“You complete me,” Jerry Maguire says desperately to a teary-eyed Dorothy in the movie “Jerry Maguire.” She looks at him longingly as she accepts his apology and his proposal for a relationship. She appears charmed by his sentiments. That phrase charmed people all over the world. We, as a collective society, ate it up. We love a good romance story. A story full of ups and downs, of will-they or won’t-they make the relationship work. It can be dangerous to romanticize this kind of love though as it is seen as a codependent relationship.
Codependent relationships like most of the relationships portrayed in the media, perpetuate the notion that a partner that is dramatic, unavailable and over the top is desirable. These kinds of relationships also perpetuate the idea that the kind of relationship to strive for is one that causes panic, anxiety and uncertainty in us. These are not healthy ideals for a partner or a relationship though. Our perception of what is healthy has been skewed by romance novels and romantic comedies. A person must not really care for us if there isn’t a major breakdown, over the top profession of love or a grand gesture to get us back. All of these behaviors and emotions are a recipe for a disastrous or codependent relationship.
As a relationship therapist, I sometimes hear people talk about how they are looking for someone who is exciting, a little dangerous or mysterious, someone who makes them weak in the knees, gives them butterflies or consumes their thoughts. Sometimes hinting that the lack of these qualities can lead to a boring or predictable relationship. I challenge my clients on where these thoughts come from and what can be seen as healthy versus unhealthy when building a relationship with someone new.
Codependency Looks Like This
A codependent relationship looks like imagining that you cannot live your life without this person. All of your happiness and self-worth is wrapped up in someone else. Your actions and choices are based on your partner’s feelings and happiness. Your life before them becomes a blur. Things that used to bring you joy don’t feel as exciting without your partner there. You feel like you would do anything to make your partner happy, including not respecting your own morals or boundaries to make that person comfortable. What if Jerry Maguire had said, “You complement me.” Sure, it’s not as romantic, but it is healthier. He is not basing his worth or ability to function on someone else. Healthy relationships encourage autonomy and time apart. Codependent relationships do not.
Make your Relationship Healthier
To create a healthier relationship, make sure you are balancing your wants and needs with your partner’s. Be mindful of spending time alone doing things that make you feel good and inject positive energy into your spirit like, reading, going for a walk, taking a class, dancing or practicing meditation. Also, make sure you are spending quality time with your family and friends. What is it like to go out without your partner once a month? Take some time to monitor how many of your choices are based off of pleasing your partner. Make sure you know how to manage and cope with your own emotions without needing your partner to fix it. Having a partner to do things with, spend time with, to have emotional support from, learn new perspectives from, these things are merely a bonus in life; this not required or even necessary in order to live a good and happy life. Knowing how to make yourself happy, and how to meet your own needs directly is necessary.
The challenge is to find balance between you, your relationship and the important things in your life. Too often people get caught up in their relationship and spending time with their partner that they forget that there used to be things that they enjoyed doing when they were single. Pursuing things that you enjoy and working on personal growth will only bring positive energy to your relationship.
Healthy relationships are important for you and those in relationship with you. Try to choose three ideas from the list above to establish healthier relationships and commit to them for one month. Your experience of this challenge will help you truly assess just where you are in maintaining healthy relationships. If you feel that you are in a codependent relationship, or you would like support exploring what would be a healthy relationship for you, codependency help is available. Call a codependency therapist at 215-922-5683x100 and find a codependency therapist near me.