Our culture is full of relationship advice that tells you dependency is a bad thing.
But contrary to popular belief, relationship dependency is the name of the game if you want to create healthy relationships. In this video, I’m going to debunk the top three codependency myths.
You might be wondering if there are certain dependency personality types that are more high-maintenance than others.
But guess what: We’re all high-maintenance!
Humans are wired to rely on each other for self-esteem building, comfort and well-being among many other needs. Of all the relationship mistakes you can make, this is one of the worst: When partners act as though they should only be responsible for taking care of their own needs.
This can create toxic relationships.
In this video, I’m going to teach you why everything you’ve been taught about relationships is wrong.
Hi, I’m Gabrielle. I’m a mental health professional, relationship expert, and author of The Power Couple Formula. Every day, all over the web, social media, I see all kinds of messages that are being given to couples that are not grounded in reality. And this leads to all kinds of relationship mistakes.
You’re getting a lot of “relationship advice” that is not grounded in science.
So here we’re going to uncover what some of these myths are, where they come from, and you’re going to get some important information that goes way beyond basic relationship tips.
You’re going to get some mindsets that you should be adopting so you can build a loving, trusting, and enduring relationship.
But I’m warning you, this may go against all the conventional wisdom you’ve heard.
Okay, so you may be asking yourself, “Am I too needy?”
Maybe you’ve been told that you’re a highly sensitive person. Should you be more self-reliant?
How much should you rely on your partner and for what kind of things?
We live in a culture that worships autonomy and self-sufficiency. In our culture, relationship dependency is looked at as a very bad thing.
So I’m going to share with you these three codependency myths that you are undoubtedly familiar with, and debunk them for you so you can understand what it is that you’ve been missing.
Myth #1: Codependency is a Bad Thing
Dependency myth number one, if you look for soothing or emotional regulation from another person, that means you’re codependent or needy, right?
This way of thinking has been around for a long time. In the 1970s, Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt therapy, composed the Gestalt prayer to describe the kind of intimate relationship that he felt was most in line with his view of self-development.
And this has had huge ripples throughout our mainstream culture.
The Gestalt prayer goes like this:
This prayer epitomizes the relationship attitude that people should take care of themselves, and not take care of each other in relationship. And this attitude continues in full force to this day.
For example, Buddhist practitioner and psychotherapist Bruce Tift in his book, “Already Free,” recommends that couples say the following to each other:
All this sounds so logical, wise, and mature, right?
Well, I can tell you that this goes against every fiber in your DNA.
Contrary to the popular myth that relying on another person for soothing or emotional regulation is a sign of neediness or codependency, it’s actually a sign of health.
We know from the research that the more secure people are in themselves, the more likely they are to rely on an intimate partner. As human beings, we’ve evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to depend on each other for our very survival.
And that applies to every child who’s ever been born in the human race.
Our ancestors only survived because they lived in tight-knit groups where they could fend for each other’s safety, provide nourishment for each other, and support in times of need.
Everyone who decided to make a go of it on their own either died or came back begging to the tribe a week later, which leads us to dependency myth number two.
Myth #2: Being An Adult Means Being Independent
Not taking care of someone else’s feelings and not expecting someone to take care of yours is supposed to be the hallmark of a truly adult relationship, right?
Wrong. That’s a dependency myth.
Like I said, our culture has been going in the wrong direction with this for a very long time.
Not only did we evolve to completely depend on each other in groups, but even more critical is the pair bond. Pair bonding is getting together and forming a special relationship with one other member of our species. It’s a survival strategy that we’ve been using since human beings walked the face of the earth.
You couldn’t just sire a bunch of kids and then say, “Honey, good luck with that, I’ll just feed myself.” Humans learned very early that creating a special bond with one other person, sharing resources, protecting each other’s wellbeing, and putting their brains together to come up with the best solutions possible was far and away a better solution than trying to make a go of it on your own.
In fact, who do you think hunted better, the dude who got a foot rub the night before a long hunt, or the dude who was left sitting in his cave alone worried about getting speared by the giant woolly mammoth?
Interdependency is a fact of life on this planet.
The fact is, it’s a sign of health when you and your partner expressed dependency in your relationship. Contrary to what you might have been taught, codependency is not a sign of a toxic relationship.
Healthy relationships involve relying on other people for things like self-esteem building, reassurance, soothing, nurturing, and strengthening our wellbeing.
If your relationship is devoid of these loving, soothing, connecting, nurturing behaviors, you’re going to start your day off on the wrong foot. You’re going to go to work very cranky, and you’re going to live a very cranky life. And you don’t have to take my word for it. All the research on happy relationships shows that when you’re happy in your relationship, you have better mood, better memory, less pain.
You make more money, and you live longer. How about that?
Myth #3: You Have to Love Yourself First
Dependency myth number three, you have to love yourself first before you can love someone else, right?
