Romantic love can give rise to some of the greatest experiences of pain as well as happiness in our lives. Besides possibly the death of a close family member or friend, there is no misery more profound than that associated with the experience of a breakup or unrequited love. Similarly, there seems to be no deeper felt happiness than that experienced through a connection established from an intimate relationship.
The extent to which the relationships we form become stable and satisfying vs. addictive and destructive is largely determined by our own personal development through a maturity continuum from codependence to independence to interdependence.
In essence, this article will answer four questions:
What are the characteristics of the three stages of the maturity continuum?
Why are they important with respect to our own individual effectiveness?
Why are they important with respect to the effectiveness of the relationships we form with others? –
With particular emphasis on romantic relationships.
What can I do to progress through the maturity continuum to maximize my personal and interpersonal effectiveness?
Generally, codependent people will seek other codependent people to form codependent relationships, independent people will seek independent people to form independent relationships, and so on. (Opposites may attract in some areas, but not this one). As such, the terms used to refer to both the maturity of an individual and the relationships they form will be used interchangeably.
Codependent relationships arise when two people form a relationship with each other primarily because neither feels that he or she can “stand alone.” Rather than working on ourselves to cultivate a source of good feelings that is drawn from within (self-esteem) we slip into a state where our sense of self becomes dependent on external (or egoic) factors outside of our locus of control. In this case the need for a partner to provide us with validation, attention or good emotions.
Codependent relationships are like 0+0=0. There is virtually no contribution to the relationship from either partner as each partner is relying on their counterpart to fill a void from within themselves.
It’s no different from a heroin addict needing his latest fix of heroin, or a celebrity needing constant positive feedback from fans and the media, or even a sportsman identifying with being the best at his sport (rather than being his best self). Once the drugs run out, or the celebrity’s attention goes away or the sportsman’s body starts to age they inevitably crash and slump into depression.
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