PHOTO: Francesca Zama
Text: Alejandra Misiolek
The pattern of emotional dependency is characterized by the need to feel constantly reassured by the other person that they will not abandon us and that we are important to them.
It is related to insecure attachment and low self-esteem and has as a consequence the difficulty in setting limits. This lack of assertiveness closes the loop since it is not only a consequence but also again causes even more low self-esteem.
On the one hand, we can affirm that low self-esteem is the reason why someone would be dependent in relationships. But is low self-esteem the cause itself, or is it a consequence of something else?
Like most phenomena in psychology, this one is also cyclical. In other words, what is a consequence of something becomes the cause of something else and closes the vicious circle. We are not born with low self-esteem, rather our self-esteem is formed in relationships with others from early childhood. If we have suffered from neglect, early abandonment, overprotection or other traumas, this significantly affects our self-esteem and can cause us to depend more on others in relationships and underestimate ourselves.
As a consequence of this lack of balance between the value we give to ourselves and to others, we tend to allow others to exceed our limits and we are not assertive. When we do not mark our limits and our needs, it is synonymous with disrespecting ourselves. In other words, if we treat ourselves without respect, this further affects our low self-esteem and the circle is closed.
In addition, if we have suffered abandonment, we fear that we will be abandoned again and paradoxically, by trying to protect ourselves from abandonment, we create a self-fulfilling prophecy of suffering even more abandonment. How? Because if we are very insecure and demanding with our partner, they may abandon us because it becomes tiring and overwhelming. In other words, abandonment becomes the consequence of our actions that were just going to protect us from abandonment.
For a relationship to be healthy, there must be a balance between dependence and independence. A secure attachment is based on the ability to depend on others in a healthy way (knowing how to be in relationships and regulate ourselves through them) but also knowing how to depend on oneself. What sustains passion and attractiveness in relationships is the feeling of being with the other because you want and not because of obligation or guilt. However, if we are too independent, we run the risk of not creating a connection with the other and we have few things in common. This balance is the art of being with the other that is related to knowing how to be with oneself.
How do I know if I am a dependent person in relationships?
There are certain common traits of people who tend to relate from dependency. Do you identify with this?
- You have low self-esteem and high self-hatred.
- You seek relationships with a partner having little criteria and without being assertive.
- You have difficulty making decisions.
- You are poorly adaptive to new environments or situations.
- You fear rejection and find it difficult to give your opinion.
- You have a need to please others.
- You have difficulty starting projects on your own.
- You lack confidence in your own judgment and abilities.
- You position yourself as inferior in relationships.
- Loneliness makes you feel very uncomfortable.
- You don’t have the ability to get out of a toxic relationship. Your relationships tend to transform into a roller coaster.
- You suffer from a feeling of emptiness that you try to fill with another person.
- You cancel yourself and do not usually think about your needs
- You can withstand physical or verbal abuse. You let yourself be easily manipulated by another person.
And to make up for all this, you tend to seek out partners/are attracted to people who:
- Have high self-esteem
- Have certain manipulative, dominant or possessive traits.
- Have narcissistic personality traits.
- Are cold and distant, but outwardly they have charm and a sense of humor.
If you identify with these traits and patterns, don’t blame yourself and don’t be ashamed. They are very common and make sense. Also, this can be worked on in psychotherapy and the work is above all based on improving the relationship with yourself!