“I can’t live without you.” Those can be some of the most endearing words to say — that someone means so much to you. But those can also be the most frightening words to say — that you need someone so much.

When you use this expression figuratively, it can be a very sweet sentiment, just like it was when Tom Cruise told Renee Zellweger in the movie Jerry Maguire, “You complete me.” But if you mean those words in any form of reality, that’s a problem.

None of us can be truly happy with someone else until we’re truly happy with ourselves. Our happiness cannot solely rest on another person. For the person hearing that, or seeing you demonstrate that, it can be overwhelming and scary. One person cannot be the end-all, be-all of our existence.

Giving control of your happiness is a lot of power to give to someone else. You should want to be in control of that yourself — it is your life, after all. From your partner’s point of view, it is an immense responsibility to place on them, and it isn’t fair. No one wants to feel that they’re responsible for anyone else’s day-to-day happiness or survival.

You may find that the more you need them to get through your day, the less of their day they will want to spend with you. The more you let them know how much you need them, the more burden they will feel and the more they may become even more distant. It becomes an endless cycle of neediness, resistance, and ill will for you both as neither of gets your needs met.

No matter how much someone loves you, he or she most likely won’t be able to handle this burden for very long. Imagine yourself in their shoes: Someone has been thinking about you all day, or they cannot function without knowing exactly what you’re doing all the time, or needing to be around you every waking, breathing minute. It would feel suffocating.

You want your partner to want to be around you, to enjoy spending time with you — not feeling like if they’re not there you’ll wither away, feeling guilty or resentful when they can’t be, or no longer wanting to be. So no one should be held responsible for your happiness in life but you.

There is nothing more attractive than a bright, capable, happy, self-confident individual. Sure, we all have our insecurities to overcome and that’s completely normal. However, needing someone to constantly give us reassurance, or stay in touch with us all day, every day, or our only being willing to do things the other person does, isn’t healthy or appealing.

It’s important to have some independence within a relationship — to develop an identity apart from our partner. If you struggle with this, try to find some things you can do on your own and push yourself to enjoy it. Take baby steps if you need to. If you think tennis would be fun, go take lessons. If you’ve wanted to learn to knit, then learn how to knit. Take up running. Whatever it may be, do it, and own it. It should be yours and yours alone.

Once you experience that you can have fun and be okay doing things on your own, it will be easier to move on to bigger things, like having your own friends, or being able to go through the day without speaking to your significant other, and to feel all right with it.

There is no one any of us cannot live without. Partners in healthy, happy relationships find a balance between wanting to be with their partner and needing to be with them. Find that sweet spot and you won’t have to worry about losing the person you don’t want to (can’t) live without.

Man leaving woman photo available from Shutterstock