YOBcast Episode 013: Emotional Dependency, Part 1

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What is emotional dependency? How do we avoid falling emotionally dependent on another man for our survival, and how do we recover when we cross that line?

It’s the first in a two-part episode on emotional dependency — or “emodep,” as we so lovingly call it. Join Tom and Elliott along with Corey, Marshall, and Bradley for a storytelling roundtable on the emotionally dependent friendships — and ex-friendships — from our stories.

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Finally, don’t forget to comment on this episode below: what’s your emotional dependency (EMODEP) story? How did you fall emotionally dependent on another guy, and what happened next?

We hope you enjoy our latest episode!

Show notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corey’s emotional dependency post: https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/2017/02/13/victim-emotional-dependency/

  • Brian

    I rather not have any friends or acquaintances for that matter. Any time I try to relate with another guy it always results in emotional dependency which brings nothing but frustration, disappointment with myself and the situation, and pain in the end. I realize I can’t relate to other guys at all. And honestly I find the word “friendship” to be nonexistent. I’ve been hurt way too much by others and ultimately I prefer being by myself. All I know and have experienced is pain, being used, abandoned and mistreated by others. I don’t believe in friendships anymore.

    • Jeff Brady

      Right On Brian….I’m kind of a hermit myself. I do have a handful of friends, but I try very hard to limit my time with them and not insinuate myself on them. If they would like me to be present, I am always willing to go, but I don’t think I ever call anybody and say, “hey let’s do something”. I do not want to be clingy or a 5th wheel or seem needy. I probably am needy, but I do not want to put that on others. It’s not fair, especially if they are willing to make time in their schedule for me. These are not shallow friendships. These people all know about my SSA and they know me quite well. I tend to be quite blunt, open, honest and somewhat sarcastic. I am very opinionated. I am an acquired taste, best taken in small batches. It can lead to conflict if I let it. This is mostly why I try to let them invite me and never invite myself into their lives.
      I too prefer to be alone most of the time and my strategy above helps me avoid emotional dependency. I do not want to be the annoying friend. I have had those and I do not want to be like that with other people. Even a little loneliness is better than obsession or depression.

      • Brian

        I can’t remember any kind of acquaintanceship (I can’t say friendship because I never had a one) that I had in which someone on their own initiative wanted me to come hang out with them. I always had to be the one to initiate. Back in college I would hang out with a group of three other guys on the weekends but I always felt like a 4th wheel, as if I didn’t belong. It felt like I was tagging along. One of the guys made me fit in a bit but as a whole I didn’t feel like I fit in with the group. I don’t fit in well hanging out with a group of guys. Even hanging out with one terrifies me.

        I rather not make friends because as I said earlier I always get hurt in the end and I don’t trust people anymore.

        • Bradley S

          Totally resonate with the struggle of feeling like an extra wheel. I have a lot of past wounds about this.

    • Bradley S

      Brian and Jeff, I feel so sad to read your words. I have been in a similar situation before and am still learning myself, but I believe connection and brotherhood are possible. It’s tough, but with pain and perspective, love and friendship can win out. You both are worthy of love and connection!

      • Brian

        I don’t need anyone feeling sorry for me. That’s the last thing I want from anyone. Feeling sorry for me is not going to change my situation, the way I feel, and my distrust of people. I rule out any kind of connection and brotherhood with anyone. It’s not possible and if it is, it’s not possible with someone like me.

        • Bradley S

          Reading yours and Jeff’s words brought up a lot of similar pain I have experienced. I was more relating to what you shared by my comment. No offense intended 🙂

    • I’m gonna challenge you on what you posted here, Brian. If you’re against friendship and even acquaintances, why do you comment on our blog? Why the need to share your story if you prefer being by yourself? I think something in you does desire connection. I feel your same frustrations at times, but I also know there’s more to this life than solitude. Your comment here evidences that perfectly.

      • Brian

        I don’t know why I comment. I don’t believe something in me desires any sort of connection, especially with the way I’ve been mistreated and hurt by others over the years. I know that by being alone, by having solitude, I don’t have to worry about getting hurt by others. The pain is unbearable and being by myself prevents me from feeling that.

