Updated: Feb 1, 2021
If you looked at your relationship, what would you see? Would you see two people who have the ability to stand on their own, or would you see two people who depend on each other to survive? There is nothing wrong with having someone you can count on, or expect things from, but when that becomes a foundation for codependency, it's borderline dangerous.
Can You Stand Alone
Most of the content in existence that references love (music, movies, literature), focuses on finding a person who can make you feel complete. As wonderful as that may sound, there is a danger in forming a relationship with someone in order to fill a void or provide a specific need. To address this we will cover two types of relationships. “A” relationships, and “H” relationships.
In relationships where you need someone to fill a void, or provide a specific need, those are considered “A” relationships, and are codependent. They are dangerous because as soon as the condition that brought you together is no longer being met, the relationship may crumble. For example, let’s look at someone who needs to be rescued, and someone who always wants to rescue. In this case they both have a need that the other can fill. But what happens when one of them is no longer in need?
Don't get this concept confused with depending on someone. There is a difference between depending on someone, and being dependent upon them. In one situation you are expecting someone to perform a certain way based on commitments, in the other you are at their mercy and if they don't perform you'll be adversely affected. What I'm referring to is them being independent in maturity, mentality, and emotional development.
Without this, then just like the letter “A” shows two lines leaning against each other, if one of them stood up, the other could fall. So they have to depend on each other to stand. The danger comes in allowing this codependency to be the foundation of the relationship. Think of individuals brought together by pain, and how people process it differently. If that pain becomes the foundation of their relationship, then after the pain is gone, what else do they have to stand on?
In an “H” relationship, both partners walk hand in hand. If one of them decided to no longer be there, the other could still stand on their own. In this situation, both of them are strong as individuals. They can separate and still be ok, or explore individual interests and still come back together at the end of the day. In this type of relationship, the two partners can be more confident that they are together because they desire to be, not because they have to be. This is the plane from which all people should desire to connect. But, if you can develop those facalties mentioned above it is possible to transition from an "A" to a "H".
Let’s take a look at an example of a husband and wife who are in an "A" relationship. Their relationship is based on the husband providing, and the wife being provided for. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with fulfilling a relationship role, or an obligation to your family. As long as they communicated, are both capable, and made the decision together to adopt those roles together, then their relationship will be solid even in the face of adversity. But, If only the husband is capable of providing, and they are in an "A" relationship, then what happens if the husband gets laid off? The whole relationship would have to pivot.
They both may panic initially, because the husband would realize he can no longer provide, and the wife would realize she can no longer be provided for. If their entire relationship is anchored on this codependency, then one or both of them may fall when the other stands up. Or, they can marvel in the fact that they are afforded the opportunity to adjust their thinking. They can now look at each other as equals, and see each other as more than savior and saved. The can work hand in hand in an “H” relationship now, and combine their strengths to find a solution to their problem. They can essentially turn that fear into power.
Are You Happy?
Now, let’s take this concept of dependent and codependent relationships and apply it to being happy. Are you a happy person, or do you require someone else present to make you happy? Do you desire to make others happy?
If you have a partner that you have to make happy, then understand that is not a relationship, that is a job. And the amount of effort you will have to expend to always keep them happy will only stress you out. You also won't be able to grow and develop as a couple if the focus is only on one of you.
If you feel you need someone else to make you happy, then you are setting your partner up for failure. Nobody can make you truly happy as it’s a feeling that comes from within. The secret is to be happy with yourself before bringing someone else into the fold. In fact, the notion is the happier you are, the more you are able to attract a person who is just as happy.
There are a lot of things you can do to discover your happiness. Laugh, reflect on good times, volunteer for the less fortunate, recognize the many ways that you are blessed, etc. If you are a chronically unhappy person, then don’t be above getting professional help. Therapists and coaches are readily available to help you if you ask for it.
The best relationships are always formed by two people who are both happy and independent before becoming a couple.
Below is an exercise you can do some reflecting:
Do you believe you are in an "A" or "H" relationship?
If you are in an "A" who is dependent on who, or is it a mutual dependency?
If you are in an "H" did it start that way, or evolve to be that way over time?
List three things, that if you had right now (or can do right now) would make you happy.
Make a list of 10 things already present in your life that you are thankful for.