Emotional dependency: The Clingy Partner- Is it normal?
Picture from: lovethispic.com
We have all known someone who is maybe way too “needy,” or “clingy,” in relationships, or heck, maybe we have been that person! We may judge them because we do not know why they behave this way; why they cannot be more independent and focus more on themselves.We question why their life revolves around someone else, why they seem hopeless without them.
Dependency, or being dependent on someone can be a very healthy and normal part of development. When we are young we depend on others to provide us with nourishment, emotional support, and even material things. As we grow older we typically stray away from this dependence and we develop a sense of autonomy and independence. It becomes healthy and expected to be able to for the most part take care of ourselves. We should no longer need high levels of approval or emotional fulfillment from others. Problems arise when we grow emotionally dependent on someone and base our worth on their perception of us. There are many types of dependency, but for this post we will focus on emotional dependency. Emotional dependency is most often studied or observed in women, although of course, this is a universal phenomenon.
Emotional dependency is when a person allows someone else (usually a significant other or someone close to them) to affect their emotions and their happiness may depend on what the other feels about them, or expresses to them. This can be seen as a type of co-dependence.
Some early signs of dependency:
- A need for approval from someone else
- Prioritizing the other’s needs and desires
- Feeling worry or anxiety when we are alone or not in the presence of someone in particular
Developing dependency may contribute to both normal and abnormal personality development (Morgan & Clark, 2010). It can create changes in:
- Motivation: we may begin to feel changes in motivation and may lack other supportive relationships
- Cognition: it may change the way we feel about ourselves because we may see ourselves as incapable or ineffective in contrast to others.
- Affect: we may begin to feel anxiety or worry when we are not around those who provide us with support and emotional reassurance
- Behavior: The need to always seek approval and reassurance from that one person or persons may change the way we behave. Ex: we may begin to cater to a certain person or persons, or change our lifestyles in order to seek approval
- The Self: It can affect our levels of self-esteem or self-worth
Dependency can also affect those around us:
- Emotional dependency can alienate others around us because we may be too preoccupied with fulfilling the needs of others.
- We may begin to distance ourselves from those whom we believe do not understand us or are “Diagnosing “ us.
- Dependency may lead to other mental health problems like depression, which may affect those close to us (Petruccelli, 2014)
How to recognize someone who may be using emotional or psychological manipulation tactics (Gugliandolo et al., 2015):
- Making you feel guilty about things
- Making you feel like you are disappointing them
- Finding ways to shame you
- Isolating you
- Personal attacks (emotional or at times physical)
- Love withdrawal
*These tactics can at times mold and change the way we feel about our selves or our abilities and may leave you feeling incompetent. This may also increase your feelings of dependence by creating the need for approval or assurance.
*Emotional dependency is very commonly seen in relationships where physical abuse is present. One partner is emotionally dependent on the other and the abuser may feed off this dependency and gain control often leading to violence or manipulation (Petruccelli, 2014).
How to become more emotionally independent:
- Recognize the early signs of emotional dependency
- Learn your self-worth: know how important your needs are and your worth when you are alone
- Know that you have ultimate control over your own actions, feelings, and emotions
- Prioritize your needs and do not allow your actions to revolve around other’s needs or expectations
- Do not be afraid to seek help!
Some info found at:empowher.com
Why this post?
In past relationships I have always been quick to “feel” in love. I go out of my way maybe too quickly and truly immerse myself in the role of the partner. I do too much, I give too much, and I lose so much! I did not know that these patterns of behaviors could often lead to emotional dependency. I would feel anxious when my partner was not there. I would worry that I was not doing what I was supposed to do in the relationship, and when the relationship ended I would just feel used and confused. It was not until later that I would realize that I had given up so much control over me that my partners knew how to keep me doing what they needed. I was so dependent on their approval and their emotional reassurance.
We may all know people like this; maybe you have been in this situation yourself. Emotional dependence may be more common than we think, and checking for signs of it can greatly help.
As always, thank you for reading and I hope that you have enjoyed this post. Please feel free to comment, provide suggestions, or share. I appreciate your continued support.
Gugliandolo, M., Costa, S., Cuzzocrea, F., & Larcan, R. (2015). Trait Emotional Intelligence as Mediator Between Psychological Control and Behaviour Problems. Journal Of Child & Family Studies, 24(8), 2290-2300. doi:10.1007/s10826-014-0032-3
Morgan, T. A., & Clark, L. A. (2010). Passive-Submissive and Active-Emotional Trait Dependency: Evidence for a Two-Factor Model. Journal Of Personality, 78(4), 1325-1352. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2010.00652.x
Petruccelli, F., Diotaiuti, P., Verrastro, V., Petruccelli, I., Federico, R., Martinotti, G., & … Janiri, L. (2014). Affective Dependence and Aggression: An Exploratory Study. Biomed Research International, 20141-11. doi:10.1155/2014/805469