If so, you may be struggling with codependency, defined as becoming so preoccupied with someone else that you cease to take adequate care of yourself. This is not love – this is looking to an outside source to grant you happiness and a sense of purpose, much in the way that alcoholics or chemically dependent people use substances to numb their feelings and escape life. Although codependents may appear to be kind, gentle, and giving, these qualities can mask a wish to manipulate and control others in order to feel better about themselves. So in a sense codependency is a form of addiction.
The answer isn’t to shy away from relationships, as this would be akin to someone with a compulsive eating problem choosing not to eat. We need close and healthy relationships with other people in order to survive and flourish, just like we need nutritious sources of food.
Genuinely intimate relationships, in which you deeply love, encourage, and connect with one another while remaining true to your personal values and truths, are among the most fulfilling aspects of life and can help us remember (rather than forget) who we are. To quote Albert Schweitzer, “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” In healthy relationships, we stoke one another’s fires, so to speak, rather than snuffing out anyone’s flame.
To develop the capacity for healthy love, both for oneself and (therefore) others, it can be helpful to become involved in either Codependents Anonymous, Al-Anon, or one’s personal therapy (or both). Recovering (or discovering) a sense of who you really are, which has been obscured by your obsession with pleasing or controlling others, is not for the faint of heart and does not happen overnight. However, the rewards are boundless.
So, no, it’s not possible to love someone too much… as long as your love comes from a place of emotional maturity. The more mature you are, the more deeply and authentically you can both love and be loved.
The following checklist to evaluate emotional and spiritual maturity is often read aloud at Al-Anon meetings (originally developed for family members of alcoholics and addicts) and can be a helpful list for anyone seeking to truly grow up.
A Checklist for Evaluating Maturity
The difficulties of coping with alcoholism in another are much more effectively met when we ourselves reflect attitudes of mature adults.
A mature adult is one who:
[From Al-Anon Booklet “Alcoholism, The Family Disease”; image by shutterstock.com]
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Last reviewed: 12 Mar 2015