It's so easy to let any one thing define our entire lives, but especially when it comes to love and sex and partnership. It's almost impossible to disassociate "identity" from dating, what with the end goal supposedly being marriage — a merging of identities into one. It's for this exact reason that we get so intense about love in general: we think that the kind of person we can "get" indicates something about how good we are. What I'm trying to say is that it's hard not to become overly-reliant on a partner for not even just the practical things like housing and income, but also the mental and emotional parts of our lives like self-worth, validation, or "safety."
We become overly-reliant on a partner when we begin to believe they are responsible for some fundamental part of our well-being — the kind that we are only able to give ourselves. You'd be surprised how often this is the case — and how often people's reasoning for desiring a relationship in the first place is just that. They want to feel more secure, they want to feel more validated, they want their lives to have direction.
But a relationship is not a career. It's not something that can make you feel safe or validated. It's only something that you can share your happiness with — though you're responsible for that whole "happiness" thing on your own. If you have any doubts, ask any divorced person, or someone whose been through a brutal breakup in their lives. Living at the whim of what you believe someone else can do for you is no way to live at all. In fact, you paralyze yourself to their every beck, whim and desire. Which is how you end up here: overly-reliant on a partner. Here are a few ways to know what you've gotten to this point, and what to do when you realize you're there:
Your Breakup Would Be The End Of Your World
It would be unbearable. You're not sure that you could go on. This is not the aftermath of two people in love. This is the aftermath of two people so severely co-dependent that it's probably best that you break up and figure out your issues before you can re-enter a loving, happy relationship.
What you should do: Work on whatever sense of "lack" leads you to feel as though you need someone to supplement a sense of safety or certainty in your life. There's probably something missing within you (something that you're not giving yourself) because past experience or trauma has lead you to believe you're not worth it.
You Are Policing Or Restricting What You Say And How You Behave Around Them, Because You Need Them To Be Happy With You At All Times
People usually start doing this when some part of their well-being is reliant on their partner — if there were nothing to lose, there would be everything to gain by speaking your mind and being honest.
What you should do: Figure out a way to be more autonomous about whatever it is you feel your partner gives you. Whether it's money, or even long-term plans, sit down with yourself and figure out a way to be okay on your own, if you ever have to be. Save some more money each month, have a game plan if there were ever a break-up. The less you subconsciously believe your livelihood is dependent on this person, the less you'll feel "owned" by them (terrible word choice, but you get it).
Your Self-Image Is Of You In A Relationship — Not You As An Individual Person Who Also Has A Relationship In Your Life
Your self-image is one of the most crucial, fundamental parts of your life: it's from this self-understanding that you develop a sense of purpose, worth, and so on. What you believe you deserve is, ultimately, what you will have — and what you believe your purpose is is ultimately what you will pursue. When you only think of yourself as a partner, not an individual, you will constantly need someone to fill the gap you think is in your life. You won't be complete without someone — which is the first step toward just accepting anybody into your life.
What you should do: Work on defining yourself and build your confidence about who you are outside of your relationship. Do things that support you believing in your individuality — go places on your own, have your own friends. Remember that you are a whole person even by yourself. Your relationship will be better for it in the end.
Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our new podcast, I Want It That Way, which delves into the difficult and downright dirty parts of a relationship, and find more on our Soundcloud page.
Images: Giphy (3); Unsplash