It is natural that in relationships a certain desire to feel affection and have intimate contact with the loved one is experienced. However, when this desire becomes a need, the affected person becomes emotionally dependent without being aware of it. In this article we will present you the phenomenon of Emotional dependence with all aspects.
This excessive and continuous need to be in contact and receive affection from the partner can cause multiple problems in the couple, especially in the case of the person affected, since the relationship loses its natural stability and the emotional dependent becomes easy prey . manipulation by their partner.
It should be noted that emotional dependence, although it is more common in couple relationships, can also occur in friendship or family relationships.
What is emotional dependency?
From a psychological point of view, the meaning of emotional dependence can be defined as a continuous pattern of insatiable emotional needs, which are attempted to be met in a maladaptive way. In simpler words, emotional dependence means that a person experiences many multiple emotional needs and tries to satisfy them in a harmful way .
Why emotional dependence occurs
Generally, the origin of emotional dependence can be found in childhood (Schaeffer, 1998). People who often become emotionally dependent tend to have dysfunctional relationships with people in authority, experience psychological or physical abuse, or witness parental substance abuse.
In other cases, emotional dependence can originate from inadequate upbringing or education, in which the emotional needs of the child are not met, which triggers the dependent psychological pattern in adulthood (Bowlby J., 1989).
In addition, there are also cases of emotional dependence caused by low self-esteem, a very negative personal perception that affects social relationships or having suffered emotional blackmail .
According to research by John Bowlby, Bowlby’s Attachment Theory. Stages and Characteristics of each person are established according to the way in which a child has related to the mother or main caregiver.
It is important to note that the consequences of this psychological pattern are as broad as the different conditions that can cause it . However, in general, emotional dependence is reflected in depression, anxiety and a great fear of ending a love relationship.
It is also common for emotionally dependent people to have an extreme fear of loneliness , which can be irrational in some cases.
As a result of these negative feelings, this psychological pattern pushes people to desperately satisfy their partner’s desires, even when it means degrading their own morals. For this reason, it is common for them to think that they do not even deserve love , a thought that usually originates from low self-esteem.
Emotional dependence on the couple
The scope of the couple is one where emotional dependence occurs most frequently. However, when this is reduced, it does not present any inconvenience, since a certain level of dependency is natural in couples .
This is because when there is absolute emotional independence, the relationship presents imbalances and there could be a lack of common goals, which could harm the sustainability of the relationship .
In this sense, it should be clarified that a healthy emotional dependency in the couple is one that is low enough to favor the union of the couple , but without reaching a level where it is dysfunctional.
When the degree of dependency of one of the members of the relationship is too high, an imbalance is produced that can result in a feeling of inferiority towards the sentimental partner, which can give rise to exaggerated submerged attitudes .
Also, some people with a tendency to emotional dependency may choose their partners based on this problem . In this way, they often look for manipulative, narcissistic, exploitative, unaffectionate partners, with low empathy and with the belief that they are extremely special and apparently overwhelming self-confidence.
It is common for these imbalances to trigger toxic relationships over time, since the dominant part could greatly increase its authority, to the point of mistreating or annulling the submissive part .
In such cases, when it comes to psychological or physical abuse, the dependent party is capable of continuing to be obedient, even if this means enduring humiliation or contempt, since the motivation arises from the fear of abandonment .
In fact, the emotionally dependent person may be aware that they are suffering a form of abuse, but they are unable to end the relationship despite this, as they are anchored to the attachment they feel for their partner .
On many occasions this can generate a vicious circle, since the relationship could end, but the dependency could force the dependent to re-establish it, causing him to eventually end it again and unconditionally seek to rebuild it, all in an endless circle .
This situation can be very negative for the well-being of the dependent , since their physical and mental health and their self-esteem can be seriously damaged. In addition, many times obsessive thoughts, depression, and anxiety can develop, without the affected person having the strength to end the relationship responsible for her suffering, because the attachment makes her need it desperately.
Symptoms of emotional attachment
The following signs can help identify if a person has this problem:
- Submissive attitudes towards your partner or friends, for example, not expressing your opinions or avoiding arguing so as not to disturb the other person.
- Inability to bear loneliness, both physical and emotional, as it generates symptoms of anxiety and stress.
- Fear of loneliness that manifests itself in the inability to leave relationships that do not make them happy .
- Feeling that they are not good enough for their partner or that they are inferior.
- Obsessive thoughts related to being the victim of infidelity.
Emotional Dependency Anxiety
Due to its characteristics, it is common for emotional dependence to be confused with certain anxiety disorders originating in dependence. The difference is that in the case of emotional dependence, emotional dissatisfaction is what triggers anxiety , while in dependency anxiety disorders, objects are what trigger the disorder.
It is worth mentioning that the extreme affective need experienced by the emotionally dependent tends to cause a lot of pain, since the affective relationship created by the person affected by this psychological pattern has great potential to cause depression and anxiety if a breakup situation occurs .
Causes of Emotional Dependence. Personality traits
Although the causes of emotional dependence may differ from one individual to another, there are certain characteristics that people with this psychological pattern tend to share with each other . These are the most common :
1. Submissive and passive attitude
Because emotional dependence generates an excessive fear of losing a partner, those who have this pattern tend to adopt a submissive and passive attitude in their relationships, because they feel that their partner will not abandon them in this way .
Examples of a submissive and passive attitude are found in the person’s inability to make decisions without consulting their partner or the desire to hide their thoughts or desires for fear that their partner may have contrary thoughts or desires.
2. Low Self-Esteem
Another characteristic that emotionally dependents tend to share is low self-esteem. Because of this, it is common for them to constantly compare themselves with other people, since at an unconscious level they consider themselves inferior .
Likewise, low self-esteem generates a need for them to constantly receive emotional support and remind them that they are not inferior .
