In a healthy relationship, both parties can manage their own emotional and personal needs. In a codependent relationship, one or both partners cannot do this for themselves, so they rely on each other to manage all their personal needs. Do not confuse emotionally supporting a spouse with codependency – in a healthy marriage, both partners should be expected to be there for each other. Codependency goes beyond this level of emotional support. Codependency describes a relationship where one partner sacrifices his or her own needs to fulfill the other’s, causing him or her to suffer from the difficulties that come with poor coping mechanisms like internalized shame, people-pleasing behavior, and perfectionism to the point of fearing failure. A codependent relationship is not healthy for either party or if they have children, the children. Often, divorce is an important step toward recovering from codependency.
Recognizing Codependency in Your Marriage
Often, a codependent spouse is known as an enabler. The term “codependency” first arose to describe spouses of alcoholics, because often, they would exhibit this type of behavior and enable their spouses to continue to drink dangerously. Individuals in abusive relationships and relationships with addicts also frequently exhibit codependent behavior.
Codependency symptoms can be seen in the spouse who is not addictive or abusive. It is the enabler who suffers these symptoms, which include:
- Low self-esteem;
- Little to no respect for others’ boundaries;
- Internalized shame;
- Learned helplessness;
- Difficulty with communication;
- A need to control others and situations; and
- Denial that there is anything unhealthy about their relationship.
Preparing for Your Divorce...