The name says it all—emotional dependency happens when you allow all of your feelings and your entire life to depend on someone else. It is an unhealthy relationship in which you completely cease to exist as a person and in which you give the steering wheel of your life to others.
Experts claim that emotional dependency carries its roots back to your childhood and that in most cases, it is caused by one’s lack of parental love. Consequently, an unloved child grows to be an adult who focuses all of their energy on seeking approval and love from others.
And when you convince yourself that you’ve found the love you were searching for all along, you become completely dependent on it. It becomes the air you breathe and you are ready to do whatever it takes just to maintain this relationship. You are even ready to take on a submissive role in your own life, just for the sake of keeping this bond alive.
But even though emotional dependency patterns begin at an early age, it doesn’t mean that there don’t exist ways of dealing with this personality disorder. And here are 10 steps to take if you want to successfully overcome it.
1. Recognize the signs of emotional dependency and break the pattern
Before you can even start overcoming emotional dependency, firstly you have to learn the signs connected to it and you have to learn to recognize each one of them in yourself. What are the roots of your dependency?
Have you ever caught yourself being too jealous? Have you ever been accused of being extremely clingy in relationships with others?
Have you always relied on others to be your strength? Do you expect your romantic relationship to magically solve all of your problems? Do you know how to be happy on your own?
Can you imagine your life without your romantic partner? Why do you feel like you need your significant other so much? Why do you think you need someone else’s presence to feel safe and secure?
Once you answer these questions, the next thing to do is start paying attention to your own behavior. Stop yourself every time you start feeling needy about someone else. Stop yourself every time you start feeling hopeless or helpless without that other person.
Whenever you feel like you are going back to this endless circle of emotional dependency, take a deep breath, look yourself in the mirror and repeat after me: “I am the only person I really need. My worth isn’t determined by anyone else’s perception of me. I am a complete person even if I am on my own. I don’t need anyone to give my life meaning. I am more than enough.”
2. Understand that you are responsible for your own happiness
Another important step in the process of successfully surpassing emotional dependency is you realizing that you are the only one responsible for your own happiness. We all have some expectations of the people around us and that is perfectly natural. But just because you expect someone to treat you in a certain way, it doesn’t mean they will.
And even if someone is making you feel happy at the moment, you can never count on them continue doing so as long as you want them to. You can never put your happiness in the hands of someone else and you should never allow that person to be your only source of joy, no matter how much you care for them.
You are the one who has to decide to be happy because happiness is a choice.
3. Understand that you are in control
Another thing that will definitely help you deal with emotional dependency is realizing that you are in charge of your own life and in charge of yourself. I know that sometimes your feelings overwhelm you but the truth is that you are the only one in control of them.
Even though you can’t control everything that is going on in your life and you can’t be in charge of the way the people around you behave, it is up to you to decide how you’ll react to all of this. It is up to you whether you’ll allow life circumstances to mold you or if you’ll shape them.
Doing whatever your heart tells you to do doesn’t mean that you have to follow your emotions blindly, without ever thinking things through. Face your feelings and make sure you are in touch with them but don’t let them take complete control over you and your actions.
4. Stop trying to control others
If you want to retake control of your life, you need to stop trying to control others as well. You might not even be aware of this but when you depend on someone, you are terrified of losing them and naturally, you want to prevent that from happening.
When you are emotionally dependent on someone, you want this person just for yourself. Consequently, you become jealous and possessive. You stop respecting their boundaries and limitations and you expect them to be there for you at all times. You stop perceiving them as an individual and you only see them as someone you can’t imagine living your life without.
And that is anything but healthy. Besides, it is a sure way to chase the other person away.
5. Spend some time on your own
The main reason people enter into emotionally dependent relationships is because they are afraid of facing themselves. They are afraid of fighting their inner demons and afraid of their mental weaknesses. And that is exactly what’s happening to you.
You are afraid to solve your problems without anyone’s help and to face all of life’s challenges on your own. You are afraid of remaining alone with your mind. And that is the root of your problems.
But instead of working on this, you try to find comfort in others. Instead of improving yourself, you want to depend on someone who will have everything you think you’re missing.
The best way to overcome all of your inner fears is to spend some time alone. But I mean really alone with your thoughts—without anyone or anything distracting you. Do some introspection and give yourself your undivided attention.
What are the things you want? What are your biggest fears and ambitions? What are the things that make you happy and the ways in which you could improve your life? Where do you see yourself in the future?
6. Be kind to yourself
For as long as you can remember, you have kept searching for someone to care for you deeply and to make you feel loved. And you know why that is so? Because you don’t love yourself enough and you are trying to compensate for the lack of this love with love from other people.
The only way to overcome this is to understand the importance of self-love. To learn that there is nothing selfish in putting yourself first. To treat yourself the way you treat others—kindly and with care.
The only way to overcome this is to meet your own needs before expecting someone else to do so. To start appreciating and respecting yourself and to start treating yourself the way you’d like others to treat you.
It is to become the person you desperately want to depend on. To become what you expect others to be.
7. Look at yourself as an individual
One thing that almost every emotionally dependent person does is connect their sense of identity with someone else. And if you want to break this pattern, you need to start seeing yourself as an individual.
Yes, you are a member of society and you might be a parent, a child, a sibling or a spouse. But before that, you are you. You are a complete individual and a human being with your own feelings, set of moral values and opinions and with your own worth, which is never and can never be defined by someone else.
Put your energy into getting to know yourself better and in exploring both your mind and heart. Because this is the only way for you to strengthen your sense of identity and the only way for you to start perceiving yourself as the independent individual you actually are.
8. Don’t idealize the people around you
Emotional dependency happens when you undervalue yourself and overvalue the other person. When you get yourself involved in a dependent relationship, you think of this person as nearly perfect and everything they do impresses you. They are the only one who gets you, the only one who can help you when you need assistance and their sole presence is enough to make you feel better.
But have you ever tried looking at them as only human as well? Are you aware of their flaws and imperfections? Or do you project your expectations on to them, without seeing them for who they really are?
If you want to overcome your emotional dependency, you have to start looking at things realistically and you have to stop idealizing the people around you. Only once you do that is when you’ll see that you don’t need this superhuman to save you or fix you because they are in no way better than you.
9. Boost your self-esteem
The first step to becoming self-sufficient requires you to be sure that you are able to achieve your emotional independence. It requires you to believe in yourself and to have faith that you are strong enough not to rely on anyone else.
And the best way to do all of this is to boost your self-esteem. I won’t lie to you—this is a process and it won’t happen overnight. But it will happen if you are consistent enough and if you try hard.
If you want to improve your self-confidence and self-image, you need to move out of your comfort zone. Start with baby steps. Focus on accomplishing small tasks and achieving short-term goals. Once you do that, you’ll see that you are capable of doing everything you set your mind to.
10. Recognize your self-worth
The last but definitely not the least important step to overcoming emotional dependency is seeing your own worth. It is understanding that nothing and nobody can ever be more important than you.
It is realizing that you are more capable and valuable than you might think. It is overcoming your insecurities and learning from your past mistakes. It is working on yourself and prioritizing yourself.
It is knowing what you want from life and not being afraid to get it. It is not accepting anything less than what you deserve and not allowing yourself ever to settle.
It is creating a balanced relationship between your heart and mind. It is choosing yourself over everyone else and, most importantly, loving yourself more than loving anyone else.