Dependent on S.O., how do I let go and stop ruining our relationship?

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    Sue L

    I find myself being dependent on my boyfriend for happiness, validation, etc. I’m trying to let go of my insecurities about our relationship in order to move on but my level of self worth is very low and I’m not sure what to do, or how to stop suffocating this relationship.

    Does anyone else have this issue? How do I give myself the support and validation I need?

    I know it stems from my own issues with self worth, depression, & anxiety, and obsessive need to have control. It feels like I NEED him to be around me all the time to be happy. Or I guess to validate that I’m worth something to someone.


    Dear suresocket:

    We all need support and validation from others. In the very beginning of our lives we cannot support and validate ourselves. Impossible. Later on, as adults, we still need the support and validation of others.

    Obviously you didn’t get it adequately as a child. The questions I have now regarding your present relationship:

    1.Has your boyfriend been supporting and validating. How and how often?
    2. Is your boyfriend talking and acting in ways that are opposite to supporting and validating to you. How and how often?


    Sue L

    Hey Anita,
    I forgot to disclaim that I am diagnosed with severe ADD. Like many who suffer, I often act on impulse/ heightened emotions ALL OF THE TIME.

    My current relationship is pretty good. However I have not been able to talk to my partner about my mental illnesses, without feeling judged, crazy, or misunderstood.
    In the past I’ve tried to talk through my emotions and feelings of helplessness with him but it was a very one sided conversation.
    He didn’t understand at all, and just said sorry that I was upset. End of conversation.

    It was a total failure in communication.

    I feel because he doesn’t understand how my brain works, he doesn’t really know what to say or how to ‘help’ get through relationship issues or talk to me when I’m upset.

    He could also be emotionally inept, I’ve heard from his sister that their father also showed this type of emotional distance.

    So to answer your questions I would say he doesn’t exactly know how to validate in this relationship.
    And when I do receive some type of validation, it’s through his actions and not verbal communication.


    Dear suresocket:

    From your second post, I don’t know if your expectations of validation and support from your S.O are realistic or unreasonable. It can be either way or both. I am sure he is not perfectly attentive in each and every way, and expecting perfection from him would be unrealistic. If I was a fly on the wall observing some of your interactions I could take notes and evaluate what is going on. As is, I don’t have the information.

    So until and if you give me specific examples, conversations with enough details: she said/ he said type of account, I will give you this general answer, my answer:

    You let go of your excess need for validation and support by paying attention and noticing the validation and support that he does give you. Thank him for those, show your sincere appreciation. In turn validate and support him. The more you do of the latter, the more you are likely to get the same from him.

    Also: when you share with him about your ADD and what other diagnosis or label you identify with, or have been identified with, you are creating a situation where You are the sick one and he needs to tend to you. What happens when you do that, is he is considered the “normal” one and is expected to cater to you, to take care of you. When this happens he is neglected.

    He needs your attentiveness too because he too suffers from anxiety and distress, often enough. And if he is emotionally distant, it is his way of protecting himself from more anxiety than he already feels.


    Kate Forbes

    Hi Suresocket

    Thank you for your very honest posts. You wrote….
    “I find myself being dependent on my boyfriend for happiness, validation, etc. I’m trying to let go of my insecurities about our relationship in order to move on but my level of self worth is very low and I’m not sure what to do, or how to stop suffocating this relationship. Does anyone else have this issue?”….

    Yes is the answer to the above. I have every single trait -including low self esteem issues, anxiety, depression,
    ADD and need for external validation. I have also always bounced from one boyfriend to another and like you, need
    my partner to constantly reassure me and provide me with external validation – even at the cost of smothering and
    damaging the relationship. I have recently also gone through a divorce with my ex-husband sounding a lot like your
    current boyfriend. My ex was raised to not talk about your emotions or feelings and as such, I found myself pretty
    much BEGGING him to provide me with the reassurance I constantly needed. His inability to provide this reassurance
    or whenever he would be away for any abnormal length of time would lead to me lashing out at him verbally.

