How To Tell If You’re In Love Or Just Emotionally Dependent On Your Partner
It's hard to truly define what being in love feels like because it's different for everyone. Because of that, people can confuse being in love for something else like lust or compatibility. But are you mistaking attachment for love? According to experts, it's important to know for sure if you want to prevent yourself from falling into negative relationship patterns.
"Couples who are emotionally dependent on their partner and aren’t in love, tend to be in love with the idea of being in love," Julie Spira, Dating and Relationship Expert, tells Bustle. These are the type of partners who tend to "catastrophize" every detail. For instance, when it comes to texting, they might analyze the punctuation marks and the type of words that are used. They may wonder about the response time and why it took longer than usual. In short, they'll look for meaning in things that don't really matter.
Love can make you do some pretty unusual things. But it shouldn't make you feel super anxious. Instead, Spira says those who are genuinely in love, enjoy being in touch and welcome all forms of communication. They don't worry about how long they should wait to respond or what words would make them seem more interesting.
"People in love don’t have to fight that hard to keep the relationship alive," she says. "People who are emotionally dependent on the relationship, worry about their relationship status, tend to feel insecure, and will cling on to the relationship for dear life. The fear of losing it becomes greater than the ability to just love."
So are you actually in love or just emotionally dependent on your partner? Here's how you can tell if you might be emotionally dependent, according to experts.
1. When They're In A Bad Mood, You Assume You Have Something To Do With It
"When you are emotionally dependent on your partner, your mood (happiness, sadness, loneliness, anxiety) is mostly contingent upon your partner's mood and upon your interpretation of what you believe your partner's mood is," Dr. Danielle Forshee, clinical psychologist and social worker, tells Bustle. Basically, if your partner comes home in a funk, you may be in that funk. Beyond that, you might wonder if your partner's bad moods have something to do with you. But when you're in love, it shouldn't be like that. "You will feel pain if your partner is experiencing pain, and you will experience sadness if your partner is experiencing sadness, however you will not feel fully responsible for their feelings," she says.
2. Your Partner Is The Center Of Your World
If your partner has become the major focus in your life, then you may be emotionally dependent on them. "Someone who is not emotionally dependent will feel comfortable having hobbies and activities outside of the relationship, psychotherapist Emily Mendez, M.S. EdS, tells Bustle. "However, a person who is dependent has one true interest in life, and that is their partner." There's nothing wrong with making your relationship a priority. But your partner's happiness shouldn't be the focus of your entire life. There should be balance.
3. You Get Jealous When They Spend Time With Other People
If you're emotionally dependent on your partner, you might feel jealous when they want to hang around other people. Even the most secure people feel jealousy from time to time. But if it's a constant thing, that can signal a problem. According to relationship coaches, Diana and Todd Mitchem, emotionally dependent partners feeling jealous happens because they don't feel fully safe and secure when their partner isn't spending their time with them. It makes them nervous and they start wondering if their partner is pulling away because they're not into the relationship anymore. "If you were actually in love with your partner then their time spent away would not bother you, especially cause you to feel jealous," the Mitchems say. "In a balanced relationship, both people need time away from one another and use their emotional intelligence to grow the relationship beyond one another’s emotional attachment."
4. You Become Anxious When You're Apart
If you don't feel comfortable with the status of your relationship when your partner needs space, that may be a sign you're emotionally dependent. "Spending time alone is a regular part of any relationship," Mendez says. "In a healthy relationship, you should feel satisfied or content even when the two of you are apart." When you're emotionally dependent on your partner, however, it's hard to feel satisfied unless your partner is with you.
5. You Don't Think You Could Function If They Ever Decided To Leave You
When you're in love with someone, the thought of them leaving you is painful. But according to Mendez, when you're emotionally dependent, that thought might terrify you. "You feel like you’ll do almost anything to get them to stay," she says. That's because emotionally dependent people can't imagine being single. As a result, Spira says they might ignore any red flags that come up. "Those who are in love give their partner the space they need, without worrying that they’ll be losing them." They’ll also take the time to communicate their concerns and ask them what’s going on, instead of allowing it to cause unnecessary tension in the relationship.
6. You Keep Score
"Couples who are genuinely in love have each other’s backs and don’t keep score," Spira says. When you're dependent on your relationship, you might keep score and be passive-aggressive when you realize there's an imbalance. For instance, if your partner doesn't call you one night, you might tell yourself that you won't answer their calls the next day. According to Spira, this can result in unnecessary mind games which is just exhausting.
7. Your Love For Them Is Conditional
Expression of conditional love is a huge sign that you are in an emotionally dependent relationship, the Mitchems say. For example, if you feel that you can only love your partner if they meet your expectations, that's not a great sign. "In a relationship that is based on love and one another’s personal growth, you love one another no matter what," the Michems say. Your feelings shouldn't vary day-to-day depending on what your partner does or doesn't do for you. "If there are things that you would like your partner to do for you, you ask them and explain why," they say. For the most part, unconditional love takes time. But when you truly love someone, you can't expect them to do things for you.
Being emotionally dependent on your partner doesn't mean you're a bad partner. It doesn't always mean that you need a ton of attention in order to be happy. You just have things you may need to work on. If you realize that you're more emotionally dependent on your partner than in love, registered clinical counselor, Jordan Pickell, MCP, tells Bustle that you can begin to step out of this pattern by learning ways to self-soothe. What type of activities bring you joy? What calms you down when you're feeling anxious?
"In healthy relationships, both partners should feel energized and continue growing as people," she says. It's difficult to do that when you're dependent on someone to make you feel secure. But once you find those little things that can make you happy on your own, your relationship will be much better because of it.