your partner introduces you to their passions, and even more so, if you enjoy those passions and can start to share them. But keeping your own interests is important, too; they're a part of what make you, you.
How do people start to assimilate to someone else so deeply, though? "You feel comfortable and want to spend every possible moment with [your boyfriend/girlfriend]. So you give up your own hobbies so you can be together," Preece explains. "By giving each other space and having some of your own hobbies, you'll end up becoming stronger. It's these chances to miss each other and share new stories that deepen your bond."
In other words, learn some new guitar chords with your rocker girlfriend, but don't up and quit the soccer team you love to go full Nirvana.
You Try To Become Their Better Version Of You
Is there a point to being with another person if you cannot mutually benefit from bringing out the best in one another? I don't think so. Your partner should have your back, enrich your life, and give you the confidence boosters that aid you in working on what your best is for you (and you should do the same for them). If you find yourself trying to be the better version you think your SO wants you to be, there's a major issue.
"Some people can't do anything without it being validated by their partner," Preece says. "They can't choose what to wear, eat, or what to do unless they say it's OK." Woah, not cool, guys.
According to Preece, this might be the result of deep insecurities or their need to be "told they've made a good choice." "You need to be strong enough to make your own decisions," Preece continues. "If you [aren't], they might end up resenting having to think for both of you all the time."
You're Easily Angered By Them (For No Good Reason)
I recently wrote about the red flags for bad communication in a relationship, one of those being not fighting with your partner. We're obviously going to fight and make up with our partners. It's a natural part of being a free-thinking, opinionated individual, and that's awesome. Talking things out and debating help you and your partner get to know each other, set expectations, come to conclusions (which may vary), and evolve in your relationship.
But Preece warns of another form of fighting that is a red flag of being too dependent: "You might find yourself getting jealous or annoyed with your partner, even though they haven't done anything wrong. That's because you are so scared it will go wrong or someone else will get their attention."
Hey, we all get a bit insecure from time to time, but recognizing that and knowing how to fix it is the differentiator between a learning opporturnity and a major issue. Preece says, "The trouble is, the more you do this, then the more you risk pushing [your SO] away. Try and bite your tongue rather than overreacting all the time."
Pushover Is Your New Middle Name
You know that whole clueless thing where you let your partner take the wheel without letting your thoughts be known, thus letting your partner walk all over you? Yeah, if that happens consistently, it's not great. And apparently, it's usually done out of fear. "Perhaps you are so scared of upsetting your partner that you back down from any sign of an argument," Preece says. "This ultimately means you'll go along with things just to keep the peace."
It is obvious that this strategy hides who you are as a person and, ultimately, impedes on your happiness, but it could do damage to the relationship, too. "If you just say yes to everything, they'll assume you can't be bothered or aren't interested. Having a mind of your own is an attractive quality, so don't be afraid to discus things in a calm, [considerate] manner," Preece says.
Finding the balance between too independent and too dependent requires a lot of control, self-assurance, and reflection. But remember, the end result of a happy and healthy relationship is a major pay-off for the work you (both) need to put in.
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