        • Brian, I’d encourage you to press deeper into that question: why you choose to comment here. Without ever having met you or knowing you too well, I can still bet that you share your story to be heard and connect on some base level. Not a bad thing at all; it’s human nature to connect.

  • Charles Askia

    Hi. I had a very hard time dealing with emotional dependency, and listening to this podcast was VERY eye-opening. I’m Charles, and I had three main times of “emodep” (seriously, the funniest and most awesome name for emotional dependency). I don’t even know how or where to begin, though…
    I guess I’ll actually start with the self-reliance in my life. I’m 24, and I am the only boy in my family. When I was younger, I didn’t grow up with a male figure in the house, so I can relate to the learning everything on my own. Encyclopedias, dictionaries, peers, teachers, youth group, anyone except my mom and sisters were my sources of information. Around middle school is when I began struggling with SSA, and around that time, I didn’t really fit-in with other boys around my age, so I always went with girls and did things with them.
    Around 8th grade, I met my first crush whom I dated for the next 4 years (“emodep” relationship no.1). He and I met at a clinic together for a music festival we both we a part of for our state. As we dated, I began realizing I couldn’t be without him. We saw each other once a week, but talked daily through AOL Instant Messenger or AIM (old school here…). Anyway, as years went on, I was going to church stil with my mom and talking to my youth group leader about our relationship, and I knew by my take on Scripture, I shouldn’t be in a relationship with him. So, we took “breaks” every time I felt I was being dependent on him. He also told me that when we had our breaks, he felt horrible like he did something wrong because he wanted me to need him and want him around, so I can relate to that too. After a while, we weren’t emotionally dependent on each other, but we just were in a dating, romantic relationship. When we broke up, it was hard because he got kicked out of his home by his parents because as Christian parents, they said, “We’re not having a gay son, so you will leave and be on your own.” That shook me and tore me apart because he was my first love, not Christ. Then I received news about my second emotionally dependent relationship.

    Emodep relationship number two was from my first friend I met who confessed that he struggled with same-sex attraction when I was in 9th grade. We were very dependent on each other, because while I told him about my relationship, he and I would confess our sins to each other, pray for one another, and that was another reason why the former guy and I took “breaks.” However, as we saw each other once a year for a week at a Christian music camp, we then had some terrible moments when we kept making these unrealistic expectations of each other being the only people who knew what were we dealing with in our lives. When I went got to my senior year, the former guy and I had broken up and he was homeless. This guy told me he was “giving up” on pursuing celibacy and pursued guys, and with that, I completely broke apart. We don’t really talk much anymore, but we are still connected through a music fraternity that we both joined in college (I didn’t know he had joined until after I did).

    Speaking of college, that leads me to emodep rel. (too many letters to type) number three. When I got to college, my freshman year was horrible. I began seeking groups to join, and some of which were with some non-believers and who were gay. I thought I had community with them until they began spreading rumors about me and another member of the group which broke my heart. A friend in my program suggested I go to their prayer group which is where I met this guy who was brilliantly radiant of Christ–so much that I hated being around him, but something always drew me to him. As we began talking to each other, I shared my former two stories with him and how I struggled with SSA, and he opened up and shared he did as well. Though I immediately wanted to run, he kept me close and never let me run away. He pursued me and didn’t give up on God to work in me. By the end of my freshman year, he led me to Christ with a relationship through grace and not works. We hung out a lot, spent time together in the Word, went to church together, played music, climbed trees, did all the fun things that friends could do without crossing boundaries.
    However, the following year, things escalated. A new person entered the picture, and he began spending all of his time with him instead of me, and I was jealous. I was broken. I felt replaced and robbed. When things got early rough for him, he left campus for a week, and that was the first time I realized I was emotionally dependent on him, or anyone. We’re still good friends to this day seven years later. However, I always clung to him like my life depended on it or else my view of myself would change. I realized the person I wanted him to be for me was not who God made him to be though he tried to fill the gap as a male mentor and figure. We both learned a lot, and now, we’re still great friends and go to the same church and play together.

    Sorry for the LONG post… but those are my three stories of “emodep.”

