Break the toxic habit of loving too much

Have you ever considered that the unhappiness, anxiety, and hopelessness you feel in a relationship could be the result of loving someone too much, or being ‘co-dependent’, to use the technical word?


This other person could be your partner, a friend, or a family member. When you are in a co-dependent relationship, the other person is your focus and priority.  Perhaps without you realising it, your dependence on this other person has come to control your emotions and behaviour, which in turn negatively affects your well-being and mental health – and yet you are unable to let it go. This relationship has become your compulsion and addiction.

The world may see you as highly competent, but inside you can feel inadequate and guilty for not doing enough in your relationship, leading to low self-esteem – this can lead to worry, feeling empty and ashamed, and imagining that you are a nobody. On the one hand, you feel empathy for others – bound by loyalty and willing to sacrifice without limit – but at the same time, you feel resentful, angry, exploited and overburdened. You are looking after everyone else, but not yourself.

I can imagine you have tried many times and, in many ways, to change the dynamic – or change the other person – yet nothing seems to work. You continue to put the other person first, focusing on their needs and wishes at the expense of your own, neglecting yourself. You are sure the other person needs your help and support, and you keep giving and giving – nothing is too hard, too expensive, or too much. 

While it might feel like you are being caring, in fact, the other person is someone you are trying to control. You are looking for happiness, security and a sense of validation. You want to feel needed while fearing that the other person will leave – you have a low opinion of yourself and assume no one would ever really want you.

You want to make an unhappy person happy, yet this turns out to be an impossible task. You try your best, hoping this time you will succeed, but each time your attempts to help, change or please the other fail – which prompts you to try even harder next time. And so, the loop continues. Continually repeating this loop, without the outcome you hope for, will feel demoralising and can lead to depression and low self-esteem.

While you put in all this hard work, you crave love, attention, validation and approval from the other person, but it never materialises. However patiently you wait and hope, you end up feeling neglected and exhausted, you feel like you are carrying a heavy burden, while your needs are being overlooked. 

If this is you, may I invite you to take a moment to ask yourself what exactly it is that you need and wish for. This question might seem strange. You’re so used to focusing on the other person –so used to hiding your own thoughts, feelings and wishes – that the idea of admitting your truth, to yourself or another person, feels unimaginable.

You feel you cannot carry on like this, but you don’t know what to do about it. You try harder because if you stopped trying you would only feel worse – you would feel like you are a horrible, selfish, unlovable person for not putting the other first. You may feel empty inside and unable to get rid of this feeling. In fact, it seems that you are the problem – you are the one who needs to change, to put things right. This suits you because taking on most of the blame for your relationship is right up your street.  

Loving too much is a relational pattern that you acquired in your early years of life, and then carried into your adulthood. How you behave in your co-dependent relationship is how you behaved with your parents or caregivers: putting in the hard work was your best strategy for trying to get their attention and appreciation, for being seen and receiving some love and care. At an unconscious level, you learned that this is how relationships work: with you doing all the heavy lifting while the other carries on regardless, scarcely acknowledging that you exist. 

Happily, such patterns are not set in stone. We can unlearn this pattern and replace it with new habits, choices, and skills. 

Recovery begins by accepting the reality of what is going on, e.g., that your relationship strategy of co-dependency is not working for you. You need to stop being in denial. It is time to step back and to stop trying to change or control the other, to stop making yourself responsible for their life and happiness. 

This journey involves educating yourself about how co-dependency works – and learning instead about healthy interdependent relationships, where two people support each other rather than it being one-way traffic. 

I would like to encourage you to acknowledge and accept that you have needs and that your feelings are also important: it is time to put yourself first sometimes by telling yourself, ‘Me, too!’ – this is not being selfish, it is self-care.

It is time to realise that the one person you can control and make happy is yourself. It is time to leave behind your childhood survival strategies for pleasing the other in order to win their approval and love; instead, it is time to become an adult who realises they matter and is worthy of love, care, acceptance and nurture as much as anyone else – to become an adult who is able to take care of themselves, which means the relationships you choose will be reciprocal. As scary, unusual and uncomfortable as this might seem to begin with, it is time to replace your inner emptiness with self-acceptance, self-love and your own personal happiness, knowing that you are loveable and worthy of the best that life has to offer. 

In my next piece, I will look at the essential skills and mindset needed for recovery from co-dependency. If you would like to find out more about how counselling and therapy can support you, reach out to me via my profile.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, Greater London, N2
Written by Inese Vorobjova, Children and adults
London, Greater London, N2

Inese is London based, a professionally qualified psychotherapist, offering one-to-one confidential, compassionate counselling in person and online, exploring uniqueness of your experience.

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