In fact, as one of my teachers says, that’s mind-bogglingly wrong. A lot of self-development movements that have been so highly influential in Western society are just that, self-development.
They’re focused on developing the self, but very often at the expense of the relationship.
Everything we know about developmental psychology tells us that a child’s brain grows and is hardwired through relationship. No one pops out of the womb with a developed brain and then just gets up and goes to work.
Everything you’ve learned was learned in relationship to somebody who was older than you, who was caring for you and relating to you through your eyes, through your skin, and through your face every day.
But I’ve got news for you: As an adult, that doesn’t change.
Your self-esteem, your ability to manage your own emotions, your self-confidence, and your overall sense of well-being as a person in the world are entirely dependent upon your relationships.
In a very realistic way, self-development is an illusion.
From the moment we’re born, we learn to love ourselves because someone loves us first. We learn to value ourselves because someone values us first. We learn how to manage our own feelings because someone helped us manage our feelings first. There is no such thing as developing all of these capacities out of nothing.
Here’s a great example, let’s say that you’re working on expressing yourself more honestly. You think that would be freeing and liberating to just say what’s on your mind.
In fact, maybe your individual therapist even told you that’s a good idea.
Now, if you just blurt out everything on your mind to your partner, that might meet your goal of being more honest and more expressive. But it could be very hurtful to your partner at the same time. And this is just basic common sense.
You don’t just walk up to your grandma and say, “Hey, Grandma, you’re looking pretty sick today. You’re getting old.”
So every skill we learn in life really only works when it’s learned and it’s practiced in relation to our partner, our family, and the world at large. Unless you want to learn how to build a house and go and live by yourself on a deserted island, guess what, you’re stuck with the rest of us.
Our relationship with our partner is a lot like our relationship to society at large.
We can’t just do whatever we want, whenever we want when we’re part of a larger whole, whether that’s a relationship or a society. We can’t just defecate on the sidewalk because although that might bring us momentary satisfaction, it’s bad for the other people in the society.
And that’s why societies make laws against those kinds of things.
But ultimately, it’s better for us if we don’t make our personal desires more important than the well being of the society in which we live. Because when we give up a certain amount of our personal freedoms, we get a bunch of things back in return, like a sewage system, or public schooling, or dog parks and law and order, or in the case of your intimate relationship, a shoulder to cry on when you’re in pain, somebody to turn to when you’re lonely or demoralized. Who is going to pick you up from the hospital when you’ve got prostate cancer?
So every relationship, whether it means between an individual and a society or an individual and their romantic partner always means that you have to take care of the other party by respecting their well-being, and not just consider your own.
And sometimes that means that you don’t get to do what you want.
Why is it so hard for us to understand something that seems so obvious?
Why Are These Dependency Myths So Common?
Why are people espousing them as though it’s like, “Yeah, the sky is green,” and everybody believes them? It’s because these myths match up with what many of us learn when we come from insecure families.
In insecure families, we don’t learn how to collaborate. We don’t learn how to work with other people in order to create solutions that are good for both people.
We learn that we need to hold on so tight to what’s important to us because at some point in our lives, someone didn’t respect us, someone didn’t value us, someone didn’t have our back or support us in what was important to us.
We learn that we have to either give up on ourselves entirely and give the other person everything they want, or we just have to go our own way and do our own thing. When we come from a background like this, it’s hard for us to even imagine that there could be any value in depending on somebody else for anything at all.
We might feel a lot of shame about that, which is what makes it easy to adopt cultural beliefs that dependency is a bad thing.
But make no mistake, couples who make it in the long run are those that understand the true value of interdependence. They understand that caring for each other is the only way to create a relationship that lasts.
I hope you enjoyed this video, and please leave me your comment below.
I’d like to hear your opinion on whether you agree with me about dependency myths:
- Do you think that if you look to another person for soothing or emotional comfort, that that means you’re codependent or needy?
- Do you think that not taking care of someone else’s feelings or expecting someone else to take care of yours is the hallmark of a truly adult relationship?
- Do you think that you have to love yourself first before you can love someone else?
Leave me your opinion below, and I’ll look forward to reading it and seeing you in the next video.
This is brilliant, I have nothing at all to criticize about this article. This article is a critique of a mainstream idea. I love it when someone does that. Even the experts on any subject, can be wrong. Even at the highest level, about the most important research on earth. Thank you Gabrielle for telling it how it is. There’s too much scapegoating and witch-hunting for the bad guy in relationships. We “are” interdependent and (shock/horror), codependent. I want my partner to love me when I’m down, and remind me I am loved. Nice work.
Thank you for your feedback! I agree! It’s time we wake up as a society to the fact that our basic need for warm, secure relationships is part of what makes us human. This need should be a source of celebration and not shame!