Emotional Crutches in Relationships

If you're too emotionally dependent upon your partner, you might be using them as an emotional crutch. In fact, by searching for the love of another, you probably stopped loving yourself.
Emotional Crutches in Relationships

Last update: 08 January, 2021

Love and relationships are topics that people always like to talk about. Indeed, there are many theories about this particular emotion. A feeling that can be so captivating and constructive, yet at the same time also extremely destructive. In fact, depending on how you build it or use it, love can either motivate you to grow or, on the other hand, completely stop you from growing. In a society where the idea of romantic love prevails, it’s sometimes difficult to build a healthy and loving relationship that runs smoothly. One particular problem in love can occur when people find themselves becoming too emotionally dependent upon their partners. When this happens, it’s said that they’re using emotional crutches.

Your childhood affects your adult relationships

Unfortunately, far too often, psychologists meet people whose Achilles heel is love. These people might function perfectly well at work and in their family and social relationships. However, when it comes to relationships, they just fall to pieces. Why does this happen?

Childhood and adolescent or early adulthood experiences tend to leave their mark. In fact, your relationship with your parents, their parenting style, and a poorly developed sense of self-esteem can all lay the foundations for toxic relationships.

If you didn’t feel secure and self-confident as a child, it may be difficult for you to exhibit those skills as an adult. In fact, you’ll find there’s a void inside you that somehow needs filling.

However, it isn’t a matter of finding someone to blame. After all, nobody’s perfect. And parents sometimes make mistakes. Furthermore, we’re living in a society that “forces” parents to spend time away from home, living life at a fast and often stressed pace. Therefore, family issues tend to get neglected.

Thus, with the parents barely noticing, the kids start to feel lonely. In fact, they think that their parents, who are their reference point in life, are no longer available. That’s when the idea of “abandonment” arises.

A woman looking upset.

Emptiness and emotional crutches

If you break your leg and have to have surgery, you’re usually prescribed a wheelchair or crutches. These aids help you to overcome your temporary lack of ability and, thanks to them, you’re able to carry on with your life. That’s what happens when you physically need crutches. They continue to work until you can do without them.

However, the same thing can happen psychologically with love. Because, due to the absence of your parents, or the abuse and trauma you might have suffered in childhood, you’ve developed a void in your life. In fact, there’s a “hole” in your soul that persists into adulthood. This emptiness is so painful that you go looking for something like a crutch to help you function. But, hardly surprisingly, you find these particular emotional crutches don’t work as well as the real ones do for a broken leg.

Filling the void

If you choose to fill the void in your life with a partner, you’ll usually end up repeating what you experienced in your childhood. In fact, you tend to choose partners who are similar to those you’ve already known. This is because the brain is comfortable with familiarity, even if it ends up being painful.

What happens is that the relationship doesn’t work. In fact, it becomes toxic. In effect, this lack of something that you’re feeling generates feelings of jealousy, possession, or dependence. This is because you’re trying to stop that feeling of “abandonment” from returning.

In addition, it’s possible that your partner will end up treating you badly or abandoning you, just as you experienced in the past. This isn’t magic or coincidence. It’s just that, when you develop a schema, it’s normal to go on and find another schema that “complements” the first one. And that’s why you end up saying “It’s always the same, I never have luck in love”.

Therefore, without even being aware of it, you’re repeating the situations of your childhood. This is because you’re motivated by a tremendous fear of being alone, of being abandoned. For every partner you find and every relationship that fails, the void inside you gets bigger. Furthermore, it feeds off the idea of abandonment and failure in love. So what are you failing at?

Walking without those emotional crutches

To answer the last question, you have to realize that using an emotional crutch isn’t the answer. It might work in the short term, but the problem will become a heavy burden further down the road.

Using an emotional crutch might give you the false illusion that your self-esteem is improving and that everything will work out fine in the end. But this isn’t the case. Because before a relationship can work for you and the path of true love really runs smoothly, you first need to give that love you think you need from someone else to yourself.

Without a doubt, the key to freeing yourself from your emotional crutch is to realize that, while it’s true that, as a child, you needed the love of your parents, you’re now an adult and you need to be independent.

A woman looking pensive.

You grow when you learn to embrace yourself, feel good about yourself, and talk to your inner self. That’s why you should first make friends with solitude. Force yourself to be alone for a while. Make plans to do things alone, learn how to tolerate boredom or, indeed, any other emotions you come to experience.

You’ll have no dependencies, no deficiencies, no needs. Start a relationship because it completes you and because it’s easy, healthy, fun, and beautiful, not because you need it. This way, you’ll no longer need that emotional crutch. You’ll walk unaided and, furthermore, that void inside you will be filled with your own self-love.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Riso, W. ¿Amar o depender? Cómo superar el apego afectivo y hacer del amor una experiencia plena y saludable. Editorial Planeta/Zenith

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.