I Love Love - Is It Codependency? What To Do When You're Addicted To Love
By Sarah Fader
Updated September 11, 2019
There's an old song from the '80s called "Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer, and it outlines the epitome of needing to be loved. There are basic human needs such as food, shelter, and love, but people often think that they need the love of one person, and that's where it gets tricky. You don't necessarily need the romantic love of one person to live. Yes, we need love and nurture from parents and caretakers when we're young, but once we get older, our needs change. We want people to love us, and it's a delicate balance because you do need a support system, but if you depend on one designated person for that love and support, you'll be disappointed every single time, and it might strain the relationship. Being "addicted to love" gets into the realm of Codependency. So, let's talk about what Codependency is and how to avoid it.
What is Codependency?
Codependency is a term that isn't in the DSM because it's not a diagnosis, but it is a term that's used very frequently in the realm of psychology. Codepency has a broad definition; however, the best way to describe it in layman's terms is a type of relationship where two people are immeshed. Their sense of value and self are directly related to the other person. They'll often feel guilty about their life outside of the relationship and will continue to make choices solely for the other person's happiness.
Why Codependency Isn't Healthy
Codependency may seem healthy, but it's not. The reason that codependency is detrimental to people is that it doesn't allow people to seek their happiness on their own. When you're codependent you want others to validate you and make you happy, and that will always lead to disappointment. It's healthier to seek out things that make you happy, and then have a partner who adds joy to your life. There are different types of people who tend to gravitate towards codependent relationships. Here are some of the common personality types:
People who are "fixers" or like to help others often end up in codependent relationships because they feel valued in these dynamics. They're helping another individual, and it's something that they're searching for value in. While helping others is great, a healthy relationship can't be built on this, and it's important that you search for confidence and self-worth in yourself. People are drawn to these relationships because they get satisfaction from being needed - that's the role of the "helper" in a codependent relationship.
In codependent relationships, there is both a helper and the one that's being helped. The person who needs desperately and is looking to be fixed or coddled is looking for value in that area. Instead of looking to fix themselves or seeking mental health recovery through therapy or medication, they're looking to their partner to fix their problems. This doesn't work because that person is their partner; not their therapist or psychiatrist. The one that wants to be helped through a codependent relationship will be continually disappointed in their relationship because they aren't getting well or getting to where they need or want to be. The individual in this role must seek stability and help on their own.
Is it Okay to Love Being Loved?
The short answer to this question is "yes." You deserve to be in a romantic relationship where your partner loves you deeply. However, you don't need to be involved in a codependent dynamic, and codependent dynamics aren't true love. In a loving relationship, both people care and love for themselves as well as each other. It's important to define what love is so that we can better understand how to avoid Codependency and turn to interdependence or independence.
What is Love, and What is Codependency?
What is love? Love is an intense, emotional feeling where you have a sense of deep affection for someone else. When you love somebody, you care deeply about them, their feelings, and what happens in their life. You want to see them achieve their emotional and life goals. Codependency is a learned behavior that negatively affects yourself and other people. Codependent individuals rely on other people to get approval for their behavior. They often avoid confrontation because they don't want to get out of the relationship, and they feel abandoned if their partner chooses to take care of themselves instead of them.
A codependent person that is a "helper" has the drive to help the other person and often sacrifices themselves. It's a fine line between Codependency and abusive relationships, and sometimes, codependent relationships can become toxic or abusive. That dynamic can happen with relationships between someone with a substance abuse issue and a caretaker, for example, but there are many ways that codependent relationships can play out.
Codependency and Substance Abuse
Someone with a substance abuse issue may have trouble being honest, and in a codependent relationship with someone who has substance abuse problems, that person is deeply invested in the relationship and will do anything to keep it - including telling lies. That's not to say that all people with substance use disorders are dishonest, but it does happen in codependent relationships.
Codependency After Childhood Abuse
If you were neglected as a child you may seek approval from other people you didn't have that when you were younger. That approval-seeking behavior is a hallmark of codependency. It's important to recognize when you are engaging in codependent behavior and learn how to cope with these issues. If you're having trouble understanding you codependency and why it comes up for you, you can speak to a therapist online or in your area. Now that you understand codependency and what it is, the question is - how do you know if you're in a codependent relationship? Here are the questions to ask yourself to figure out if you are codependent:
- Do you rely on your partner to feel good about yourself?
If the answer is "yes," you might be codependent. If you're having difficulty finding good things about yourself and need to rely on others for all of your validation and confidence, it's likely that this is Codependency.
- Can you take care of yourself, or do you rely on your partner to do things because you're afraid of losing them?
One of the deep problems with Codependency is the fear of losing the other person, and it is a problem because you're so interconnected with them that if you lose them, you feel like you're losing yourself, so ask yourself; are you able to do things by yourself, or do you need this other person? We're not talking about somebody with a disability who has a caretaker and a healthy romantic relationship. This is about emotional neediness where you feel like you're losing your world if you lose that person, where you're so enmeshed that you feel like you're two pieces of the same person. In reality, you are a unique powerful human being who doesn't need to enmesh yourself with anyone else. You can enjoy relationships with others, but love yourself first.
- Can you imagine living life without your partner? Will you survive?
With Codependency, there's a deep fear of not being able to function without your partner. The reality is that we're human beings and that we can sustain ourselves and function without that specific interpersonal relationships in our lives. It's painful to lose someone that you love, but you're not going to waste away without them. You will not die if someone else isn't in your life. People are there to enrich our lives, but you cannot save anyone. You can help people, and those people can support you too. But the idea of saving others is a myth. You beautiful the way you are and you don't need some superhero to come save you.
Learning to Be Okay By Yourself
It's important to learn to love being alone. In life, we all have relationships that we cherish and love, but we don't need to be with someone to be happy. Remember that the most important thing is to work on yourself, gaining or maintaining stability, and loving yourself. That doesn't mean that you need to love everything about yourself. Everyone has things that they need to work on, but it's important to know that you can work on these issues, and a great place to do that is in therapy. You can learn to love yourself if you don't already. An online therapist can help you with these issues. The therapists here at BetterHelp care deeply about your feelings and want to help you get your needs met in relationships and through yourself, which is possible. Search the network of online therapists at BetterHelp, and learn how to determine if you're in a codependent dynamic or if you're okay by yourself. Online therapy is a great place to work through your relationship issues, and learn to cope with emotional challenges.