The Mighty Logo

What to Know If You’re Dependent on Your Relationship for Happiness After Trauma

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Emotions are such a strange and complex entity. They can be our greatest gift, strength and ability to connect with others — yet they can also be our worst enemy, our downfall and the stealthy dismantling of our mind, of our being and our souls. When we love someone, our emotions tend to become woven through and around them, intertwining and rooting ourselves into their existence in our lives. We can become, in a way, dependent upon that feeling — that feeling of someone filling an emptiness that was once there. This feeling then morphs from a desire into a need, and it is in that space where we can begin to blur the lines of dependency and codependency. If we do not distinguish those lines early enough, the danger of self-destruction looms on the horizon.

Most of us can say that we have been in this place one way or another. We have been in a relationship with someone dependent upon us for their happiness, or we have been that person who has clung onto someone like our life depended on it. I can honestly say that I’ve been both.

When you come from a broken and tumultuous home, you enter into the real world of adulthood without the slightest clue of what a healthy relationship looks like or feels like. You thrust yourself into the fire with an already unhealthy need for someone else to love you the way you never were in your childhood — whether you consciously realize it or not. In my case, I had no idea. I was 18 and subconsciously searching for someone to love me the way that I never felt loved before — searching for that love that I could create a life and family with to make up for the experience that I never had as a child. I ran into the depths, wild and free, trusting way too much and not realizing how naïve I really was. This, of course, landed me in some unfortunate and downright abusive relationships that shook me to my core.

In my vulnerability, that I was unable to see at the time, I became a prime target for all of the sociopaths and narcissists of the world. They were sharks lurking in the waters of naivety, vulnerability and inexperience, just waiting for the first whiff of fresh blood, the first bite — that first taste. I all but derailed my entire life in my naivety. I became so woven into the mind games and psychological abuse inflicted upon me in the name of what I thought was “love,” simply because I was desperate to be loved at the time. I couldn’t let go, no matter what I was put through, because it was like I was continually trying to prove that I was worthy of being loved, that I could change into something that they wanted — even though I didn’t have to change a damn thing.

But through this, I saw the light and realized what I was doing wrong. I was projecting my own unhealed wounds onto the world and, through that, attracting people who were the living, breathing manifestations of the exact way I felt about myself at the time. But then there are times where we have been on the other side of that and been with someone who just couldn’t let us go, no matter how hard we tried. It’s those times that you try to end what is clearly an unhealthy and toxic relationship, for both yourself and the other person. Still, they just can’t let go of the need that they have convinced themselves of and deeply branded into their minds. That experience is heart-wrenching, frightening and confusing all at once, but at its core, it is supremely unhealthy. If you need anyone more than your own desire to love yourself, without anyone else to do it for you, you are not in a good state of mind and likely on a path to self-destruction. That’s not to say that ending relationships isn’t supposed to hurt. It hurts. But it shouldn’t hurt to the point that you don’t want to live or that you no longer even know who you are when it’s over.

We are all human, blessed with the gift and curse of emotions and ego. In a world full of predators, honoring your feelings and staying true to yourself is a virtue that should never be downplayed or taken for granted. But if we don’t take the time to reflect on our feelings, set standards for what we want, what we need and what we will accept, these very human things called emotions and ego can take us down a path of horrors that only prolongs us from getting where we need to be. So what do we do? The answer isn’t so simple. Having been down that path of horrors, having found myself and pulled myself out of the depths, I can say that the best thing that anyone can do is be alone for a while. Don’t jump into a relationship immediately after ending one. Let yourself heal. Let yourself be alone and reflect on the lessons you were meant to learn from that relationship ending. Let yourself realize from your past relationships what it is that you genuinely want and need and what it is that you will accept and will not accept.

Learn to be alone and learn to love and enjoy doing things by yourself. Learn what it is that you actually like to do, not just what you are doing because the person you were with loved it. Take care of yourself and give yourself that space to grow and expand. Realize that any relationship that makes you feel like you couldn’t survive if it ended is not a healthy one and is an urgent warning sign that it is time for you to look within yourself to see what void you are trying to fill with another person. Then, fill that void yourself. You cannot truly love someone, fully and completely, if you don’t love yourself. And likewise, no one can truly love you if they do not love themselves.

Too often, we fall victim to putting a Band-Aid on our wounds by shifting the emotions we feel deep within ourselves into a new relationship — and what we perceive as being loved by someone else. This seems to temporarily numb the inner demons or, at the very least, allow us to ignore that which we need to face. That’s when we can take the complexity of our emotions and put them to good use. Allow yourself to fully feel what you are trying to bury within yourself. Let it out and face the inner demons that haunt you. The haunting will never cease until you confront them, accept them, and let it go, and you will never find the relationship that feeds your soul until you supply your own soul first.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Originally published: July 12, 2021
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home