Stuck like glue to someone? Paradoxically, relationships that seem perfect and in which the couple does everything together are at great risk of failing. It is human nature to end up feeling imprisoned by the sense of being permanently glued together and always having to rely on one another for a source of fulfillment in everyday life. To be whole, it is important for all of us to feel autonomous as well as attached. To avoid this benign trap of habit that leads to over-reliance on one person, it is important to recognize the over-attachment and to talk honestly and supportively with one another about practical and positive solutions that will allow both of you the room to grow individually, emotionally, and spiritually.
Here are a few tips on making sure each one has his her desired space, no matter what kind of relationship it may be or on what level you both are operating:
• Be present and responsive. Let the other person take the lead. Like many things in life, less is more; we rarely need to say very much; what is key is giving the other person space to respond as they see fit.
• Be careful about assuming what the other person needs. It is very easy to be way off.
• Watch your own emotions and personal history be stimulated by another’s challenging circumstances. Be careful not to use this as an opportunity to talk about your own challenges. This happens much more than you think; often in our haste to let another know “we understand,” we slip into our own stories or ideas of what would be helpful
• Allow for pauses. In our busy, overfilled lives, we often become uncomfortable with quiet; allowing for quiet pauses can be one of the greatest gifts for being present and supportive to one’s close friend or lover. The sound of silence is the sound of love and comfort.
“Codependent relationships,” as I like to call them, are not much fun. In fact, they are about intensity, perfectionism and taking oneself and one’s relationship too seriously. There is a sense of controlling one another and dire mutual need for each other that comes about from such previous problems as an emotionally traumatized upbringing, a fear of losing people or simply not having much sense of purpose in one’s own life and replacing that with another person. Basically, those in a codependent relationship, especially a romantic one (regular friendships tend to resolve themselves over time because of a lack of formal commitment or title), feel an inability to stand alone and are trying together to complete a whole from two broken halves. If you do feel this is the underlying problem, both of you may need to seek religious or professional assistance, as together it is likely you will only continue this needy behavior without neutral, outside intervention and guidance. Part of the recovery process for people in a codependent relationship is learning to lighten up, have fun, and play nice together and apart. Always remember the good times and let THOSE times dictate your behavior.
So then you ask, “well, does it work?” My answer is I guess it depends on the situation or even the person. Everyone wants space for different reasons, whether they are involved with other people, they want more time to hang out with friends, stressed out with work/school, etc. Giving a person space can even be used for one to reevaluate one’s relationship with you, especially if it has been long standing and one that you each value. Use the time apart to do some soul searching. Try and understand what you both contributed to get to this point, so that if and when you hang out or get together, you will be able to go about it differently and in a more positive approach. Sacrifice a little. Think of it not just as giving them space, but giving yourself space as well. Each person needs alone time to really reconnect with themselves and God to find out what direction their life should take. Think of yourself as lucky to be in their path if they still choose you.
Real sacrifice lightens the mind of the doer and gives him a sense of peace and joy with another. – Mahatma Ghandi
How many times can you promise your friend that you will be there “all the time?” Don’t make a liar out of yourself. After all, you are still different beings. – Edgar Cunningham