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Emotional Dependency, Needing Space

By Dr. Margaret Paul
December 31, 2006

In many relationships, one person complains about not having enough time with their partner, while the other complains about needing space.

Control and resistance"He's not here for me," complained Hailey. "We don't spend enough time together."

"She's too needy. I need space," complained her husband, Ryan.

"He just does whatever he wants to do, with no concern for me," countered Hailey.

"She's so demanding that I just don't feel like being with her lot. I wish she'd just back off. I need time with my friends."

I often see couples where one partner is emotionally dependent and the other partner is emotionally distant. Interestingly, both aspects of this system come from fear. Neediness - emotional dependency - comes from a deep fear of rejection, stemming from inner abandonment. Hailey gives responsibility to Ryan for her feelings, her inner child. She doesn't have enough of a loving adult to take care of her own feelings and needs, so she makes Ryan responsible for them.

Emotional distance also comes from fear - of engulfment. Not having a strong loving adult to speak up against being controlled and smothered by Hailey, Ryan resists and distances as a way to feel safe.

In this codependent system, each person is triggering the fears of the other.

Hailey's anger and complaints trigger Ryan's fear of engulfment, while his distancing triggers Hailey's fear of abandonment. Then they respond to each other with the very behavior that continues to trigger the fear. They are caught in a controlling circle, each blaming the other for the problems. Hailey really believes that if only Ryan would spend more time with her, everything would be okay, while Ryan really believes that if only Hailey would back off and stop pulling on him for time and attention, everything would be okay. Neither is accurate.

Ryan cannot make Hailey feel loved and safe as long as she is abandoning herself. Until Hailey starts to practice Inner Bonding and develops her loving adult who can take emotional responsibility for her own feelings, Hailey will be a bottomless pit. No matter how much time and attention Ryan gives her, it will never be enough because the inner abandonment will continue to make her inner child feel alone and insecure.

On the other hand, even if Hailey does back off from pulling on Ryan for time and attention, it is likely he will continue to be resistant and emotionally distant. His fear of engulfment is not being caused by Hailey - it is being caused by not having a strong loving adult to speak his truth and set limits against engulfment. As long as he does not know how to lovingly take care of himself in the face of someone wanting something from him, he will continue to emotionally distance. Even if Hailey is not making him responsible for her feelings, her just wanting anything with him or from him can trigger his fear of engulfment and resulting resistance.

Practicing Inner Bonding is what develops the loving adult.

The more you practice the process, the stronger the adult becomes. A strong, spiritually connected adult is capable of:

  • Not taking rejection, resistance and emotional distance personally.
  • Filling the inner child with love so that the child is not needy for another's time and attention.
  • Speaking the truth about not wanting responsibility for another's feelings, without resisting, attacking or distancing.
  • Taking loving care of oneself without anger or distance.
  • Taking loving action in one's own behalf to ensure against engulfment.
  • Sharing love instead of trying to get love or avoid pain.

Hailey and Ryan's relationship problems will not be solved just with agreements to spend time together, or agreements regarding when Ryan can spend time with his friends. Agreements can cover over the real issues of the wounded self, which is why they often don't last. Agreements made by loving adults can be very supportive of a relationship, but agreements made from the wounded self are coming from a need for control over getting love, and a fear of being controlled. Hailey and Ryan's codependent system can heal when both people commit to developing their loving adult.

If you find yourself often complaining that your partner does not spend enough time with you, you might want to look at how you might not be spending enough time with yourself and taking emotional responsibility for your own feelings. If you find yourself complaining that you never get time alone or with friends, you might want to look at how you are not speaking up for yourself, not taking responsibility for your own needs. Rather than blaming your partner, over whom you have no control, try opening to your higher guidance regarding what loving actions you need to take in your own behalf.


Heal your relationships with Dr. Margaret’s 30-Day online video relationship course: Wildly, Deeply, Joyously in Love.


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