YOBcast Episode 014: Emotional Dependency, Part 2

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How do we endure the weightiness of emotional dependency, and how do we move beyond our emotional dependency?

The conversation continues in the second part of this two-part episode on emotional dependency, featuring Tom, Elliott, Marshall, Corey, and Bradley. In this episode, Tom, Elliott, and Marshall share their personal stories of emotional dependency, and we discuss the difficult steps beyond emodep.

Thanks again to our Patreon supporters for spurring lots of questions and content in this two-part episode! If you believe in what we’re doing at YOB from the blog to the podcast and beyond, would you consider supporting us financially each month via Patreon? Even $5/month helps us do more of what we love to do: tell stories.

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Finally, don’t forget to comment on this episode below: what happened in the aftermath of your emotional dependency? Did the friendship survive, thrive, or die?

We hope you enjoy our latest episode:

Show notes:

Tom’s posts: https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/author/tom/

Tom’s story of emotional dependency: https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/2016/06/30/friend-anymore/

Elliott’s posts: https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/author/elliott/

Elliott’s friendship story: https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/2016/05/05/best-friends-brotherhood/

Marshall’s posts: https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/author/marshall/

Marshall’s story of emotional dependency: https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/2017/03/06/male-friendship-dies/

Marshall’s story of relational restoration: https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/2017/03/23/rebirth-male-friendship/

Bradley’s posts: https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/author/bradley/

Corey’s posts: https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/author/corey/

The “Fish Love” video by Rabbi Abraham Twerski:

  • Brian

    Because of this SSA affliction, many relationships to other guys has been fractured and eventually died. Why? Because of this emotional dependency that I had, latching myself onto them and losing my identity in the process. I’ve always been uncomfortable with talking to and making possible friendships with other guys because I feel that I will eventually go “emodep” on them which will cause everything to end. And then I beat myself up emotionally, blaming myself and believing that I can and never will make a friend to another guy. It’s like it’s impossible for me to do so. There seems to be this inability to relate to and have a solid and healthy friendship with another guy. And because of this, I have kept myself at a distance from other guys, not wanting to make the same mistakes that I made in the past. I stay away from friendships with other guys because I don’t want another round of “emodep” heading my way. The last time I became dependent and clingy to another guy was back in college and I think around 2008 or 2009 it all ended because I became jealous and angry and allowed that to get the better of me which resulted in him ignoring me and not wanting anything to do with me. I’m sure if I see him today the same anger and bitterness would still be there. Due to all the hurt and pain because of this emotional dependency, I believe I can’t make friends with a guy. I can’t seem to relate to them. I feel that I would ask for too much out of the relationship. I feel that I would never be the “best friend” in his eye but the inferior sideline friend which he would use for his own convenience.

    • Jeff Brady

      Is it possible you’re expecting too much? I think much of the emodep thing happens when we do not cast a broad net, making more than one friend. Focusing too much on one friend is never good. We have to remember that we are not looking for a husband or a partner.

      And what is it with this best friend thing anyway? It’s kind of junenile when you stop and think about it and the older we get, the more homoerotic it becomes. We do not live in a ‘buddy movie’. Real life changes at some point for most people and our partners or husbands or wives become our best friends. If we never take a life partner, we have to take our friendships where we can get them, and also try very hard not to become a burden to those friends.

      I know there are some of us that cannot stand to be alone. I kind of like being alone. I guess that makes me different than you, Brian, and the others on the podcast. I think this is why I am not as likely to suffer emodep as often as others of our ilk. If anything, I suppose I need to be more involved with other people than I am. I do have friends, but I can’t imagine having them around all the time and I’m sure they feel the same about me. I have been rejected by people, but I always thought it was their loss as much as mine. And when I’m missing someone or I just want to talk, there are people that I can go to.

      Perhaps my strategy is not healthy either, but I seem to avoid a lot of pain. I know some people think it’s worth the pain and anguish. I’m not there yet.

