Most people will still be familiar with the term symbiosis from their biology lessons: For example, it refers to the coexistence of two different animal species that benefit from each other. However, this pattern can also be found in love relationships, where it can quickly become toxic. We’ll show you how you can recognize a symbiotic relationship, who is particularly susceptible, and how you can prevent it.
What is a symbiotic relationship?
In the wild, when two animals live in a symbiotic relationship, they do so for one reason: they both gain one or more benefits from the symbiosis. In such a relationship, there can be animals that are completely different, such as oxpecker birds and hippos. In couple relationships it can be quite similar, because from the outside the emotional dependency relationship is not necessarily recognizable. It may be a romantic notion that in a relationship both cannot do without the other, but if this feeling dominates living together at some point, it becomes toxic.
You can’t do anything without your partner
In the initial infatuation phase, it is quite normal to only want to spend time with your partner. However, this intensity is not conducive to a long-term relationship, because both of you will unlearn to do things on your own or with your own friends over time. In the long run, friends can also be neglected to such an extent that they are lost over time. People who live in a close symbiotic relationship usually don’t notice this because their partner actually fulfills them. The problem is, however, that those affected thus also forget to enjoy time without their partner. If you always cancel invitations from friends and find excuses when your partner can’t accompany you, this is a first alarm sign.
You no longer know who you are without your partner.
If you only have common friends and common interests, you will be under the impression of having the perfect relationship for a long time. The problem with this, however, is that you only appear as a functioning unit. Your individual needs have merged into an inseparable “we” – so much so that it’s no longer romantic, but rather you both can’t identify your own interests and opinions. Over time, this can lead to a sense of loss of identity, which becomes especially problematic once the relationship is in crisis, or on the rocks.
Your partner always comes first for you.
A symbiotic relationship is also characterized by both doing a lot for the other. To a certain extent, this is beneficial for a relationship. However, it becomes problematic when both neglect their own needs, friends and family, or do things that contradict their own principles. If you feel you have to pretend to please your partner or have not taken care of yourself for a long time, you should definitely change something.