3. Pathological jealousy
Although jealousy is generally a natural reaction to fear of losing a partner, emotionally dependent people often develop pathological jealousy . These differ from normal jealousy in that they are excessive and irrational .
For example, emotionally dependent people may feel the need to know where their partner is and what they are doing at all times, since they feel a constant fear that they will leave them for someone else. Because of this, they can do things like call their partner very frequently to find out their location.
4. Feeling of responsibility for the happiness of others
Emotional dependents have a tendency to feel responsible for the happiness of the person they are dependent on . This feeling is so ingrained that they can experience happiness from the partner’s achievements as if they were their own. In the same way, they feel guilty if the couple fails. As a result of this, the emotionally dependent person can experience mood swings very frequently.
5. Fear of loneliness
The fear of loneliness is the most outstanding characteristic of the emotionally dependent. This fear, which is sometimes irrational, makes emotionally dependent people feel unprotected and abandoned if they are alone, which often generates anxiety . To avoid this fear, they renounce their individuality and emotionally take refuge in another person .
How your attachment style affects Emotional Dependence
As I was already talking about in this other article about the attachment theory according to Bowly , our attachment style has a significant impact on our adult life and it is vital to be aware of it.
It affects almost every facet of our intimate relationships: the type of partner we are drawn to, how our relationships progress, how long they last, and how they end.
It is the model that influences how we manage and satisfy the needs of our partners. Many of the fears, behavior patterns, and beliefs that we display as adults stem from what happened in those early years of life.
As adults, we cannot change the past, nor should we sit around blaming our parents. Instead, we can be aware of the style that has resulted from our upbringing and take steps to heal the wounds we carried from childhood.
When we recognize and work with our attachment patterns, our strengths and weaknesses emerge, it will help us to move away from disastrous and tense relationships.
Experience happiness in relationships when you recognize your attachment style and learn to work with it.
beholdthree types of attachment styles based on attachment theory:
1. Anxious attachment style in couple relationships:
Anxiously attached couples tend to be stressed and anxious in their relationships.
Your relationships. They require a lot of attention and security because they are constantly worried about being too big or too small for the person they are in a relationship with.
They tend to live in their own head and feel constantly insecure in their relationships.
As a result, they are often intrusive, demanding, insecure, and dependent on others in relationships. This type of person feels threatened and tends to get upset when they see you talking to an attractive person, or they leave you a bunch of text messages, or voice mail if you miss their calls.
2. Secure attachment style in couple relationships:
People with a secure attachment style are comfortable with intimacy, they like to show affection and concern for others. Approximately half of
the world’s population has this attachment style. They feel secure in their relationships and feel that they are safe.
Live your own life and allow this freedom to your partners; resolve conflicts without becoming defensive, critical or sulky.
This healthy and balanced approach to relationships increases your chances of being in joyful and fulfilling relationships. Although people with secure and healthy attachment styles are the healthiest of the three, they are prone to ups and downs just like everyone else. But they tend to handle those fluctuations better.
3. Avoidant attachment style in couple relationships:
People with an avoidant attachment style are the type of partners who seem closed, unavailable, uncaring, and full of drama. They feel uncomfortable getting too close to people and not forming intimate bonds with others, so they keep their emotions bottled up and avoid falling deeply in love.
Although these individuals may long for a loving connection, they unconsciously fear abandonment and rejection if they become involved with another person.
People displaying this style are often commitment-phobic and avoid relationships or seek long-distance relationships to avoid feeling like prisoners. When they feel constrained, they use exit strategies, make excuses, or leave their partners out.
How to break a dependent emotional attachment
It is always difficult to take that first step to break the dependent emotional attachment. Not only is it scary, but the threat of being alone can put your sense of well-being at risk.
Getting rid of emotional dependency begins when you recognize that you really want to be happy. Once you can be honest and kind with yourself, you can take the necessary measures to get out of toxic relationships or situations that do not add to your own growth as a person.
1.Write a journal of your emotional records
It’s a great way to work through your thoughts and get some space for you to reflect on your current relationship. Identify if it is based on a healthy emotional attachment or an unhealthy emotional attachment.
Ask yourself if you feel autonomous enough to satisfy your emotional needs or do you depend mainly on your partner?
Finally, ask yourself what emotional ties keep you tied to the relationship. Don’t be afraid to be sincere and honest with your thoughts and emotions. Your responses may not conclude that the relationship is ending, however, it may provide an opportunity for greater balance and healing in your life.
2. Get support from friends.
The fear of being alone can lead you into toxic situations. Having the support of friends can help to transcend the fear of loneliness.
Another alternative would be to find a support group where you feel comfortable where you can freely talk about your feelings.
Finally, remember that it is okay to prioritize the relationship with yourself, this means that you take responsibility for the emotional needs that appear. However, it is important to explore how you can build love, commitment, trust, reliability, comfort, and self-assurance.
3. Take responsibility
Sometimes we give other people the responsibility of taking care of our emotional needs, this can lead to unhealthy situations.
To help you stop being emotionally dependent, you must be willing to identify what you need to be happy.
How can psychotherapy help the emotionally dependent?
A great support to work emotional attachment disorders is to seek help with a psychologist .
In therapy, you can work on the source of your attachment problems and gain a better understanding of why they affect your current relationships.
Additionally, you will be able to explore how emotional attachment affects existing disorders such as depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Another benefit of going to therapy is that it provides a safe space to process emotions and feelings.
Conclusions about emotional dependence
The psychological pattern of emotional dependence can be very negative for the person who suffers from it, since it pushes them to give up their individuality , leaving them completely at the mercy of the person they are dependent on .
Therefore, it is recommended that people who present this pattern receive psychological help , so that they are able to establish healthy affective bonds that do not imply a reduction in quality of life.