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Emotional Dependency, Needing Space

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In many relationships, one person complains about not having enough time with his or her partner, while the other complains about needing space. Find out how to resolve this conflict.

"He's not here for me," complained Hailey. "We don't spend enough time together."

"She's too needy. I need space," complained her husband, Ryan.

"He just does whatever he wants to do, with no concern for me," countered Hailey.

"She's so demanding that I just don't feel like being with her lot. I wish she'd just back off. I need time with my friends."

In my counseling practice, I often see couples where one partner is emotionally dependent and the other partner is emotionally distant. Interestingly, both aspects of this system come from fear. Neediness -- emotional dependency -- comes from a deep fear of rejection, stemming from inner abandonment. Hailey gives responsibility to Ryan for her feelings. She doesn't know how to take care of her own feelings and needs, so she makes Ryan responsible for them.

Emotional distance also comes from fear -- of engulfment. Not knowing how to speak up against being controlled and smothered by Hailey, Ryan resists and distances as his way to feel safe.

In this codependent system, each person is triggering the fears of the other. Hailey's anger and complaints trigger Ryan's fear of engulfment, while his distancing triggers Hailey's fear of abandonment. Then they respond to each other with the very behavior that continues to trigger the fear. They are caught in a protective circle, each blaming the other for the problems. Hailey really believes that if only Ryan would spend more time with her, everything would be okay, while Ryan really believes that if only Hailey would back off and stop pulling on him for time and attention, everything would be okay. Neither is accurate.

Ryan cannot make Hailey feel loved and safe as long as she is abandoning herself -- by judging herself, ignoring her own feelings, and making Ryan responsible for her feelings of worth and lovability. Until Hailey learns to take emotional responsibility for her own feelings, she will be a bottomless pit. No matter how much time and attention Ryan gives her, it will never be enough because the inner abandonment will continue to make her feel alone inside.

On the other hand, even if Hailey does back off from pulling on Ryan for time and attention, it is likely he will continue to be resistant and emotionally distant. His fear of engulfment is not being caused by Hailey -- it is being caused by not having learned to speak his truth and set limits against engulfment. As long as he does not know how to lovingly take care of himself in the face of someone wanting something from him, he will continue to emotionally distance himself. Even if Hailey is not making him responsible for her feelings, her just wanting anything with him or from him can trigger his fear of engulfment and resulting resistance.

Practicing the Inner Bonding process can improve the ability to take loving care of yourself. The more you practice, the more you develop your spiritually-connected, loving adult self. A strong, spiritually connected adult is capable of:

  • Not taking rejection, resistance and emotional distance personally.
  • Filling yourself with love so that you are not needy for another's time and attention.
  • Speaking the truth about not wanting responsibility for another's feelings, without resisting, attacking or distancing.
  • Taking loving care of yourself without anger or distance.
  • Taking loving action in your own behalf to ensure against engulfment.
  • Sharing love instead of trying to get love or avoid pain.

Hailey and Ryan's relationship problems will not be solved just with agreements to spend time together, or agreements regarding when Ryan can spend time with his friends. Agreements can cover over the real issues of the fears of rejection and engulfment, which is why they often don't last. Agreements made by two people taking responsibility for themselves can be very supportive of a relationship, but agreements made from the wounded self are coming from a need for control over getting love, and a fear of being controlled. Hailey and Ryan's codependent system can heal when both people commit to developing their loving adult self.

If you find yourself often complaining that your partner does not spend enough time with you, you might want to look at how you might not be taking emotional responsibility for your own feelings. If you find yourself complaining that you never get time alone or with friends, you might want to look at how you are not speaking up for yourself, not taking responsibility for your own needs. Rather than blaming your partner, over whom you have no control, try looking within and opening to learning regarding what loving actions you need to take in your own behalf.

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

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