A few weeks ago, I unsubscribed from another dating blog giving bad advice. This was another instance where the female blogger seems to think that encouraging bad behaviour in its female readership is to “keep him in line” or make him more “romantic”. One of the most concerning bits of advice is how casually these bloggers encourage codependence.
What is Codependence?
Codependence is when each person in the couple has no unique identity. They are reliant on each other for everything – emotional support, social life, and all other activities and interests. A codependent couple never does anything apart and pour all of their efforts into each other. Sometimes, just one person is making all the effort while the other is doing all of the taking. In turn, the person always making the sacrifices puts themselves at the bottom of the pile but gets their self-esteem from the act of feeling wanted or that they are useful.
The Bad Advice These Self-Professed Dating Experts Dish Out
Here is a fairly generic letter to a self-styled dating guru and a fairly typical response.
Dear Miss Luv Guru…
My boyfriend and I recently moved in together. He’s a great guy – handsome and romantic, funny and treats me well.
But last week I was hurt when he retreated into the garden shed to work on what he calls “My Project”. He told me he needed to spend time in his “Man Cave” and now I think he might be cheating on me, watching porn or something. Why else would he not want to spend every minute of every day with me? I tried talking to him about it but he gets defensive and tells me we shouldn’t rely fully on each other.
Am I being selfish to expect his full undivided attention all of the time or should I be suspicious?
Invariably, Miss Luv Guru will say:
Dear Scared Sister,
I don’t think he’s cheating on you or going in there to watch porn, but he isn’t putting you first. You need to shut that shit down and tell him what for. Any man worth the time will want to spend all of his time with you! How dare he treat you like this. Now you’re a couple, he should realise he has responsibilities. He can’t act like a single guy any more.
He is being selfish by choosing hobbies that don’t involve you and the quicker you tell him that the better. You two should find hobbies you can do together. You don’t need to do things apart. Give him an ultimatum – either the shed “Project” goes or you do. His choice.
Miss Dating Guru
This sort of “don’t take no shit, sister!” enables controlling behaviour in the person to whom the response is directed. When people get together, they should not under any circumstances stop being the person that they were. When you’re single you have yourself to answer to and nobody else. When you’re in a relationship there is a second person to consider, but that doesn’t mean you stop or should stop being the person that you are.
Self-styled dating gurus are in a position of responsibility even though their qualifications for dishing out this advice is minimal at best. Why do so many of these bloggers give out so much bad advice so often?
Why Codependency is Unhealthy
If you have read all of the above and really still do not understand what the problem is, then let me spell it out for you. No matter which way you look at it, codependency is a sign of a dysfunctional relationship.
- Each person in the relationship relies totally on the other, creating an echo chamber for each others’ thoughts and actions
- When one person is taken out of the relationship, even temporarily, it leads to something called “separation anxiety” usually only seen in young children
- Codependency can lead to more severe mental illness: low self-esteem, underachievement and even addiction (gambling, alcohol, drugs)
- Other relationships break down, becoming dysfunctional while the couple gets more isolated
Living your life solely for one person is not romantic.
What Dating Gurus Should Say
If you’re a self-styled dating guru, this is the sort of response you should be giving to Scared Sister:
Dear Scared Sister,
I know the sort of response you are looking for, but you’ve come to the wrong place for validation. I get letters like this all the time. People just like you get into a relationship and expect their new partner to completely absorb themselves in your life, catering to your emotional needs 24/7/365.
This is unhealthy. It’s called codependence, no matter what Cosmo might say or what we might see in rom-coms, this is not the way for either of you to live your lives.
While I have no doubt he could handle the situation better, it’s important that you step back for a moment. This man has a hobby that interests him, a form of escapism from his job and mundane nature of daily life.
As women, we don’t always respect how important it is for men to have interests outside of the relationship. Men need male company. They need projects to detract from mundane jobs. They need a break from the routine. They need to feel they are still their own person.
I suggest you emulate your boyfriend and find yourself a hobby instead of lamenting and criticising his Man Cave. Take a nightclass. Learn a language. Learn to paint, sculpt or sketch. Take up jogging or aerobics classes… anything! Hobbies make our lives richer and keep us grounded within relationships. Neither of you should be surrendering your individuality and neither of you should demand the other do so.
Miss Luv Guru.