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Margaret Paul, Ph.D.

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Is This Love or Emotional Dependency?

Posted: 06/27/2012 6:00 am

One of my clients, whose ex-girlfriend recently broke up with him, asked me the following question:

I think I still love her, but is this love or just emotional dependency? Many times I ask myself if falling in love comes from the wounded self because (for me at least) it feels as if I can't live without the other person. When I give love from the heart, I don't expect anything back, but when I "fall in love" I think this is a different energy.


Which Part of You Is In Love?

Falling in love can come from two different inner states. When you fall in love from the wounded self -- the ego self -- it is not so much the person you love, but how he or she loves you. You are handing over to the other person the responsibility for your self-worth and wellbeing, and if he or she does a good job of attending to you in the way you want to be attended to, then you may say you are "in love."

When it feels as if you can't live without the other person, it is emotional dependency. The part of you that is "in love" is really a child or adolescent who is needy for love because you are not giving love to yourself or to others. There is an emptiness inside that you expect someone else to fill, because you are not taking responsibility for your own feelings of self-worth. You are attaching your worth to another's love, which is why you can't live without that person.

When you fall in love as a loving adult instead of as a wounded, needy child or adolescent, your need for the relationship is totally different. As a loving adult, you have learned how to fill yourself with love and define your own worth. Instead of needing someone to fill you and make you feel lovable and worthy, you already feel worthy and full of love. You experience this inner fullness because you have learned how to take full responsibility for your own feelings and needs, and you have learned to fill yourself with love from a spiritual source. This fullness overflows and you want to share this love with another person, another loving adult who is also filled with love. Your desire is to share love rather than to get love.

Choosing From Your Wounded Self or Your Loving Adult

The kind of person you will pick will be totally different when a loving adult is choosing, than when your wounded self is choosing. The people we pick have a similar level of woundedness and a similar level of emotional health. Obviously, the more you have done your inner healing work to bring love within, and the more you have learned to take loving care of yourself, the more you will be attracted to someone who also does this.

When you pick someone from your wounded self, you will pick someone whom you believe wants the job of filling you up. The problem is that the other person may be attempting to fill you up in the hopes that you will also fill up him or her. Two people who each want to get love rather than share love will eventually find themselves very disappointed with each other. They will each blame the other for not loving them in the way they want to be loved. When relationships break up, it is often because one or both partners are not taking responsibility for their own feelings and self-worth and are blaming the other for their resulting unhappiness.

If you are so attached to someone that you feel you can't live without that person, try learning to give to yourself and others what it is you want from this person. Your job is to become the person to yourself that you want the other person to be. Then you will be able to be "in love" rather than "in need." You will be able to love another person for who he or she is, rather than for what this person can do for you. Instead of needing to get love, you can give love from the heart for the joy of it, and feel filled in the giving.

To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week eCourse, "The Intimate Relationship Toolbox" - the first two weeks are free!

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