    Unlike Anita’s belief however, my need for external validation / reassurance has not been caused by a lack of receiving it as a child. Just the opposite in actual fact. I am an only child who was way, way over-parented and
    overprotected from whatever my parents thought might be emotionally disturbing for me. Being an anxious child anyway, I had my parents around me 24/7 to give me the reassurance that I needed for all of life’s worries thus leaving me incapable of learning these skills for myself. I can now see in hindsight that I transferred this need for reassurance from my parents onto my boyfriends going so far as to have another guy in the wings as a back-up should the current boyfriend not work out.

    Sadly however, it has all come to a head in the last 6 months due to the collapse of my marriage, my Father passing away and my Mum moving into retirement living where I could not join her. This led to me having to live on my own for the first time in 43 years and to say I didn’t cope is the understatement of the year.

    However in a way, this has been a blessing in disguise. I am going to let you know what I have been diagnosed with and the treatment path I have started down and as we sound so alike, I would ask you look into this as a possible cause for the root issues of your dependency issues however I am not saying that the diagnosis fits you too as I don’t know you (nor am qualified to make such a judgement).

    I was diagnosed as having Borderline Personality Disorder which can encompass dependent personality disorder amongst many other things. I pretty much fit the criteria as a textbook case but some of the traits of this disorder are :
    1) Being terrified of abandonment or left alone
    2) Unclear or Unstable self image
    3) Self-Harm
    4) Impulsive, self-destructive behaviours
    5) Chronic Feelings of Emptiness
    6) Unstable Relationships
    7) Explosive Anger
    8) Extreme emotional swings
    I am starting to attend intensive psychotherapy with a Clinical Psychologist alongside attending a group program
    called DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy). It focuses on emotion regulation, distress tolerance, mindfulness and a number of other skills to teach people like me how to be able to cope as an adult (emotionally). I don’t know about you, but I have spent a lot of my adult life feeling like I am a trapped, scared little girl in an adults body.

    Regardless of whether you think the Borderline Personality Disorder information you read resonates with you or not, your definitely right when you say a problem you have is co-dependency. Learning to self-soothe is what you need to look into and although scary, I would suggest you speak to a Psychologist or other trained counsellor and start learning the tools which will set you free and be given the skills to live independently.

    I am more than happy to discuss this further with you if any of what I have said rings a bell with you or if you want to talk more. I hope I have been of any help whatsoever and wish you all the very best.


    Sue L

    Hey Kate,

    Everything you said struck a chord with me. I had hovering parents who made sure that I was reassured of every little thing. I actually went to my first therapy session the other day to figure out what is going on with me. I would appreciate any resources/information you have to offer. Your post was so helpful.


    Happiness is in you, not in your boy friend. If I were you I will go to a therapist!


    Let my situation be motivation for you- I am fresh out of a serious relationship with the man I thought I was going to marry because I relied on him to be 100% of my happiness all the time. When we met, I was independent. I had hobbies, passions, spent time with friends and family, and then as we got more serious- I stopped doing those things. We moved in together 6 months ago and things got even worse for me. We were still loving and supportive of each other, but I could not figure out why for the life of me I felt depressed and anxious when I had everything I wanted. The man I loved, a home together, talk of marriage…

    It wasn’t until he broke up with me a month ago that I realized, I had everything I wanted that allowed me to avoid the truth: I don’t know how to make myself happy.

    I am devastated, don’t get me wrong. But I am grateful this happened now. We were on the brink of engagement and weddings and I know if this didn’t happen, I was about to enter a lifetime of depending on someone else for my happiness. I love my ex dearly, and still I believe he is the one for me- but not now. Not until I am whole on my own. In fact, when we broke up- we discussed this being an act of love. How selfless it is to let someone go because you know they need the freedom to work on themselves.

    I am in therapy and suggest you do the same. I’m not sure how your relationship is going but if you feel like you can’t work on yourself while you’re in the relationship, do yourself and your boyfriend a favor and end it. It doesn’t have to be forever. It might be, but it won’t matter. At the end of the day you will have a stronger sense of self, and no one can ever take that away from you.

    Best of luck.

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