In episode 273, I received a question from an individual who has been struggling with their relationships, often giving love too easily to those who don’t deserve it. In this post, I dive into the topic of codependency in more detail, taking a look at what might be the cause, why it isn’t all bad, and what you can do to check on yourself and set personal boundaries to help safeguard your heart.
Hello, I first just wanted to thank you for providing so many people with help through this podcast. My question for you is: as a single person who has little experience with serious relationships, how do I not let the thought of someone else’s love consume me? It’s all I think about and I end up giving my love to people who don’t deserve it because I am desperate. How do I stop this?
Good question! I think it’s a totally valid one and it sounds like it’s born from some negative experiences where you can see that you let the needs of others take priority in the desperate hope of obtaining and keeping love/connection from someone. There are a lot of people that feel something similar, so you aren’t alone in this. I think that there are definitely some things you can do and some things that you can take a look at to help with this.
First off, let’s take a moment to recognize that while this can cause some problems or difficulties for you, this tendency is truly born from a good place. If you think about it, this means you aren’t jaded. You care about other people. You care about being a good partner to others. You relish in the comfort of having a romantic connection. There are a lot of great and desirable aspects of your personality that are on display here. We don’t want to lose that completely, we just want to mold this into something that works better for you and something that does not put you into such painful situations. So start with that. You aren’t dumb for this. You aren’t a failure at relationships. You aren’t just desperate. You have a huge capacity for love and care. That’s an awesome baseline to start from.
Attachment and relationships
Now, obviously it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, since you wrote this question in. So what can we do about it? While this isn’t a huge overt issue like panic disorder or PTSD, I think that working with a therapist could be helpful here. Not absolutely necessary, but a great platform to use if you have access to it. The reason is that you may need to dive into your past a bit. Our tendencies in relationships can often be tied back to our upbringing and our relationships with our primary caregivers. I can’t give you an exact thing to look out for here since it’s so personal, but here are some possibilities.
Was there something about the way that you grew up that made you hungry for love? Did you learn at a certain point that you needed the security that being in a relationship can provide? Did you learn that abandonment is imminent and dangerous somehow? Did you learn somehow that your ability to succeed is contingent upon your approval from others? What was your attachment to your primary caregivers like?
If you haven’t yet, look into attachment research a little bit. A quick google and youtube search will give you some good info. If you did not have secure attachment to your primary caregivers growing up, there’s a possibility that certain behaviors, tendencies, or personality traits developed to compensate for this. To bring you comfort where your bond to your caregiver did not. Knowing this doesn’t immediately resolve your current situation, but knowledge is power and this gives you some reasoning and a better knowledge of the sometimes difficult-to-understand feelings that you have. This kind of knowledge will help you recognize when familiar patterns are playing out rather than just regretting it after the fact.
A sense of self
Another aspect that often has people desperate and hungry for the love of others is a lack of their own sense of self. I’m definitely not the type to say that you can’t love anyone until you love yourself or you need to be perfectly independent. I think that’s bullshit. We are mammals. We are social animals. Many of us have a built-in desire for connection and affection. There’s nothing wrong with that. BUT you can absolutely lose yourself in it if you don’t have a very clear picture of who you are on your own. I think that personal exploration is very valuable here. There are a number of options out there for self-discovery workbooks that you might check out. You can also learn a lot about yourself and get on better terms with your own self through simply taking care of yourself better. By engaging in self-care. Journaling, doing things that are pleasurable just for you, exploring, experimenting, and making a point to try to discover yourself more. You can find yourself feeling a lot more dependent in a relationship if you don’t have a lot else going on, so I would encourage you to stay engaged with the world in other ways aside from just romance. Having hobbies, interests, and passions that you are actively participating in helps to balance the scales and not feel like everything is riding on the relationship that you are in (or are pursuing).
Recognizing your patterns will also allow you to get more out of consulting with someone else. If you have a trusted friend or family member that you can talk to about your romantic life, that would be amazing. Somebody that you can be absolutely real with and someone that isn’t afraid to call you on your bullshit. Sometimes when you are in the eye of the storm, it’s so hard to see what is actually playing out. It’s only from the external perspective that the repeating patterns become obvious. So check in with someone regularly and check yourself. This is also helpful because it’s easy to become paranoid and second guess all of your relationship/romance-related decisions once you start recognizing some patterns, so having an outside source to check in with can keep you reasonable.
This should come as no surprise, but I highly recommend journaling in this situation. Not only to dive into the stuff we talked about above, but also to keep a record of situations that you need to learn from. This can help you identify patterns and then you can refer back to them in the future. If you recognize areas that put you at risk of letting yourself go, you may need to institute some self-boundaries related to them. Things that you need to keep yourself from doing or sort of personal red flags. Like if I do X, I know I’m probably due for a check-in with my friend to make sure I’m not just being codependent etc.
So hopefully those are a few things that you find helpful to try out. I think that you are going to be in great shape. As I said, there are a lot of strengths and desirable qualities here. Some effort and trial and error will get you much closer to a balance that you are satisfied with.
You can listen to this on Episode 273 of the podcast!
Thank you for the great question!
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