"Part of starting a new life for yourself and letting go of a codependent relationship is thinking more of yourself than the person you have been carrying does."
When one gets married, there is a notion that goes along with committing to someone for the rest of one’s life that you can’t imagine functioning without them. One spouse may spend so much of their day creating the perfect illusion that they need the other spouse to make it to the next day. They believe that they truly do not feel whole without seeing them.
One spouse comes to the other’s aid when they feel helpless and in need of mental rescuing. The rescuing spouse may speak to others about the relationship and make excuses about any underachievement or irresponsibility that may be taking place in life of the spouse that feels helpless and may have a tendency to procrastinate.
According to Psychology Today, these unbalanced relationships can go on for some time, but are ultimately unsustainable, due to their consumption of the helpful spouse’s physical, emotional, or financial resources, and because they lead to relationship strain, resentment, and if it gets this far, divorce.
This relationship model is referred to as codependency. Codependency is a learned behavior and an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship, according to Mental Health America.
WebMD see a codependent relationship as a situation where one of the individuals in the relationship finds themselves dependent on the approval of the other person for their self-worth or identity. They are considered to be unhealthy and involve a level of clinginess where one person does not have autonomy or self-sufficiency.
Many who go through marital problems or have suffered through a divorce have experienced a codependent relationship. Exhaustion and confusion can set in when one spouse is carrying the weight of the relationship on their shoulders. For those carrying the burden, it can cause them anxiety, exhaustion and general unhappiness, according to The Huffington Post.
Sometimes, it gets to the point where getting up in the morning each day means that there is a new problem to fix in your spouse’s life, a new crisis to help them overcome, and for those trying to fix their spouse each day, it can feel like your life has become an endless cycle of self-sabotage.
You, as a married individual, understand that you put yourself in this position by falling in love and getting married to someone with so many needs, and there is a certain amount of unhealthy self-hatred that can go along with that.
You also can feel guilty, due to the fact that the way you perceive your spouse has gotten to the point where you no longer view them as a capable individual with the ability to survive each day on their own.
Instead, you now see them as a helpless being who needs your physical, mental, and emotional support each and every day.
The marriage no longer becomes about love, but rather, pity. You feel bad about feeling trapped, and you, like many in codependent relationships, want to make it up to your spouse by continuing to help them, continuing the cycle until you stop valuing your own happiness and your own emotions.
Ending the cycle
From an emotional perspective, it can be difficult to end the cycle, and for many that simply means letting go of the relationship and pursuing a divorce, according to Psychology Today. In a codependent relationship, you, as the spouse shouldering the responsibility, need to build up their self-esteem and relearn how to say “no.”
You need to begin to do things for yourself and make yourself the priority. During the divorce process, your soon-to-be ex-spouse may make an emotional plea, asking for a level of leniency or asking for special treatment in aspects related to alimony or custody, but part of starting a new life for yourself and letting go of a codependent relationship is thinking more of yourself than the person you have been carrying does.
It is understandable wanting to help someone, especially if it is someone you love or once loved, but it should not be at the cost of your own self-worth. You should not be in the relationship if you are confident that if you were to end it, the other person would not be able to survive on their own. As much as you may want to do the right thing for that person, they have shown throughout your relationship and marriage that they would not be willing to do the same, making them the perpetual victim in their own eyes.
They may look at your desire for a divorce as a selfish act, and while putting yourself first in this instance may appear to them as selfish, it may be the first instance in a long while where you are putting your happiness, your future, and your health first in a long while, which is something that should occur in relationships moving forward.
It should never be one-sided. Both spouses need to be able to carry the weight. You also cannot let a previous codependent relationship define your relationship life.
You should not be afraid to enter another relationship, but you should understand that you need to be in a healthier situation. You need someone in your life who can pull their own weight and not bring you down. They should not be someone that you have to fix up or that relies on you for their every emotional need.
You also should not seek out a fixer-upper. It is important to break the cycle and not fall back into a codependent relationship after a divorce. While these sentiments may be seen as a tight rope, putting yourself first in your future dating life after a divorce is a priority that will benefit your health and happiness in the long run.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.