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February 17, 2023 12:09 pm

Love is What Love Does

Difference Between Love and Emotional Dependence

By Wasim Kakroo

RECEIVING emotional support while in a relationship may have its advantages. Your partner may be the first to offer empathy and comfort by paying attention to you and validating your feelings whenever difficulties arise and make your day feel dull and difficult. The majority of romantic partners depend on one another in some way, but emotional dependence results when you rely entirely on your partner to satisfy all of your emotional needs.

When a person feels dependent on another person in order to feel whole or happy, this is referred to as emotional dependency. Because they are unable to give it to themselves, those who depend on others for their emotional needs, especially their romantic partner, require constant attention, approbation, and support. Because of their deeply ingrained childhood traumas and disappointments, dependent people have an intense fear of not being good enough. Emotional dependence may be influenced by particular attachment patterns, such as a lack of a solid bond to primary care givers.

Due to the lack of physical symptoms, emotional dependence, like many other mental health disorders (emotional dependence can be a part of various personality disorders that are a result of adverse childhood experiences such as Borderline Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder etc.) can be challenging to diagnose. Most people who suffer from emotional dependence may not be aware of their condition and may even reject it when it is pointed out to them. Start by asking yourself whether you feel empty and alone within until your partner pays you attention and validates your feelings. Do you require your partner to live up to certain requirements in order for you to feel loved and safe? Do you expect your partner to behave differently than they actually do?

Unfortunately, love is frequently mistaken for emotional dependence because it frequently involves strong feelings for another person. There is a difference, though; emotionally dependent individuals could mistakenly believe they are in love when they are actually ‘in need’. It’s okay to have some emotional dependence on your partner, but it becomes harmful when your happiness is wholly dependent on them. Your relationship and general wellbeing may be impacted in the long run by this severe dependence.

People who are emotionally dependent typically require a lot of assurance and assistance from their partners. They can frequently ask, “Do you love me?” Are you actually interested in being with me? You wouldn’t want to call it quits, right? Because of your uncertainty and self-doubt, you become dependent on their acceptance in order to feel good about yourself. Additionally, those who are emotionally dependent have an obsessional urge to be attached to others, which causes them to have an obsessional fear of losing love.

Truth be told, love that stems from fear of abandonment is not love; it is need. The inner emptiness that consumes the majority of your mental space and makes you depend on your partner to fill it and make you feel loved is what leads to emotional dependency. The fact is that it’s actually impossible for others to heal you and make you feel loved if you don’t understand the difference between love and emotional dependence. Expecting someone else to always take care of all your needs just so you feel safe and loved is unreasonable. Love is a balance game of giving and taking; it is not simply about getting.

Let us now try to understand what love in actuality means.

The word “love” is one of the English language’s most casually used words, and because of this, it has grown to mean a wide range of extremely diverse feelings. We can all agree that love is what keeps the world turning and that without it, it would be just a barren, lifeless place. On the other hand, it is a phrase that we can very easily manipulate to suit our needs in order to rationalise our emotional dependence on someone. If we can learn to discern between love and emotional dependence and put this understanding into practise, we may improve not only our own quality of life but also the quality of life for everyone with whom we come into contact.

1. First, learn to love yourself: When we are emotionally dependent on someone, we frequently use them as a “filler” to mask and divert us from unresolved emotional problems we are experiencing within. Starting with the person you spend the most time with, i.e., “yourself”, can help you learn and understand what love is before you can truly love someone else. We are far quicker to point out our flaws than our strengths, and we have a tendency to berate ourselves when we don’t do tasks to our satisfaction. This all needs to change. Each day, make an effort to recognise your strengths, emphasise them, and develop them. When you do make a mistake, try to view it as a “work-in-progress” rather than a complete failure. You will be much more able to establish relationships with others with composure once you experience an increase in your own self-love and self-respect.

2. Reduce your expectations: Social anthropologists frequently compare many human relationships to contracts; while we show someone we love them, we also subtly impose on them a variety of demands that we want them to meet. And then, when the other person falls short of meeting our expectations (which will undoubtedly happen occasionally because we are all fallible), we feel let down and angry with the other person, our insecurity and fear of not being loved come to the fore, and we frequently turn to emotional blackmail to try and persuade them to meet our needs. On the other hand, true love is like the sun. The sun provides warmth and light to all without expecting anything in return. To the calculating mind, this could seem foolish, but when we live in the heart, we feel precisely like the sun does: we want to spread our love and goodwill wherever we can. This kind of love allows us to remain detached because we don’t have preconceived notions about how others should respond to it; rather, the act of showing love to others completely fills our hearts with joy.

3. Learn when to let go: We frequently impose psychological restrictions on the people we care about, whether it be parents who are “fulfilling their dreams” via their children or someone who is “stuck” in a relationship. The definition of true love is accepting someone as they are without trying to change them into something you want them to be. The best thing you can do for someone you care about is to let them reach their full potential as a human being. Sometimes this will require your active assistance, but other times it will only require you to recognise when you are getting in the way and move out of the way.

4. Cultivate and use the inner strength of patience and forgiveness: We must learn to develop forgiveness and patience in order to grow in love. It is easier to forgive someone when you see past their outward flaws and recognise their innate beauty. Love always involves seeing someone’s inner beauty and appreciating it. By doing so, we help bring that beauty to light and hopefully stop whatever horrible act that person may have done from happening again.

Our world can at times seem plain unjust, but if you can cultivate these traits of love for everyone you meet, you will be able to rise above “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” that people may throw at you and you may still keep your faith in the goodness of people.

  • The author is a licensed clinical psychologist (alumni of Govt. Medical College Srinagar) and works as a consultant clinical psychologist at Centre for Mental Health Services (CMHS) at Rambagh Srinagar. He can be reached at 8825067196 

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