The excitement of dating feels intoxicating. Everything looks brighter. You feel more alive. This is commonly referred to as the “honeymoon period,” when the infatuation becomes really intense.
In healthy relationships, you eventually get back into a normal state.Healthy relationships consist of a balance of your own life and the needs of the new relationship. This is called healthy dependency.
But, when you expect that one person to fulfill most or all of your needs, it starts an unhealthy cycle of emotional dependency that’s hard to break. Over time, this kind of dependency erodes your sense of self.
While you feel “at one” with the other person, the boundaries between you start to blur. You might begin to notice that if your partner’s in a good mood, so are you. But when your partner comes home angry, you immediately react in fear because his or her emotions dictate yours.
So how do you date without getting too emotionally dependent?
Where are your emotional eggs?
Keeping yourself from getting too attached can be the difference between feeling empowered or desperate in your relationship. Putting all of your “emotional eggs” in another person's basket puts you at risk for losing yourself in the relationship.
Say you have a dozen “emotional eggs” that represent your emotional needs. In a healthy person, his or her dozen “eggs” are spread out between friends, family, and hobbies, and preserves some “eggs” for self-care activities and emotional support. While some eggs may be given to a primary love relationship, there is a balance that helps you maintain
When most of your “emotional eggs” are in your partner’s basket, the relationship becomes lop-sided. Over time, the other person can feel smothered and eventually will pull away because of the need for personal space.
The Difference between Men and Women
In general, men are socialized to downplay their emotional needs. In romantic relationships, they often look only to their partner for emotional and physical needs. This becomes unhealthy when they don’t have other sources of connection and support. All of their “emotional eggs” end up in a partner’s basket. This creates that lop-sided dynamic which becomes smothering.
Developing supportive, platonic friendships isn’t encouraged for men as much as it is for women. This explains why some men may struggle more than women do when a relationship falls apart. Because they haven’t been socialized to seek help, they tend to isolate and use substances or destructive behavior to fill the void.
Women, on the other hand, are traditionally taught to look outside of themselves for happiness. The relationship becomes a way to feel valued. Their relationship status provides the stamp of approval she may crave. Unfortunately, this is also the fastest way to lose your sense of self. In these imbalanced relationships, a partner becomes your Higher Power.
While there is no full proof way to prevent imbalanced relationships, here are some tips on how to keep yourself in check while dating:
1. Like Yourself First
Without healthy self-esteem, your standards for picking partners will be low. Learn to be discerning and protect yourself from those that don’t have your best interested at heart. You deserve to have a loving, trusting relationship and not everyone fits that profile.
If you don't feel good about yourself, you might just let another person pick you, without paying close attention. Then you can end up in a relationship that you don't really want and may very well be damaging to yourself.
This is why it is better to wait until you have a good relationship with yourself before you consider dating.
2. Remember: Fantasy Is NOT Reality
Once you are ready to date, be careful not to let the “honeymoon energy” dictate your choices. It’s exciting to think about a potential partner being “the one,” but that intensity can make you think that you know the person better than you actually do.
This creates a false sense of security that lets you depend on that person like a trusted friend. The relationship takes on a fantasy-like quality. It feels too good to be true – because it is.
When you date, spend time learning about the other person’s character, and letting the other person learn about yours. This doesn’t happen in a few short weeks! You also need to see how that person reacts to life.
- Do they have friends?
- Do they drink or do they do self-destructive behaviors to cope with stress?
- How do they treat their family?
These are all important factors to consider before deciding whether your new relationship might be a good match.
3. Don’t Ditch Your Friends
When you depend on a romantic relationship to fulfill all of your needs, everything gets shoved to the side in favor of the connection. Making sure your friends stay a priority can also keep you from developing an unhealthy dependency on a romantic partnership.
Don’t ditch plans with friends for a romantic relationship. Platonic friends are part of your support system that must be maintained to keep a healthy balance. Also, if your romantic relationship starts to fail, friends can help you bounce back.
If you drew out a pie chart, how much time goes to the relationship? What's that time compared to work, friends, family obligations, exercise and other self-care? The goal here is to create moderation and balance.
4. Identify Your Absolutes in Dating
When you’re dating, you need a goal. For instance, do you want marriage and kids? Do you have a strong faith or viewpoint that you want to share with a partner? These essential values are considered “absolutes” when choosing a long-term partner.
Knowing what your absolutes are will provide a blueprint for finding a compatible partner. The key is taking the time to discover whether this compatibility exists, rather than making an emotionally based decision. This takes time and makes dating less emotional when you know what you're looking for!
By following these tips, you’ll able to date without losing your sense of self. If you take the time to get to know a potential partner and not let the intoxication of “honeymoon phase” emotions dictate your actions, you'll always be empowered to make the choice that is best for you, and that is a powerful place to be.
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- Happy Healthy Relationships – Online Course with Michelle Farris
Michelle Farris is a marriage and family therapist in San Jose California. She works with individuals, couples and offers online courses. She specializes in anger management and healing codependent relationships. She’s a therapist who “walks her talk” and supports others in transforming habits that hurt. She writes a blog on how to build self-esteem, set healthy boundaries and build relationships without sacrificing yourself. It’s the power of accountability and unconditional support that helps you move forward, let go of the past and truly heal. Visit her website to Get Free Access to Michelle’s Resource Library.