      • Brian

        Why is it considered “homoerotic” to think of having a best friend? This is what happens when we live in a society where not only sex but homosexuality is pushed everywhere. We live in a society where two guys who are best friends and really close are considered gay. People stare, whisper and wonder “is there something going on between those two? Are they gay?” In a society such as this guys can’t have in-depth conversations but rather shallow ones talking mainly about sports or about liking this girl and whether they want to have sex with this one or the other. Sorry, but I like in-depth conversations, I like dialogue that has substance. There comes a point in a friendship where feelings should be discussed, whether it be one person in the friendship is going through trials or if there’s a rift in the relationship.

        I understand that life changes for most and they get married but what about the singles? Are they to be tossed to the side like chopped liver? The church doesn’t even know what to do with singles because their attention is mainly focused on married people. And why is it that a single person has to become a burden to their friends who are married? Sorry but married people need friends too apart from being around each other all the time. Yes, their husband or wife may be their BEST friend but they need other friends to because their significant other can’t be everything to each other.

        I like being alone but I’m a human being made in the image of God and there are times I would like to have company, to have conversations and be around others. Many times I like to be by myself but sometimes I want someone else around me. That’s normal. No, I’m not this starving puppy asking for people to be around me or else I can’t function by myself.

        But I’ve been hurt, mistreated, and used by others so much, I rather be by myself and not be around anyone. The pain and anguish isn’t worth it at all, so now I avoid the pain by being around no one. People cause more heartache than joy and I rather be miserable all by myself.

        • mike

          Brian, this concept of a “best friend” is I think a worldly construct. Jesus calls us to follow Him. His example, as I read it, is to develop community surrounding ourselves with many brothers and sisters not one so that we might benefit from all the gifts given by the Spirit not just one!
          For us SSA’D ones there are many pitfalls and pains in following a “best friend” lifestyle. Though some might say it’s worth the trouble I agree with you that it may not be and was not what Jesus did. So why search for that?

  • Brian

    I think everyone experiences types of over attachment of one kind or another. In our case it happens with our best guy friends because we all feel that deficit of a brother or father figure in our lives. As mentioned in the podcast, the most common is people in heterosexual relationships. Society puts so much emphasis that marriage is the ultimate relationship that married couples put way too much pressure on each other to fulfill each other’s needs. I can’t help but wonder if this is the common reason why divorce rates are so high these days. Emodep can also happen between parents and children. I watched this documentary about this 800 pound 19 year old who became that way because his mother had lost a child and kept babying him because she was so afraid of losing him. In the show she admitted that she was pretty much addicted to her son to the point where it was abusive.

    • Brian

      I believe emodep is most definitely the reason behind many divorce rates. You hear phrases from those saying “you’re my everything” or “you complete me” but the thing is no one can complete you, no one can be you’re everything. When someone is your everything then you look to that person to supply all you’re needs and only God is the one who can supply all our needs, especially emotionally. So when I hear couples say to their significant other “you’re my best friend”, it doesn’t mean that each of them can’t have friends. I don’t believe a married couple should be in their own world, just the two of them, shutting out everything and everyone else. I believe that the church should do a better job with handling singles and not have them in despair because they’re not married or have them rush to marriage for the sake of getting married to fulfill the pressure.

      • Eddie

        I tend to agree with you Brian. From the outside looking in on married couples, it seems to me that once my single guy friend gets married, he is out of the picture.
        Me: “You want to go oit tonight buddy!?”
        Buddy: “Nah man. Gotta stay home with the wife and kids. Family first.”

        Or its either the silent treatment or I just don’t bother to ask for fear of rejection. 99% the latter. Another thing I see is singles around my age group just don’t date much if at all. The guys just don’t have any romantic feelings for the women because we see them as sisters, not potential mates (myself included). I just don’t know what the Church can do in such matters. They seem to stick to what worked 50-100 years ago — be born, grow up, get educated, get a job, get married, have kids, have your kids repeat the cycle. I could handle being single provided my needs were met. Old age scares me. Call me crazy, but I tend to wonder if all us unmarried SSA guys simply move in together and live like monks in a monastery for our remaining years. At least we wouldn’t be alone and there’d be community among us.

