Love is a facet of human existence as important as, unfortunately, distorted through myths and exaggerations.
This means that, for many people, falling in love or living with a partner involves a series of totally dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors that often not only harm the person who internalizes them but also harm others. In some cases, it goes to the extreme of assuming that love is a synonym for emotional dependence, which generates basic problems in any love relationship applied to life as a couple.
In this article We will see what are the key ideas to be clear about how love and emotional dependence differ, and why it is essential not to mix both concepts.
What is it like to feel love?
Love is an experience that involves both behavior patterns and cultural elements, as well as innate biological mechanisms that make us have an interest in strengthening ties with others.
Although each historical moment and culture privileges some forms of love over others (until not so long ago, what we understand today as romantic love practically did not exist), all forms of couple love share certain characteristics, which have to do with the following:
- By feeling love, we seek to reach a certain level of commitment: to sacrifice aspects of our individuality in order to be able to live with that person and create plans for the future.
- Love evolves, being emotionally very intense at the beginning (to maximize the chances of knowing the other person better and getting to connect emotionally) and stabilizing over time.
- Love has a strong emotional component, it is not based on a simple selection of potential partners taking into account objective criteria.
- Couple love usually has to do with sexual desire, due to the biological mechanisms on which it rests as a neurobiological phenomenon. But in some cases it can be given without sexual interest.
How to distinguish between love and emotional dependence?
As we have seen, so that love does not give rise to problems, it must be applied to a relationship in which there is a certain commitment. However, this commitment and the way in which we experience it (as it is subject to a great emotional charge) is far from giving rise to a situation of dependency. Let’s see why.
1. Love gives rise to relationships that tend to symmetry
Couple love has to do with dialogue and the search for consensus about how to live together, creating a life project in which the aspirations of both people are compatible. That is why, by its very nature, reciprocated love tends to lead to symmetry; Neither person has a position of clear power over the other, in any case the abilities of both complement each other.
However, in emotional dependence that symmetry does not exist: there is someone who depends on the other, and there is someone who acts as a consequence of their role as a privileged party.
That is why even if the non-dependent person lacks the will to harm the other, the relationship tends to become toxic very quickly; not because of their personality or aspirations, but because of the dynamics of interaction and decision-making that are established between the two. The problem goes beyond individuals, it has to do with how they are related.
2. Love is not based on fear, dependence is
Love has to do with the pleasure of being in the company of another person and the security offered by the expectation of having them with us in our lives; in fact, it is that tranquility of knowing that we can count on the other person one of the main sources of motivation that leads people to have a partner.
But nevertheless, emotional dependence is not positively oriented; In it, the main thing is to know how to manage the fear of the other person leaving us, losing interest in us or finding a better life project with another person. Thus, almost all actions carried out seeking the validation of the boyfriend / girlfriend, husband or wife, are carried out while on the defensive, in the face of these catastrophic predictions about what could happen if that person stops having incentives to be with us. side.
So that, if love has to do with being actively involved in a relationship, emotional dependence is based on a role of reaction, letting circumstances drag us down.
3. Dependence has an obsessive component
During the infatuation phase, many people develop something similar to obsessive-type thoughts; They tend to constantly think about the person for whom they are strongly attracted, to take care to give a good image to them, and so on. However, this phenomenon has to do with the lack of information and the habit of being in front of that person; as it has been idealized, one tends to adopt a very meticulous perspective of how oneself should behave and how those first interactions should be managed.
But the infatuation lasts relatively little, a few months. As love matures and consolidates, becoming more emotionally stable, it loses that aspect of introspection and is oriented not so much to the thoughts and fantasies of oneself, but rather to the desire to support the other person. spontaneously and with little thought, by really knowing their values, their concerns, their concerns and vulnerabilities, etc.
In contrast, emotional dependence retains its obsessive character indefinitely; What’s more, as we have seen, it is based on the fear of abandonment, and that means that as time passes these obsessions can become even more intense.