When we act like this, chances are we have an inner caretaker in us that wants others to feel okay. Why? So that we can feel okay. This is commonly called co-dependency, or emotional fusion. In other words, our okayness is dependent on the other person, thus the term co-dependency.
In my experience, co-dependency is one of the top three relationship issues all of us wrestle with.
Ever heard a parent say “I just want you to be happy. I’m happy if you’re happy.” You might be thinking, “yeah, that’s empathy and it’s healthy.” I disagree and would argue that not only is it NOT healthy in adult-adult relationships, it keeps me stuck in a loop where neither person gets the freedom to fully feel a whole range of feelings from sadness, fear, anger, grief, and even joy.
This one is tricky and sticky for me personally. Since I grew up with a Mom who made her okayness dependent on mine so this is of course my default relational setting. So, if my wife is upset or freaking out, my default is to try and make it better for her. This never helps of course because what she is wanting is validation and space to feel whatever she is going through.
With co-dependency, it is a higher priority for me to put my attention on my wife’s emotional landscape so I don’t have to face my own. By trying to “fix” her, I get relief in my own emotional world. If I keep the attention on trying to fix her upset, I get to avoid my discomfort.
From my experience, this is by far the most common, and emotionally immature way of relating to others. It is where I become completely dependent on others for my okayness! Yuch. They become THE barometer for how I feel.