    • Eddie

      I saw that same documentary about Billy Robbins aka “Half Ton Teen.” You’re right. Total 100% emodep parent child relationship. What was especially detrimental in that parent-child dynamic was Billy failing to mature emotionally into a young adult due to his mother’s compulsive influence.

  • Myles S

    You guys feel like long lost friends – I love the spirit you have with each other and your courage and vulnerability are beautiful. I honestly resonated deeply with this podcast on EmoDep. I have struggled with this for most of my life, the best friend need has always been there and it always seem to fall apart once I feel like I’ve finally got that friendship where the other guy gets me and still cares. I resonate with the not feeling like I’m enough, and wanting to become enough through someone else by feeling needed/valued. I’ve wanted to be that #1 in a few friends lives and be their #1 as well and when it is process it feels amazing and life giving.

    One of the tougher examples of this was when I was on a short term missions trip with six other people travelling around the midwest in mini van. During the orientation I broke down and confessed my SSA to my team prior to leaving, and it was well received. The two guys on my team were amazing about it…and I became pretty dependent on the one that was kind, more social, and more athletic than myself. Through the summer we had some deep moments of quality time and vulnerability, and I had some significant prayer times with my team over the two months. As the summer moved on I became more jealous about sharing time with him and overshared a detail that made him pull away for the last two weeks. At the debrief I was a mess as I realized I was losing access to one of the closest and kindest guys in my life, even thought the past two weeks were hard the debrief just finalized things as we were from different parts of the country. I asked for forgiveness and tried to make things right even though I was EmoDep at the time…the friendship just didn’t recover. I cherish a lot of those moments from that trip – but it something died in me as I took on the shame of being too much and too needy.

    The battle around appropriate intimacy still continues in friendships but that was by far one of the most painful ones to journey through. I still feel like I need more tools in my toolbox for managing my tendency to be EmoDep. Thank you that you make me feel like I belong and that I’m not alone. Your stories encourage this brother’s heart and speak of growth and hope. I loved the comments “If you have emotions and relationships, this could affect you’…laughter ensues….”What we have within us is just not enough, and we need somebody else to make us enough”. I appreciate the distinction that this isn’t just a SSA issue but that enmeshment exists in other relationships too including marriage. Thanks for being willing to step out and share your stories with this other brother. Don’t know you guys personally but I already love what you guys are doing. Thank you for living bravely and daring greatly in the arena of life.

  • Alan Gingery

    In some ways I guess my emotional dependency was rather mild. Probably this was because I never really got enmeshed in only one person, but in a more healthy way spread my neediness across a group of friends, not one. So I never crashed and burned because I never really drove one particular person crazy with a strangling life-draining well of neediness.

    The relationship that I had which I would describe as emotional dependency was actually the reverse for me: someone else was emotionally dependent on me. I was dating a girl and I loved her a lot, but not necessarily to the point that I was ready to propose and make her my fiancé. But she was enmeshed in me. She was jealous of me and clingy and possessive. Our relationship was rocky with some of the same troubles discussed in episodes 1&2, but we managed to work through most of it.

    But there came a time when things were not working. I prayed about what to do and went to talk about it. What I found out completely took me by surprise. This woman had been for sometime trying to sabotage our relationship, because she wanted out. She decided if she couldn’t have me all to herself, then she wanted none of me. And at the same time her emotional neediness was such that she couldn’t let me go. So for some time our relationship was an emotional yoyo.

    After this revelation, she broke it off and wouldn’t be my friend even in a casual way. I experienced the grief of loss just as if she had died, only worse, because it was hard to stop caring and come to closure when she was not really dead, just emotionally dead to me.

    It was a learning experience and it shaped me. No happy ending and no reconciliation here.