Ask someone what it is they value most in life, and you are likely to hear that it is their relationships. That can be their relationships with their family, their co-workers, their friends, or their lovers. We oftentimes define ourselves by these relationships – How do others view us? How do they validate our beliefs? Who do we share our experiences with? Humans are fundamentally social animals, and other people are our lens into our inner psyche and the meaning we give our lives.
Now, not all relationships are created equal. Different people play different roles in our lives. We generally don’t consult our bosses at work with questions about our love lives. Our parents may not be the best people to talk to about that tattoo we want to get. You get the idea…
No matter what we are expecting from a particular relationship, there are positive ways to get it and negative ways to get it. Openness and honesty are generally central to any healthy relationship, whether you’ve met through a friend or a chat line. But while we want a certain level of transparency and forthrightness, too much can sometimes lead to an unhealthy kind of co-dependence. This occurs when we start overly relying to people to fill our needs. For example, people often look to their parents for wisdom and guidance. But if you take this too far and stop making even minor life decisions without your parents approval, or without thinking WWMD? (What Would Mom Do?), then you have likely become codependent. You have lost trust in yourself.
People who are codependent are often scared of failure. By relying on other people for guidance or comfort at all times, they can always blame a negative outcome on that person rather than themselves. It’s important to know that in the end we are always ultimately responsible for our actions. By turning ‘advice’ into a ‘must do’ we lose site that it is ourselves we are making decisions for.
In romantic relationships this often takes the form of forgetting you are your own person, instead thinking the partnership you have is physical, mental and emotional. You can start to feel that disagreements are failures. Time away from each other begins to breed feelings of jealousy. We can start to think we have a right or a sense of control over the other person. This is not only untrue, but it is dangerous. This type of co-dependence can make us act out in ways we otherwise would consider immature and selfish.
The key is to always remember the following:
- You are responsible for yourself
- You cannot control other people
- No single person can fulfill all your needs
So get out there and meet new people, strengthen existing friendships and spend time with the people you love. And when you do that, remember to be aware of what you want, and what you need. Other people are your support and your guides, but you are the executor of your own life and only you can take responsibility for the results of the path you choose. That’s a great thing! You can always make mistakes, but your successes will be your own and are yours to make.