Clinically speaking, codependence refers to a one-sided relationship where one person sacrifices their needs and desires to ensure the other person’s needs are being met.
However what clinical psychologists don’t acknowledge is that codependence can be far more subtle and insidious than that. And even subtle acts of mutual codependence or interdependence can lead to long-term stagnation in relationships, loss of sex, intimacy and eventual relationship collapse.
For a relationship to work long-term and remain healthy takes an incredible commitment to yourself and your partner. You both must be able to fill your own needs for love and validation first before looking to our partner.
But what else is a relationship for if not to provide me with love???
Receiving love is fine, it’s beautiful. However when we rely on our partner to feel love when we feel empty, to pick us up when we feel down or to validate us when we feel insecure we lose our own ability to self-regulate and become needy and a drain on their energy. This can start in subtle ways that neither partner minds at first but then over time, the drain becomes too much, resentment builds and eventually the quality of the relationship is damaged, often irreparably.
These types of codependence can even be mutual. They do it for me, I do it for them, so it’s easy to assume that’s fine. But it’s usually not fine. Even when these relationships stay together the individuals in them aren’t learning to provide their own needs and will struggle in interactions outside the relationship when their partner isn’t present to prop them up, for example at work.
What to do if you suspect there’s subtle codependency in your relationship?
To make a long-term committed relationship work in the modern age is no easy task. Historically happiness was not a requirement for a successful marriage. However in the modern age we want to be married AND be happy. That’s a challenge! But it’s very possible and incredibly worthwhile.
This is what we call a wholehearted relationship. It’s not one that you suffer through “for the kids” or “for appearances” with a closed heart or half-heartedly. It’s a relationship with fire, intimacy, mutual support and hot sex and it can last this way forever.
Congratulations for reading this far. This means you’re on your way to your very own wholehearted relationship.