  • Bradley S

    I can really relate with what was shared on this podcast. I experienced emotional dependency with my first (and only) boyfriend, even though I didn’t understand that it was that, or identify it as emotional dependency at the time. What started off as a friendship soon became an obsession. As was mentioned on the podcast, enmeshment was a perfect word for what we were. I lived for our constant messaging back and forth, would spend time with him only and neglect relationships with family, other friends, and even my time with God. A few summers back I came to a decision point and had to choose between my best friend and my Lord. And I chose my walk with God. Since then I have learned to approach friendships with more balance, to diversify and not to put all of my social and emotional eggs in one basket, and to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, trusting that all things will be added unto me (Matthew 6:33). I’m still learning a lot about friendships and brotherhood, but I have more optimism for the future than I did before.

    I really loved hearing the perspectives in part one, and look forward to part two!

    • Thanks for sharing your EMODEP story, Bradley. Sounds like you learned a lot from that relationship. Grateful to have you with us on the other side!

      I’m looking forward to part 2, too. 🙂

  • mike

    I think there be two forms of ED. The guy who is needy connecting to the guy who needs to be needed. The first guy ends up most damaged emotionally and eventually escapes into isolation which can be fatal for him…
    I’m more the latter form: attaching to a guy I’m attracted to who is the one always needy, hurting, and troubled. I’m the rescuer, the caretaker whose love methinks will heal the guy’s pain. Sort of taking over Jesus job. Quite the saviour complex I have!
    But it’s all idolatry: the blind leading the blind sucking life out of each other. But it’s worse. Behind every idol there be demons who dig in their claws into the two guys resulting in ugly manipulative power plays, bondage to each other (and the demons), and becoming isolated from the greater community — a clever ploy by the demons!
    It’s a sick downward spiral of emotional abuse which has happened to me twice. It has always left me so emotionally drained I preferred death to its continuation and have begged God each time to remove the guy because I can’t… It’s like heroin addiction: the withdrawal is worse than continuing the drug! Each time God has answered and moved the guy away to another part of the country. Slowly, very slowly I have learned to place boundaries. Being intentional, putting Jesus between me and the other guy no matter the situation, and always directing the other guy to Jesus not to me has saved me countless times especially in the counselling situations in which I find my vocation where it’s easy for me to so want to rescue. But I dare NOT.

    • Eddie

      “The guy who needs to be needed.” That describes me and every ISFJ guy out there. I want to be there when a brother is hurting. When I heard Elliot’s multipart life posts, my heart was breaking and I wanted so bad to comfort him so much. But even being an ISFJ type, we reach a threshold when we have to step back and allow that person to stand on their own two feet without our constant attention. If we don’t then we are enabling and perpetuating the emotional dependency. I myself have had to learn boundaries and tend to keep people at a distance to allow for the relationship to develop naturally. For example, if I were to do a meetup with one or more YOB members, I’d prefer a handshake to a hug in our initial greeting. We may part ways with a hug, but let’s give us some time to become better acquainted.

      • mike

        Eddie, I don’t think every ISFJ guy out there “needs to be needed”. They just enjoy defending, helping and nurturing. For most it is not a neurotic drive for them to have to be needed lest they die.
        An ISFJ weakness is their sense of loyalty that may push them to lean ever more on themselves to meet their friend’s needs. The ISFJ’s own sense of healthy self identity will modify that loyalty by setting boundaries as you say. The trouble is if the ISFJ doesn’t like himself he will project that need to his needy friend to an unhealthy degree to fill it. He will depend ever so much upon that friend needing him to give him this sense of being and affirmation. If that friend pulls back because the ISFJ is too sensitive he will interpret that as a personal rejection which turns into an inner dread of non being which will be especially painful and turn into an hysterical overreaction to correct course by manipulating his friend, exposing his ingratitude, and placing unreasonable demands on their time together.
        Yes, I like your approach with people. Physical affection is cultural and needs that respect. Greeting each other with a holy kiss was culturally in Ephesus in Paul’s time not so much in my city today. Some people don’t like even a hand on the shoulder never mind a hug!

