In healthy, constructive relationships, it’s no secret that solid communication skills and the ability to process your emotions always take a front-row seat. But did you know that in the world of relationships, there are two different types of people? You’re either an emotionally responsible person or an emotionally dependent one. Emotional responsibility is very important in a healthy, satisfying relationship. It facilitates personal growth, as well as growth between you and your partner. Emotional dependency, on the other hand, should be corrected as soon as possible, as it enables poor communication, overblown conflicts, and frequently hurt feelings.
People who are emotionally dependent tend to seek positive reinforcement externally. On an interpersonal level, this can mean relying on the love, approval, and acceptance of another person to feel adequate, worthy, loveable, and safe. This kind of dependency can stifle and damage an otherwise healthy relationship, because it would put your partner under immense pressure to be the main source of your sense of well-being. The last feelings you want him associating with your relationship are obligation, anxiety, and guilt.
Emotional dependency isn’t uncommon, but it’s definitely unhealthy. If you’re worried that this sounds a little like you, it’s time to step up to the plate and learn what’s necessary to take ownership of your feelings, for the sake of both you and your relationship!
To be emotionally responsible, you need to...
- Understand that positive feelings come from within you. They are based upon your personal thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. For example: if your mother criticizes your shoes, you won’t care because you like your shoes and you think they look great.
- Know your emotions are valid. You have a right to express yourself. As part of that, you need to understand that it’s important to analyze your emotions in order to get to the roots of what causes them. For example: If your partner always leaves the toilet seat up, even after you ask him not to, you’re not upset because the toilet seat is up again. You’re more likely to be upset because you feel like your partner doesn’t listen when you communicate with him.
- Think before you speak. When you’re feeling emotional, you should decipher your emotions and why you feel the way you do, so that when you communicate, you can do so constructively. For example: “I am angry because…” is better than: “You make me so angry.” Emotional responsibility does not entail The Blame Game. You accept responsibility for your emotions, and with that, you accept responsibility for how you express them.
- Take accountability for your emotions. If you speak rashly or emotionally react without thinking, you risk saying hurtful things to the people you love. In these circumstances, you need to know when to apologize.
- Know when to walk away. Sometimes personal space is necessary to process your emotions responsibly. It can prevent you from losing control or saying things you can’t take back. On the flip side, it can also be important when dealing with someone who isn’t being emotionally responsible. Giving other people time to cool off while removing yourself from an emotionally draining environment not only allows for constructive communication later, but also gives you the space you need to process your own emotions, thereby allowing you to efficiently return to a calm, collected, and secure frame of mind.
Practicing emotional responsibility can be frightening at first, but you'll find that it's also liberating. Gradually, you'll learn that you, not your circumstances, have control over your feelings. You'll realize that you are the only person who can make yourself feel better and also that your partner's emotions are separate from yours. All of this will help you begin to unravel the ways you control and even guilt each other — and open up new doors in your relationship.