How To Tell If You're In Love (Or If You're Just Emotionally Dependent)

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How To Tell If You're In Love (Or If You're Just Emotionally Dependent)

Falling in love can be exciting and fulfilling and is one of the most wonderful feelings we can experience in our human lives. However, sometimes we become addicted to being loved, which often leads to mistaking love for desire, obsession or dependency.

RELATED: 7 Signs You're Addicted To Love (And How To Stop The Toxic Cycle Of Obsession)

The fact is that the line between love and emotional dependency is very subtle, making it darn easy to exceed it and fall into an unhealthy relationship where one person’s behavior stops to meet the other. Therefore, falling in love can come from two different inner states — the loving adult or the wounded self.

So, From Which Inner State Are You In Love?

When you fall in love with the wounded self, which is the ego itself, it’s not directed to the person you love, but how the other person loves you. It’s as if you are handing over the responsibility for your self-worth and wellbeing to the other person. When the other person does a good job of attending to your needs, then you may be falling “in love” for the wrong reason.

And when it feels as if you can’t live without the other person, it’s becoming an emotional dependency. The part of you that is “in love” is truly a child or adolescent. You’re needy for love because you are not giving love to yourself or to others. You are not taking responsibility for your own feelings of self-worth; therefore, you feel the existence of hollowness inside that you desire someone else to fill. So, what you are doing is attaching your worth to another’s love, which is why you feel you can’t live without that person.

Now, when you fall in love as a loving adult, your need for the relationship is totally different. As a loving adult, you have learned how to fill yourself with love and you can define your own worth. You don’t need someone to fill you and make you feel lovable and worthy, you already feel worthy and full of love. You have learned how to take full responsibility for your own feelings and needs, and you have learned to fill yourself with love from an inner source.

And it is this exact same love you want to share with another person, another loving adult who is also filled with love. You lean towards sharing love rather than to get love.

RELATED: How To Tell If You're Actually In True Love (Or If It's Just "Ego Love")

Who We Choose

The people we choose often have a similar level of wound and emotional strength. The more you improve on healing that wound within, the more you learn to take loving care of yourself, making you become attracted to someone who also does this.

So, when you choose 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 trying to fill you up hoping that you will also fill up him or her. What you will get are two people wanting to get love rather than share love and they will eventually find themselves very disappointed with each other. Both will blame each other for not loving them in the way they want to be loved. 

When a relationship ends, most of the times it’s because one or both partners aren’t taking responsibility for their own feelings and self-worth and are blaming the other for their resulting unhappiness.

If you are so committed to someone that you feel you can’t live without that person, you seriously need to learn to give yourself and others what it is you want from this person. Your job is to focus on becoming the person to yourself that you want the other person to be. Then, doesn’t that make sense that you will be able to be “in love” rather than “in need”? You will be able to be in love with another person for who he or she is, rather than in need of what this person can do for you.

Why Being Emotionally Dependent Is Toxic

All relationships that generate emotional dependency end up turning both people unhappy. The emotional dependent person always wants more. He or she is most of the times dissatisfied and lives with ongoing anxiety generated by the fear of loss. While the other person feels more and more overwhelmed, unable to develop his or her potential, trapped in a relationship which is offering nothing. As a result, sooner or later these relationships come to an end.

Fortunately, there is a bright side to this. If both can realize the situation they are in, they can reverse it and channel that energy in a positive direction, towards a more mature love that allows both people to grow emotionally healthier.

Mature Love Is Lasting, Dependence Is Fleeting

In the end, emotional dependency is based on a feeling of hollowness that needs to be filled with anyone. In fact, many emotional dependent persons pass quickly from one relationship to another, because basically what interests them is not the person itself, but how others can fill the emotional scarcity. These are people who can’t live alone and don’t seek a soul mate, but just someone to fill the hollowness.

“When a person goes into a relationship emotionally needy, they are not going to have discernment in choosing people.” – Jennifer O’Neill

On the other hand, mature love holds up during difficult times, developing and growing over the years into an even stronger relationship. This doesn’t mean there won’t be disagreements and arguments, but each of the partners will grow next to the other, deciding each day to stay together, not because they need each other but because they love each other.

RELATED: The Difference Between Being Devoted To Your Partner & Being In An Unhealthy Codependent Relationship

Ye Chen writes about self-improvement, overcoming challenges, reclaiming life, and embracing change, both personally and professionally. Read more on his website.

This article was originally published at Thought Catalog. Reprinted with permission from the author.