Dear 100 Hour Board,
How does one overcome codependent tendencies in dating? I can rationally acknowledge the way I feel and the unhealthiness of my behavior, but once my emotions get involved (immediately) that ceases to mean anything. I've gone to lots of therapy trying to overcome the source/origin of the behavior but it doesn't seem to help my self-esteem in dating.
-Tired of self-sabotaging and overly attached behavior
Wow, I had to check and make sure I didn't actually ask this question. That being said, I might not have the best answer for you. I'd recommend a therapist who is actually a professional on this, but, I'd like to share some of my thoughts anyway.
I really like what Luciana has said below, and a lot of what I thought to say is very similar. Finding happiness and meaning outside of other people has been extremely important for me. I find that I do the same as Luciana, I tend to ignore those dependencies by telling myself that I'm just a deeply emotional person. That's true, but it doesn't mean that it's ok for me to be so obsessive.
Finding things that motivate me outside of other people has been really important. If you're anything like me, you might have these codependent tendencies because you look for a lot of validation from other people. I do so, and to an unhealthy extent. Something that's been really helpful to me has been focusing on talents in a way that doesn't seek validation from other people, things that I love just for me. For me, that has been music, reading, and other personal projects that I'm passionate about.
As far as actually being in a relationship with someone, really focus on loving them. That might sound counter-intuitive, but really honestly try to love THEM, and try to understand what is actually most important for them, and for you. Oftentimes the things that I do in a relationship might seem nice on the the outside, but are sometimes motivated by an effort to feel validated and loved myself. Try to really care about the other person for them, and think that will help. If you want to commiserate, please email me at email@example.com.
Keep it real,
Honey, you are so not alone. I have much the same problem, though I choose to delude myself by characterizing it as "loving too deeply" instead of being codependent. It's something that I'm actively trying to work on, with limited results, but I feel your pain and I'm sorry for what you're going through.
I can't pretend to be an expert on this, and I think continuing to discuss it with a therapist is a good idea, if you have that option. But the best solution I've found is to have a strong, vibrant life outside of your relationship. If you spend all your time with your significant other, then you base your happiness too heavily on their support and approval, which makes you very dependent on them. But if you take time for yourself, and spend time with friends, and have a plethora of causes for happiness besides your relationship, maybe you won't feel quite so self-sabotaging. That's probably applicable whether it's someone you're actively dating, or just someone you feel unhealthily interested in. Either way, it's hard but I believe you can manage it.
So for me personally, when I'm feeling lonely or upset that the person I want to talk to isn't messaging me, then I'll start a conversation with someone else. Or I'll force myself to leave the apartment or stop looking at my phone, or otherwise distract myself. Because I've noticed when I break and contact someone I'm too emotionally dependent on, I feel worse. I may feel better for a little while, but when they don't return my evident interest, I spend a few days feeling especially sad or bitter. But when I'm strong and resist the urge to contact people I shouldn't, I feel more positive and upbeat.
I wish I could offer better advice, but at the very least know that you have my empathy. And if you need someone you can talk to in weak moments, I'm here for you, because I have SO MUCH appreciation for those who support me in those moments. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can do it. I believe in you.
If there's a guy in my head there is nothing else in there and it drives me insane. I've never been in an exclusive relationship so I can only imagine what kind of a number that would do to my attention span. Whatever your feelings are, I think it would help you to practice controlling what you think about. I'm mostly talking about focus and attention. I have ADHD (the type that is manifested as ADD) and controlling the direction of my thoughts can be very difficult. I have found that when there's a boy I could maybe date, that jumps to the front of the queue for every possible moment of free-thought. But I also find I am happier, more realistic, and more productive when other things get a fair portion of my free-thought time.
If you can manage what you think about when you are doing mundane things I believe your sense of attachment will balance out. Some tricks I use to stay focused when I have a boy to think about:
-Be selective about music. I listen to music all day. If it's even remotely romantic, I will be thinking about boy all day—even when I'm not listening.
-Read. This won't work if you don't like reading. But if you do, make time to do it. When I'm reading I get to react intellectually and emotionally in complete solitude, which helps me remember who I am by myself. I have noticed it is a quick way to come to myself again. If reading isn't your thing, choose something you love that is self-actualizing. Other activities that make me feel real include running/hiking, time in nature, studying something new that I'm not being graded on, helping someone, spending time with/talking to family.
-Plan. Being aware of important assignments, events, goals etc. will give you something productive and independent to turn your thoughts to.
Don't be to hard on yourself because this is so normal. But don't be oblivious to the needs of your life and the people around you! Relationships tend to have that effect on people. Best of luck!