7 Subtle Signs Your Happiness Is Too Reliant On Your Partner, Even Though You Think You’re Independent
When you're in a relationship, it's totally normal and healthy for your partner to be a major source of joy and happiness in your life — but things cross the line into unhealthy territory if you depend on your partner for happiness. It might sound romantic in theory — 'I love my partner so much that *only* they make me happy!' — but relying on your partner to feel happy and fulfilled is extremely detrimental, both to your relationship and to you as an individual.
"No one person can provide all the things you need for happiness," Patty Newbold, author of award-winning marriage blog Assume Love, tells Bustle. "You know this. Your partner knows or senses this, too. When your happiness is tanking because you’re depending on just one person, that’s frightening and discouraging for them. They cannot make you happy, but they begin to fear you’ll abandon them if they don’t, and that fear stifles their ability to add much at all to your happiness."
Even if you consider yourself an independent person as an individual, that doesn't necessarily mean you're immune from exhibiting codependent behaviors within the context of a relationship. But if you want to build a healthy, stable relationship, it's so crucial to make sure that you and your partner both maintain some degree of independence — which includes having sources of happiness outside the relationship.
"It’s incredibly important for both partners to maintain a sense of independence outside of their relationship," Jalesa Tucker, a content coordinator at One Love, a foundation dedicated to teaching young people about healthy and unhealthy relationships, tells Bustle. "By engaging in activities independent of each other, couples are better able to maintain their sense of self and bring diverse experiences to their relationship."
If you're unaware of what codependent behavior looks like in a relationship, it can be tricky to recognize it, especially if you're the one who's guilty of it. Here are seven subtle signs that your happiness is too reliant on your partner — and don't worry: it's totally possible to regain a sense of independence in your relationship.
1. You Mirror Your Partner's Mood
There's a huge difference between having empathy for your partner and being attuned to their emotions, and adopting your partner's mood anytime it changes, regardless of how you actually feel.
"[It's not healthy] if your significant other is in a bad mood, and you’re immediately in a bad mood," Rori Sassoon, Relationship Expert and CEO of VIP elite matchmaking service Platinum Poire, tells Bustle. "When they’re up, you’re up. When they’re down, you’re down. If you are independent, your mood will not always mirror theirs."
2. You Look To Your Partner For Validation
When something positive happens in your life, it's absolutely normal to crave praise from your partner. But if you feel like you need to know their reaction to any big news before you yourself celebrate (even internally), that's a red flag.
"[It's unhealthy if] you look to [your partner] for validation before you can celebrate something that makes you happy," Sassoon says. "If you have the same goal and you’re reacting and celebrating together that is one thing. If you don’t have a common goal and you’re mirroring each other, that’s another thing. Empower each other and be each other's biggest cheerleader, but also learn to independently celebrate goals."
3. You Feel Threatened When Others Make Your Partner Happy
There's nothing wrong with taking pride in being a source of happiness for your partner, but if you catch yourself resenting anyone else — whether it's a friend, family member, or coworker — who's able to bring a smile to your partner's face, that's a red flag.
"Being competitive with other people that make your significant other happy [is unhealthy]," Sassoon says. "You should be happy that they are not entirely dependent on you for validation and fulfillment. "
4. You Constantly Ask For Reassurance
In a healthy relationship, you should never be afraid to ask for what you need — which, sometimes, is a little extra reassurance and validation from your partner. But if you constantly grill your partner about how happy they are in the relationship, that might be a sign that you're insecure about your own happiness in the relationship, too.
"If you consistently ask your partner 'are you happy?' in your relationship, chances are you're second guessing it because you actually aren't," Lauren Drago, a Licensed Counselor who specializes in women's mental health, tells Bustle.
5. You Always Make Decisions Based On What Your Partner Wants
Even if it's about something as insignificant as choosing where to grab dinner on the way home, you should always feel comfortable asserting your opinion and making decisions with your partner. If you're not happy unless your significant other is always getting their way, that's not healthy for your relationship in the long run.
"If you have a sense of what you'd like to do but find that you consistently change that if your partner comes up with a different idea, [that's unhealthy]," Drago says. "[Or if] you're always saying, 'whatever YOU want to do'... what about what you want to do? It could be time to get in touch with that."
6. You Equate Happiness With Being In A Relationship
It's fine if there are things your partner does or says that make you happy; it's an entirely different and more problematic thing if you're happy simply because you're in a relationship in the first place.
"When we equate having a relationship with being happy, we’re more likely to stay in a relationship that is not healthy or to jump into a relationship because we’re afraid of being alone," Tucker says. "Both scenarios are unhealthy and unfair to yourself or your significant other."
7. You Get Anxious When Your Partner Goes Out Without You
Healthy, independent couples know that it's perfectly OK to spend time apart from your partner on occasion. If you're not happy or secure in your relationship unless your partner is physically by your side, that's an example of codependent behavior.
"[It's unhealthy if] you become anxious when [your partner] goes out without you," Tucker says. "When you’re in a codependent relationship, your life is ruled by the fear of your partner leaving you."
What To Do If You Feel Like You Depend On Your Partner For Happiness
Whether you realize you're doing it or not, being reliant on your partner in order to feel happy is emotionally draining, and it will only cause trouble for your relationship going forward. So what can you do to make sure your happiness isn't defined by how your partner feels?
"If you feel like you’ve been leaning on your partner too much, the first thing you can do is acknowledge the specific behavior and communicate to your significant other what it is you want to change," Dr. Sal Raichbach, PsyD, LCSW of Ambrosia Treatment Center, tells Bustle. "That way they are aware, and they can be supportive and help you see when you are exhibiting dependent behaviors. However, most unhealthy, over-dependent relationships aren’t the result of one person’s actions. The best course of action is to take some time to evaluate what it is that makes you, you. Once you identify these things, you can practice finding happiness for yourself."
If you realize that you and your feelings might be too dependent on your partner, there's nothing to be ashamed of: learning how to be a healthy, mature partner takes time, and as long as you're willing to work on regaining your independence, there's no reason you can't have a truly happy, fulfilling relationship — with your partner and yourself.