  • Brian

    The first time I experienced ED was when I was really young (I don’t remember what age . . .maybe 11 or 12). I was “friends” (if you want to call it that) with one of my neighbors who lived across from me and I would go over his house a lot. We were into books, specifically the Goosebumps books which were a hit at the time, and gradually we were both into Pokemon (collecting the cards and the TV series). Well there was a time that we both had a fight. I don’t remember specifically what it was about but I think he didn’t want to see me anymore. I was really hurt and I remember crying and I felt that my world had ended. I felt like I had nothing left. We talked soon after but not too long after that we didn’t have anything in common anymore. He started talking to my brother not too long after and I didn’t feel like I belonged anymore. I felt like the third wheel. I felt jealous and disliked by my neighbor. Ever since then I attempted to connect with others and it never worked out. I felt different from everyone, like I didn’t belong but I tried to connect with others, quite unsuccessfully. Now I keep to myself and prefer being alone. With all the hurt and pain I experienced I no longer believe in friendships, I no longer trust others, I don’t believe in brotherhood, and guys don’t want deep friendships because they believe it would be considered gay.

    • Brian

      I’m sorry to hear that you’ve become so jaded Brian. But believe me, I’ve been in the same place. For the past 5 or so years I’d been trying my hardest to connect with people but what I got was mostly rejection or indifference. It was extremely hurtful and led me to an extremely lonely existence. And the one friendship I had with a straight guy was very surface level and I got bored with it after a while (and I went through a period of Emodep with him as well). And sadly it is true that most straight guys don’t believe in deep friendships because its “gay”. Such is the sad state of our fallen world. But believe me, brotherhood is still worth believing in. I have found brothers in men who also struggle with SSA. Its been an incredible blessing to me as I have never had such closer friends. I never even considered that close friendships with SSA men would even be possible, for me it was all about straight guys. So trust me when I say that friendship and brotherhood are still alive.

  • Brian

    I went through a nasty period of emodep with my straight friend a few years back. I would hound him every weekend if he was free to hang out. And if he ever hung out with other people I would get extremely angry and seeth with envy. I was also really terrified at the thought of him getting a girlfriend and leaving me behind. At the time though, I was actually sort of aware that I was putting too much emphasis with him. But the problem was that he was my only friend and that I didn’t have anyone else to fall back on. I was trying to make more friends but was striking out and failing considerably. When he hung out with others it was more of an angry feeling that I wanted to be included, not so much that I wanted him all to myself. After a while I learned to step back a bit and give him space which was very hard.

  • Brian

    I went through a nasty period of emodep with my straight friend a few years back. I would hound him every weekend if he was free to hang out. And if he ever hung out with other people I would get extremely angry and seeth with envy. I was also really terrified at the thought of him getting a girlfriend and leaving me behind. At the time though, I was actually sort of aware that I was putting too much emphasis with him. But the problem was that he was my only friend and that I didn’t have anyone else to fall back on. I was trying to make more friends but was striking out and failing considerably. When he hung out with others it was more of an angry feeling that I wanted to be included, not so much that I wanted him all to myself. After a while I learned to step back a bit and give him space which was very hard.

    • The dreaded girlfriend: every SSA guy’s worst nightmare. I feel you, Brian. Stepping back and giving someone space is a tough, though necessary skill to learn. I think your future friendships will benefit all the more from this single one.

  • Jeff Brady

    I forgot to ask..
    Do you think there has been an uptick in waffle sales since taking on your new sponsor? I tried to do my part

  • Alan Gingery

    Until recently, I generally had one male best friend at a time…and I found a lot of reassurance in this. I think there was some degree of emodep in these relationships, but I would never say that I was “emeshed” so deeply that my self-worth was wrapped up in the other person. I was definitely in codependency with my mother. I can remember a few crashed friendships where a good friend actually betrayed me (usually peer pressure to be more macho and I wasn’t macho enough, so I got dumped). That was pretty hard to take. I also think I had some emodep on one girlfriend I dated, but again it was not to the point my whole self-worth was tied up in her. Very good subject and I look forward to part 2. The stories are good, so I expect more in part 2! Thanks!

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