Cannot Live Without You

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The thought process behind the expression ‘I can’t live without you’ is toxic for relationships and is a form of abuse. The idea of needing someone else to fulfill vital functions is ingrained in popular culture and we rarely stop to think about what the words actually mean or the tremendous pressure they put on a partner.

Of course this idea has an element of charm to it, and you probably felt pretty good about yourself when you first heard it from a partner. It probably made you feel important and stroked your ego. We all want to feel necessary and appreciated. Human experience is about connection, and in this case your connection is so important that death would result for your partner if you were no longer in the picture.

‘I can’t live without you’ stops being charming and starts being abusive rather quickly. It becomes a method of control. We have written a good deal about getting important psychological needs met from the inside out rather than the outside in. When you develop yourself from the inside and have a fully formed identity you do not rely on external sources of validation to give your life meaning. If you lose something or someone in your life, like your house or a romantic partner, it can be devastating but it does not fundamentally change who you are as a person. Qualities and attributes radiate from within you.

When a person tells you that he or she could not live without you they probably believe it. That’s because the attempt is to get important identity needs met through you. If you leave, a hole will exist where that person once felt whole. This is actually quite demeaning to you. It’s not you who is cared about in the first place but rather the vital functions you fulfill that are cared about.

As time passes in the relationship you will invariably start to feel trapped and embittered by this situation. You lose the freedom to decide the course of your life and instead are merely an instrument for the psychological welfare of someone else. Instead of helping you to develop and grow your partner is primarily concerned with what you have to offer. You become a commodity rather than a person with your own needs.

If you have ever thought this way in your relationships, try changing your thinking to ‘Living without you would be difficult, and I would remember you in my heart’. This honors your partner yet still allows for the psychological independence of both of you. In healthy relationships partners are concerned with helping each other authentically grow into the people they really are, not with using each other to get needs met that they feel incapable of meeting on their own. You will feel like a weight is lifted off of your shoulders when you start thinking this way. Generosity replaces greediness and a situation of mutual respect is created.