By Saumya Vatsa
If you grew up watching sappy movies like "Jerry Maguire" and "The Notebook," you must be familiar with cheesy dialogues like “You complete me” and “Without you, I am nothing." If someone said those words to you right now, would you melt into a puddle of happiness? Everyone who nodded “yes” to that, welcome to your lesson in codependency!
The belief that there is a human being out there who can complete us in ways we can't complete ourselves is debatable. And that’s where codependency comes in. Codependency between two partners occurs when one of the partners acts as a caregiver to the other who constantly defers the responsibility of their well-being to that caregiver. Something which was happening with me, but I hadn’t realised it yet.
The pandemic practically separated me from my partner through distance. This meant that I couldn’t expect the kind of physical and emotional availability from them as I had experienced pre-pandemic. Suddenly, there was no more of talking each other’s ear off about the most minor of inconveniences. Thanks to our parents eavesdropping on our conversations (brown households, amirite?), out of sync schedules, and pandemic-associated anxiety. I used to get antsy if they didn’t reach out to me frequently and often mistook their lack of communication as their lack of interest in my life. TL:DR; I couldn’t comprehend their need for space away from me to deal with their own degrading mental health.
It deeply angered me to think that they didn’t “need” me to feel okay but I needed them to feel better about myself. This anger seeped into our relationship until I finally acknowledged this - our relationship was becoming dysfunctional because I had a dysfunctional relationship with myself.
Here’s what happened. I was in a constant battle with my own identity. So, when my partner came along, I turned to them to tell me how to think, behave, and act. It was so much easier this way. Since they were there to validate my feelings and concerns, I didn’t feel the inherent need to do the work required to realize my authentic self. When they finally drew boundaries, my sense of security and identity came tumbling down. But, the good news is that it also helped me to accept the fact that, yes, my relationship was hella codependent — and it didn’t have to be that way forever.
Luckily, not being in touch with my partner all the time gave me the time and space to know myself better. What were the things I enjoyed doing before they came to my life? Why did I constantly feel that my partner was a better judge of me than myself? The answers made me uncomfortable. But I haven’t stopped chasing them, because they are MY truth. Seeking individual therapy and joining communities like r/codependency that focus on conversations around codependency helped me look at our relationship in a light that was independent of the victim-martyr mentality. It really just boiled down to getting to know parts of myself that seemed “ugly." But all they really needed was self-compassion and acceptance.
For a long time, I believed that love is putting the other person’s needs before your own (thanks for nothing, YA fiction). When Arijit Singh famously sang “Hum tere bin ab reh nahi sakte, tere bina kya wajood mera”, it became the love anthem of the year. But, you know what? I call bullshit!
You can live, in fact, thrive without them. The legitimacy of your wajood or existence cannot be determined by your partner because you are a whole person just like they are. Two whole persons who take responsibility for their own well-being come together to add value to each other's lives instead of creating it.
Now, that's a movie plot I’d pay to watch on screen!