If we establish clear boundaries and avoid codependency, a partner might make life better.
“It’s nice to be with someone, but I don’t think you need to be in a relationship to feel complete. That would be really sad.” — Kristin Davis
Growing up in India, I’d internalised the idea that a romantic partner is supposed to be your “better half”. That’s how my father introduces my mother to his friends in parties. And my father can never be wrong, can he?
As I grew older, I started questioning the idea of a “better half”. What does it mean to have your better half taken away? Does that mean you’d never be whole?
Going by that logic, you are, by default, without your better half when you are young (and single). Does that mean you’re only living half of your life as opposed to being complete?
Of course, this does not make sense. A romantic partner is not supposed to “complete” us. That would imply we aren’t complete on our own, giving rise to the notion that we need a partner to feel happy. That might lead to codependency in relationships that can take a toll on the mental health of both the people involved.
But is it possible for a partner to complete you without turning the relationship into a toxic one?
According to WebMD, “Codependent relationships signify a degree of unhealthy clinginess, where one person doesn’t have self-sufficiency or autonomy. One or both parties depend on their loved ones for fulfilment.”
Being in a codependent relationship can lead to one partner planning their entire life around pleasing the other person — which is unhealthy for both people. It usually stems from anxiety and fear and might cause a person to feel suffocated or sacrifice their own needs all the time.
- One person feels worthless unless they have the assurance their partner needs them.
- They only feel happy when they are making extreme sacrifices for their partner.
- One person feels their desires and needs are unimportant and will not express them. They may have difficulty recognizing their own feelings or needs at all.
- They stay in the relationship even if they are aware that their partner does hurtful things.
- They feel guilty about putting themselves first.
While therapy and counselling can help a person get out of a codependent relationship, it is not a single-step process. Recovery and rehabilitation take time, but the end result can lead to the partner feeling better about themselves and not centring their identity around the relationship.
How to Avoid Being Codependent
No human is an island. We seek the company and approval of others to truly experience our emotions to their fullest extent. Often, the person who bears the brunt of this exchange ends up being a romantic partner.
- Write a list of “ideals” you have in mind for your partner.
- The list should be less about what you want the other person to be and all about who you should be in a relationship.
This would help you focus on your strengths. It will give you clarity regarding all the amazing things you have to offer in a relationship. If you are aware of the value you possess, maybe you will stop looking for another person to “complete” you?
What Does “Complete” Mean?
The conflicting opinions I had regarding the idea of a “better half” settled into something resembling conviction as I started living on my own. My partner didn’t live in the same city, but we found a way to make the long-distance relationship work.
On the days we managed to stay together, I realised how I was happier. My chest felt lighter and laughter came easily to me. My partner made my life better, there was no denying that.
No, I didn’t need them to be happy. But having them around made the happiness, taste sweeter, the colours more vibrant.
My partner is a genius at whipping up delicious dishes out of the bare minimum ingredients. I know having them around would give me access to their culinary skills. Sure, I can cook on my own, but the things I make are never half as tasty as the ones my partner makes.
This is just one example.
But yes, because I love them so much, it feels as if I leave half of my heart with them when I come back after a visit. I don’t mean this in a clingy, self-loathing way. Rather, it’s similar to the feeling of emptiness you get after you come back from a great trip. You know the trip is not the only way to achieve happiness, but you can’t help missing it, because of the way it coloured up your life.
This happiness isn’t limited to the times we meet. Even on phonecalls, talking to my partner always makes me laugh like an idiot. I find myself discussing important life decisions with them and treasure sharing my emotions with them.
It’s almost like the age-old cliche: they double my happiness and halve my sorrow.
In a way, they are my better half. They hold half my heart and make my life better just by existing.
Depending on another person for fulfilment is not healthy. But there’s nothing wrong in deriving happiness from their presence in your life.
No, you don’t need a partner to be complete. You can still live a great life being single.
But, having a romantic partner can colour up your life in ways you wouldn't have believed were possible. It’s not a necessity, but it’s an add-on that makes the journey through life better.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” — Rumi