I have written about the four different types of love that were identified by the Greeks hundreds of years ago (see blog archive 8/16/15). Their point as reiterated by David Brooks in his book, The Social Animal,” was that for love to be everlasting all four types of love need to develop in relationships over time. That makes sense. Once the initial physical attraction is experienced, deep love like the flowering of a rose takes time to tend and nurture to full bloom as it celebrates the individual strengths of each other.
But what happens if the Philemon type of love – the platonic, friendship type of love you have with a best friend seems to be difficult to juggle as you spend more time with your new found love? Let’s first look at what causes two people to become best friends. Shared interests, respect, admiration and concern all rank high on the list of factors.
However, once in a while this type of love can devolve into a needy, unhealthy type of dependent relationship. When you share your excitement about this special person in your life with your best friend and you hear subtle demands that infiltrate into your relationship such as wanting to know when they will see you again it’s time to consider the possibility that this could be a type of co-dependency. Maybe – maybe not – but for sure sharing you is not something they want to do. The label itself is less important than the recognition of the signs involved.
Any dependency is usually rooted in childhood and these individuals often become ‘survivors’ that exhibit fear, anger, pain or shame which was ignored or denied early on in life. These feelings begin to color their world over time since dependency is a learned behavior. The more it is practiced the stronger it becomes. The friendships they develop are more need than mere want but they simply don’t see it since abandonment is a constant issue.
The good news is that by recognizing dependency and learning more about the signs and signals it can be overcome and replaced by confidence and trust in one’s own ability to thrive in future healthy, loving relationships regardless of what happened in childhood.
How do you know if a relationship of dependency exists? Let’s look at some other possible indicators. Is there a pressure to touch base frequently – fearing anger or hurt exhibited from the other person if you are not in constant contact? In reality, best friends can go days, weeks, or months without touching base but still know the other person cares for them and has their best interest at heart.
If you experience feelings of rejection when you spend time with someone other than the dependent friend and it results in pouting, temporary withdrawal or outright anger until they have your attention once again – you can be sure dependency exists.
Other indicators of co-dependent people are their difficulty talking with people in authority, making decisions, handling pressure regarding time frames for completion of tasks, difficulty or even rigidity in adjusting to change, feelings of inadequacy, and an inability to share their feelings – especially with family members. Basically, they have low self-esteem often due to their early upbringing.
If you are involved in this type of relationship at first you may feel a sense of importance by ‘being needed.’ Unfortunately, your attention and constant concern or attempt to do more than your share does not help since this behavior can become compulsive and self-defeating as the reliance increases. In essence, both parties start to develop a view of ‘us against the world’ and the dependency increases.
As stated, the good news is that when the dependency is recognized and steps are taken to readjust the invasive nature of this type of relationship personal growth is experienced by both parties and over time an even higher level of friendship develops. Sometimes it takes a best friend to get their attention and even professional to unearth the need for dependency.
When you really care about another you want the best for them. Moving from dependency to independence is the best gift you can gift yourself and the other person. The Philemon type of love is a critical element in best friends as well as deeper love relationships.
Have a great few days!