The Belief About Love That Might Set You Up For An Unhealthy, Codependent Relationship

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codependent relationship
Love, Self

Fairy tales are wonderful... but they're not real. Here's what is.

"Someday my prince will come..."

"...And they all lived happily ever after."

Many of us were raised with these fantasies, believing that happiness is connected to finding "the one who completes us." The cultural conditioning runs deep. Even people who make alternative life choices can find themselves dreaming about living happily ever after or meeting that one person.


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But these fantasies cause more pain than they do pleasure. In fact, they're a sign that you may be headed toward a codependent relationship.

Let’s start with the idea of living happily ever after. The story goes that we work hard to find that right person and overcome obstacles to be together and then finally we reach the goal and get to live happily ever after. There are many problems with this fairy tale.

Life is not static. People do not get to a place where they are happy in a relationship and then remain there without any work or without any issues occurring, forever. Things change.

Our relationships go through changes as we age, if we have children, when jobs change, when finances change and hopefully as we grow emotionally and spiritually. If we believe that sustained happiness is the goal we are bound to fail. This leads to dissatisfaction first, can lead to relationship breakdown and even depression.

Happiness is an emotional state that is affected by many external factors. It is future-based, as well. As a result, we have no control over the feeling.

Someone else or something that happens causes us to feel happy. We have no agency when trying to find happiness. Agency is our ability to act and/or to exert power. When we have agency, we are able to create changes internally but also in the world around us.

Joy is an emotional state that is internally-based. Joy can come in moments or it can be more stable. We can find joy even when external circumstances are tough. It is often seen as a more spiritual quality.

I remember waking up full of joy during a period where I was struggling financially. I took joy in the nature around me. For me, joy and gratitude often go together. Many people are so caught up in the drama of their lives and in reaching for that happily ever after that they fail to take joy in all that they have and all that they are each day.

"Someday my prince/princess will come, and they will be the one that will complete me" comes originally from Plato, in his writing The Symposium.

His character Aristophanes proclaims: According to Greek mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs, and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves ... 'Love' is the name for our pursuit of wholeness, for our desire to be complete.” 

This is a huge burden to bear if you think about it like that, and even Plato himself didn't think that people could live up to the expectation.

And the truth is that we don't need the fairy tale; we need to be complete on our own and invite other complete people to join our lives so that we can enrich them together.


RELATED: Why You'll NEVER Find A Fairytale-Like Love (And That's OK)


I am already complete by myself. I need no one to complete me. I don’t have a "better half" or an "other half." I am already whole. When I am in a relationship with someone, two whole people join together. If that relationship ends, though I may grieve a great deal, I am still whole.

Believing that you need someone else to complete you denies your full potential. You are handing over your power to the mythical perfect partner. You are giving away your agency again and waiting for someone to "give" you happiness.

When you need someone else in order to feel productive, to feel good, you are setting yourself up for unhappiness and loss. Being dependent upon someone else for your good feelings and in order to feel good about yourself is a sure road to relationship failure and can also lead to a loss of confidence and depression. If the relationship ends, you are returning to your earlier state.

Half a person is a broken person.

Expecting someone to complete you, to be that one person who can create your happiness, is giving someone far too much responsibility. This builds a co-dependent relationship, which is not a healthy basis for the relationship. 

Co-dependency is marked by the excessive need for the other person, problems with boundaries, problems with intimacy, an imbalance in power leading to controlling behavior, and high levels of drama.

Instead of a co-dependent relationship, we should seek an interdependent relationship. In this relationship, the individuals are whole and emotionally healthy. The partners rely upon each other and support each other. Each party is deeply involved, but they do not sacrifice themselves or compromise their values.

If we are not looking for someone to complete us we recognize that we can have relationships with more than one person. For some people, this means multiple romantic relationships. For other people, this means very intimate friendships that compliment one romantic partner. We gain more support, more variety and as a result a richer life.

Holding on to the myths of the one who completes us and happily ever after prevents us from experiencing joy and satisfying love relationships throughout our lives by enticing us to keep looking forward. These myths add to a fear of missing out (FOMO) as we believe that we must keep searching because somewhere there is that one soul mate on the horizon on when we finally meet them we will live happily ever after.

It stops us from focusing on our own growth and developing our own strengths as we are looking to another person to rescue us and provide us with happiness, self-esteem, and satisfaction.

If we are able to walk away from these myths, we can create relationships that will enrich our lives. We can become more present in our relationships and our lives and experience the multitude of joy that is available to us each day. We can rejoice in being whole and connecting with another whole human being and choosing to walk the path of life together present with each other through the whole gamut of human experience.


RELATED: 8 Signs You're A Romantic REALIST (And Not Living In A Fairytale)


Dr Lori Beth is a sex & intimacy coach, psychologist, public speaker, and author who works with individuals, couples, and polyamorous groups to help them create and sustain healthy exciting relationships. Her mission is to take sex and conversations about sex from the shadow to the light. She hosts two podcasts: The A to Z of Sex and Sex Spoken Here every week. Book a discovery session to see how she can help you.

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