I remember when I got my first cell phone. At age thirteen, it was everything I ever wanted… it had a sliding keypad, built-in camera, a bedazzled phone case, and was brand new. After I received it, I wouldn’t let it out of my sight. I would even lay it on the bathroom counter when I showered so I could check my messages the second I got out. I would say I was possessive, obsessive, and borderline dependent on my cell phone.
I think sometimes when we get something that is exactly what we want, it is hard to not become possessive and obsessive over it, even to the point of dependency.
& I think the place where I see this most frequently is in relationships.
My boyfriend and I have had multiple discussions about dependence: being independent, being codependent, having a healthy dependence, and everything in-between.
Dependency in relationships, especially dating relationships, is a tricky topic. There should be some level of dependency in a relationship… after all, the purpose of dating is to determine if you want to spend the rest of your life with that person, which involves meshing various aspects of your life together. But how much is too much?
I think a safe place to draw the line is codependence.
Codependence, in essence, is present in a relationship in which there is a psychological reliance of one person on another. This is manifested in a way that makes it so that the codependent person does not allow the other person to have a life outside of the relationship.
Need to be with your boyfriend 24/7? Codependence.
Does your boyfriend feel the need to constantly check up on you when you’re not together? Codependence.
Are you not allowed to hang out with your friends unless your BF says you can (or vice-versa)? Codependence.
I think the problem people have with codependence is this: they have difficulty recognizing it. Just like the new cell phone I got when I was thirteen, we often become enamored by our significant other in a relationship, because ideally, they are exactly what we want. We think that needing to be together is sweet, after all, who doesn’t want to feel needed? However, what we don’t realize is that this enamor can soon lead to possessive and obsessive feelings, which can lead to dependency.
Once codependency is rooted in a relationship, it can cause individuals to lose their sense of self, and create a severe sense of mistrust within the relationship, ultimately leading to destruction.
So if codependence kills relationships, and complete independence is impossible due to the nature of relationships, what is the solution?
Healthy dependence– & here are 4 ways to identify and develop healthy dependence in a relationship!
Wanting to be together (& not needing to be).
Should you want to be with the person you’re in a relationship with? YES! Should you need to be? No. There’s a difference. Wanting to be together is looking forward to when you get to see each other, spend time together, and tell each other about your day, versus needing to be together, which is a consuming mindset.
Letting the other person have friends.
This might seem obvious, but it’s important. Letting your boyfriend have their own friends and allowing them to spend time with someone other than you, and having the same freedom, is very important. You should look forward to the time you get to spend with each other, rather than feel obligated. Not allowing your BF (or not being allowed) to have friends outside the relationships is a sign of both mistrust and codependency.
Maintaining your own hobbies, interest, personality, and beliefs.
When getting into a relationship, don’t sacrifice who you are for a guy. Chances are, the reason they liked you in the first place are for all the things that make you YOU. In addition, don’t get into a relationship with the intention of changing someone. If your partner tries to change who you are, chances are, the relationship is not going to last, or will lead to codependence.
The foundation to every healthy relationship is trust. Trusting a person whether you are with or without them allows for a relationship to thrive and grow… 24/7 companionship does not.
“Not needing to need, but choosing to need.”
Overall, the key to having healthy dependence versus codependence in a relationship is wanting to need versus needing to need. Wanting to need is far more powerful than needing to need, because it is dependent on a choice rather than an impulse.
If you want to need someone, you make a choice every single day to love them and make them a priority in your life. You know they will be there for you, and you will be there for them, but you don’t have to rely on them for fulfillment. Jesus is the only one who can satisfy that need.
If you are living in a codependent relationship today, be brave, make the choice to have a choice.