The Importance of Reducing Codependency And Maintaining Individuality In A Relationship

Yesterday I was listening to an episode of one of my favorite podcasts, ManTalks by Connor Beaton and he was talking about the concept of codependency in relationships and how detrimental it can be to parties involved and how one can go about freeing themselves from those shackles of co-dependency.

Listening to that episode, it occurred to me just how much codependency has been normalized and is actually celebrated by society and how it's negative connotations have been downplayed or downright ignored. When scrolling through social media, it is normal and pretty much a given to see posts and tweets of either single people talking about how much they "need" a partner who is going to "love them right" and make them feel some particular way about themselves or couples posting about how a partner defines and is the reason they feel some particular way about themselves and how they could never feel that way if it was not for the said partner.

These ideas, which are basically manifestations of codependency, are of course celebrated by social media revelers who purport them as true definitions of "love". Egotistical "love" is heralded on social media. The idea of partners sacrificing their being for the sake of a relationship is the status quo. Like I said in this post, it is like relationships nowadays are based on the masochist idea of how much of themselves each partner can give away for the sake of the relationship.

Codependency manifests itself in various ways like partners feeling like they are defined by the relationship, one or both partner feeling like they need the other or each other to function, one or both partners being defined by the validation they get from a partner, one or both partners feeling like they have an obligation to "rescue" the other or each other, and so on and so forth. From the aforementioned examples, one can make out that the core premise behind co-dependency is that when in a relationship, the "i" and "me", or individuality, ceases to exist and is replaced by the "we" and "us".

As much as pop culture, by way of music, novels, movies, tv shows, etc, has normalized and glorified this idea of a Bonnie and Clyde kind of passionate love—a kind of love that does not exist outside of the idea of those involved being one entity, the reality of that it is not sustainable, regardless of how fulfilling it might seem in the short term.

You can only be defined by your relationship for so long before it becomes overwhelming for one and eventually both parties. That period is most often referred to as the "honeymoon phase" and is, unfortunately, the only bearable time in most relationships. What we fail to realize is that as much as you enjoy the idea of being with your partner, there is going to get a point where either and eventually both parties will need some breathing room to be themselves and exist beyond the confines of the relationship.

When it gets to that point, the partner who is still immersed in the idea of both partners being defined by the relationship starts to feel like the one who now needs some breathing room loves them less or are not committed to "making the relationship work" for the sole reason that they now appreciate and want to exercise their individuality. How unfair and selfish of them, right? How dare they start thinking about themselves as an individual instead of a partner in a relationship, right? How dare they realize their individuality instead of being defined by the relationship, right? How dare they call me "needy" when I just want their love and affection which I am absolutely entitled to, right? How dare they want to be their own person when we are in a relationship, right?

Egotistical relationships, defined by "we" and "us" and ignorance of individuality, are simply unsustainable and it is ridiculous to even think they could be sustainable. It is absurd to get into a relationship with the expectation that your partner should be responsible or has the job of making you feel some particular way or as they like putting it on social media, "loving you right". The moment you start depending on a partner to make you feel a particular way is the moment you accrue feelings of entitlement to whatever makes you feel that particular way be it their time, love, etc. When they start being stingy with those because they also have to consider themselves as an individual, you start feeling like they are not as invested in the relationship by not fulfilling their responsibility of making you feel that particular way. How entitled.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a partner making you feel loved and appreciated but when you start feeling entitled to them making you feel that way, then you have a problem. Individuality is an intrinsic human characteristic and as much as it can get suppressed during the honeymoon phase of a relationship, it is eventually going to pop up. When both partners have always been co-dependent and have never made room for that individuality to exist, when it shows up, it is bound to crumble down the relationship.

My belief is that losing your individuality or the concept of you as an individual for the sake of a relationship, as good and fulfilling as it can feel in the short term, should never be a prerequisite for the relationship because you will be acting against human nature and you are bound to lose that fight. I believe that before even entertaining the idea of "us" and "we" in a relationship, you should have first liked and appreciated each other as separate individuals so that when the honeymoon phase ends and the idea of "us" starts to feel overwhelming and downright exhausting sometimes, you still like and appreciate each other as individuals.