A man and a woman find themselves with a relationship coach. “I can’t deal with my wife’s fears,” the man complains. “When she talks to me about her fears, I always feel as if it’s my responsibility to fix them.” The wife responds, annoyed: “What good is a marriage if I can’t even talk to my partner about what’s important to me? Sometimes I get nervous and I feel the need to talk to someone. That calms me down again.”

Coach: “I know, that’s the problem.” “That I get nervous?” the woman asks. “No,” says the coach, “everyone gets nervous sometimes. The problem is that you need your husband to calm yourself down again.”

Emotional connection

‘Complementing each other’ and looking for confirmation in the other is very noticeable in relationships, and not just between lovers. We often call it ‘empathy’ but that’s not really what it is. We completely connect to one another emotionally to suppress our own fears quickly and effectively. Great, right? However, there’s a downside. Partners become dependent on each other to feel good, like Siamese twins. They’re constantly trying to reduce each other’s fears, one after another. That could go well for quite a long time, until some major emotional event takes place. Usually, neither of the partners will be able to sufficiently support the other. If one buckles emotionally, the other will become destabilised as well.

Self-esteem and self-worth

Working on your own self-esteem and self-worth is the solution. Standing on your own two feet and maintaining your own strength. That will leave the emotions of the other person with that person, and it allows you to provide support because the other person needs it, not because you need it. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t be compassionate or empathise with others, you just won’t need it to feel good yourself. You’ll do it because you want to – a conscious choice. Patricia Frye puts it well: “Two halves do not make a whole when it comes to a healthy relationship. It takes two wholes.”