BY MITA ARORA
It's wonderful to have friends, family or someone special in one's life. We frequently use phrases like "my pillars of strength", "my life source" and "my life" to describe the people we consider the most important in our lives.
Using sweet words to describe relationships is fine, but ensuring that everything you do is for them is not as poetic or romantic as it may sound in the Bryan Adams song "Everything I do, I do it for you".
Is your entire world centred on your friends, relatives or partner? Is it critical that you meet their needs, fulfil their dreams and see to their well-being, even if it means always putting that person first and foremost? Are you constantly competing for the attention of the people you're always trying to help? Is their lack of appreciation bothering you? Do you constantly worry, trying to conjecture what is best for them?
If you answered yes to the majority of these questions, you need to think about your relationships and re-evaluate them. As there's a good chance you're not in a relationship, but rather you are a relationship addict.
Yes, addiction can happen in friendships, blood relations and even in romantic relations. This sort of relationship is termed a co-dependent relationship, which, though it may appear like one-sided love, is far more toxic. Toxic because you are unaware of the effect it is having on you, your self-esteem and self-worth.
Doing only what that person approves of or what you assume is expected of you, living your life in constant fear of rejection, or worse, abandonment, may have also increased your anxiety and doubts about your actions and behaviour.
You may have had some brief flashes of realisation that what you are doing is not making you happy.
By accepting that doing the deed will make you happy and loved, you are forcing yourself to be happy. So much effort is expended in seeking someone else's love, but no effort is expended in learning how to love yourself.
Is it possible to pour tea from an empty teapot? No. In a co-dependent relationship, there is also a limit to how much you can give. Understanding that these types of relationships must be addressed is a pressing need.
If you've realised that you're in a co-dependent relationship, get ready to change the dynamics. This does not imply that you leave the person or ask them to end the relationship. It entails sitting down and discussing how you feel and what you will require in the coming days/weeks/months.
Your friends/friends/partner/lover would need to give you support, understanding, care and love. Telling them you want to have a healthy relationship with more equality in terms of emotional fulfilment is a good place to start.
The next step is to set healthy boundaries, which may necessitate saying "No" at times. Accept that it's okay to refuse to do certain things that you used to do willingly to please others.
There's also a chance that you feel compelled to manage the person because you worked so hard to win their love and appreciation. You may constantly make assumptions about what they require, what assistance may be needed while dealing with the constant fear that they will not accept your assistance.
This habit not only instils demanding behaviour but also makes it impossible to accept anything less than perfect. This happens in co-dependent relationships because the need to be loved is so important that all efforts are made to make it happen.
But having others control you or having you control them is not good for anyone in the relationship. You have to learn that it is acceptable to do certain things on your own, to have some space and to give your friend or loved one the same. Make it clear that you are present, but only assist when requested.
Help, when it comes at an opportune time, is far more appreciated. Do you feel grateful when your wish is fulfilled upon your request? This is because you got it when you really needed it.
Things are taken for granted when they are readily available. You tend to value those things more that you want to have or those that are no longer within reach. So if you want to be appreciated for what you do, do it less and do it when asked or requested.
To quit relationship addiction, one needs to also rediscover themselves. Only when you shift your focus away from others and towards yourself, can you find what makes you feel good, content and happy.
This is not only the most difficult but also the most important step in developing a good and healthy relationship.
Look at yourself in the mirror. Try to evaluate what you see with your eyes. Check to see if your eyes return your smile. Make your thoughts known to yourself. Do they feel hollow and shallow? Or are you pleased with what you see and hear?
Close your eyes and imagine yourself doing the things you used to enjoy doing before this person walked into your life. Consider the location to which you want to travel alone, things you'd like to try out, songs that evoke wonderful memories, etc. It's time to prioritise yourself and spend more time on yourself.
Instead of waiting for the other person to do the things you like, watch films you like while hiding your resentment when they can't, try persuading them to do so. Go ahead and give it a shot.
It's okay to be alone from time to time, to listen to the thoughts that run through your mind. It would be helpful if you could start writing down your ideas. When we write and reread what we've written, we gain clarity.
Written words have this effect because they show that you are thinking about it and that something bothers you. Once you do, solutions will begin to emerge, perhaps blurry or contradictory at first, but with time, you will see the path that you once sought, of being in a healthy and genuine relationship.
In the end, it is always about your choices and the choices you will make in the future. So, try to do what works best for you and your current relationship. Nothing is ever permanent and can be changed or updated.
In case you feel you can’t do this alone or that your partner or friends may not be able to help, seek professional help. Go and see a therapist and work towards achieving your goals.
( Mita Arora is a psychologist with a background in media and marketing. She is a relationship counsellor working at Antarman, Panjim, and uses client-centred therapy techniques.)