Many women become involved or even obsessed with the wrong partners – ones who are emotionally unavailable, unfaithful, addicted to substances – or who cannot love them back.
Becca, a bright and outgoing thirty-year old, provided Kevin with unconditional love and did her best to make up for his unhappy childhood. After they moved in together, she tried to anticipate his every need and provided him with a warm and supportive home. She often put her needs on the back burner but felt that it was worth it because Kevin told her he loved her deeply and would never leave her.
Becca reflects: “I came to understand that I didn’t have any energy left for myself because I was so focused on Kevin’s well-being. Since we broke up, I have a lot more stamina and feelings of self-worth.
This problem has been called co-dependency and it can be defined as having an underdeveloped self-esteem, dysfunctional boundaries, combined with an inappropriate caring for others (letting others invade your boundaries). In the mid 1980’s, Robin Norwood’s best-selling book “Women Who Love Too Much” offered women a guide to freeing themselves from destructive loving.
Many women consistently put other’s needs before their own and end up in one-sided relationships. The consequence for girls can be profound, with girls and women dismissing their own needs and ending up with a depleted sense of self, according to author Jill P. Weber. She explains that many girls learn to tune out their own inner voice due to their family experiences, and this prepares them for one-sided relationships in adulthood. Weber writes, “As a woman develops a strong core sense of self, fulfilling relationships will follow.”
Research shows that one of the main reasons why people stay in bad relationships is the fear of being single. If this is the case, gently remind yourself that you are a worthwhile person regardless of whether or not you are in a romantic relationship.
If you find yourself attracted to partners who you have good chemistry with, but not compatibility, perhaps you grew up in a family where you were a caretaker or focused more on making others happy. Maybe you even felt that you had to be in a good mood regardless of your true feelings.
6 Signs you are at risk for toxic one-sided relationships: the more items you check the more at risk you are.
- You become so absorbed in your partner’s problems you don’t often have time to identify, or solve, your own.
- You care so deeply about your partner that you’ve lost track of your own needs.
- You feel that you grew up too fast in terms of your maturity or sexual activity.
- Growing up, were you often in a caretaker role with one or both parents or your siblings?
- Are you a people pleaser? If you have this tendency, you may find setting limits hard and you might have trouble asking for what you need from your partner. This is a pattern that starts in childhood but can be reversed.
- Do you feel that you have to be in a good mood or positive when you are with your friends, family, or intimate partner?
In many cases, girls are raised to focus on others and defer their own needs. Too often they are left with a depleted sense of self and they look for their partner to validate them. Keep in mind that emotional intimacy is not emotional dependency. If your relationship causes you to be anxious or causes you to question your sense of self, it may not be the best relationship for you.
Here are 6 ways to avoid hurtful, one-sided relationships:
- Seek a partner you can be yourself with and is easy to be close to. In other words, you don’t have to walk on eggshells. You feel safe in the relationship and free to express your thoughts, feelings, and desires openly without fear of rejection.
- Set an expectation of mutual respect. You can accept, admire, and respect each other for who you are. If you don’t have respect for your partner, it will eat away at chemistry until you have nothing left.
- Select a partner who is trustworthy. Does he or she call when they say they’re going to? Do they take you out when they say they will? When someone is interested in you, they’ll keep their agreements.
- Make sure your partner carves out time for you on a regular basis and includes you in his inner circle. He or she makes you a priority because they value your relationship. This includes regular texts or phone calls to show they’re thinking of you.
- Don’t have sex with a partner who makes you feel insecure. A partner who truly cares about you is a boost to your self-esteem. He or she values you, gives you compliments, and encourages you to do things that are in your best interest.
- Select a partner who talks about your future together. If he or she says their not ready for a commitment, take them seriously – they’re just not that into you. Don’t waste your time on a relationship that doesn’t have a future.
With time and patience, you can begin to seek out partners who bring out the best in you and break out of a tendency to be co-dependent. If you set your sights on finding a partner who accepts, loves, and supports you, you won’t have to settle for less than you deserve. Don’t let fear stop you from living a life where you feel valued and appreciated and your relationships are built on mutual respect.
Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website.
I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry