Over the centuries, humans have been obsessed with what makes people attractive, from makeup to body physique to cars, clothes, and money.
Of course, all of these play a factor, but I’ve discovered a deeper form of attractiveness that’s more about behavior, attitude, and emotional maturity. It’s the antidote to the unattractive characteristic known as codependency.
Codependency is the reliance on someone else — usually without their knowledge or consent — to meet certain needs. Typically these needs should have been supplied by the parents in early childhood, but they were not.
People who grow up with unmet dependency needs — things like mirroring, holding, affirming, and validating, become adult children later on. Emotionally, they’re frozen in a particular set of ages that come out at different times.
When these people get into relationships, they subconsciously seek out (or create) scenarios attempting to get these needs met, resulting in codependent behavior.
So what behaviors are both healthy and attractive? It’s the process of meeting one’s needs outside of any romantic relationship, as well as a moderate display of emotions.
This is particularly important for guys to recognize because men often let go of their friends in long-term relationships and grow increasingly dependent on the woman to meet his needs. Becoming overburdened by this, she loses attraction for him, making him even more needy and codependent as his anxiety starts to rise.
A man will typically try to manage his anxiety in one of two ways:
- By becoming outwardly aggressive, allowing his inner child to act out protest behaviors
- By retreating inwardly, shutting himself off from his partner and inviting her to act out in protest
Both behaviors result from emotional immaturity, the fallacy that one person can meet all of the needs of the other, and a fear of conflict. Essentially, however, unhealthy conflict replaces healthy conflict in both scenarios.
It is vital to point out that successfully handling emotions is a critical component of any relationship. We will inevitably get triggered by our partner, and avoiding strong reactions or projections will prevent untold damage.
The inner child loves to throw tantrums in the absence of an adult figure, so learning to differentiate adult from childish behavior is critical. The best way I’ve found to do this is by learning to sit in discomfort. It’s like building a muscle or a tolerance to cold water. It needs to be practiced.
When triggered, start by accepting the emotions you’re experiencing. Then allow yourself space and examine them objectively as if watching a small child. This doesn’t mean accepting bad behavior or abuse from your partner. It means taking responsibility for yourself and acting vs. reacting.
We want to defend when we feel attacked, but when strong emotions threaten to hijack our rationality, we’ll likely engage in a tit-for-tat battle that does not tackle the core issue. It’s better to sit in discomfort long enough for it to pass, get to a place of clarity, and re-enter the discussion.
Furthermore, seeking to understand your partner will not only build empathy toward them but will provide a sense of validation and attunement — something they probably feel they are lacking. While it is not your responsibility to meet all of your partner’s needs, there’s still a responsibility to meet some of them.
The clearer that both of you can state your needs and define what’s possible in the context of the relationship, the easier it will be.
Attractive people possess a form of self-mastery that includes emotional control, presence, and the ability to meet most of their needs themselves. They avoid blaming, projecting, and codependency while maintaining emotional warmth, attunement, and clear communication.
“You can’t control people. You can only control your reactions to them.”
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