Apparently, many people believe that they are. Consequently, their way to show love is to
take on their partner’s feelings, especially the partner’s bad feelings. Often, these feelings are in the range of stress, anxiety and depression.
The math of this is clear: if both parties take on their partner’s bad feeling, both partners are unhappy most of the time, or at least more time than they would be on their own.
So, if there are characteristics of codependency in your relationship, stay with us, as we offer useful insights into understanding an unhealthily, irresponsibly dependent relationship and actionable advice on how to overcome codependency in a codependent marriage or relationship.
According to Wikipedia,Codependency is a behavioral condition in a relationship where one person enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement.
Among the core codependency symptoms is an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity.
The term Codependency is probably overused, and it often evokes shame more than it helps in resolving anything.
I would like to point out that taking on the unhappy feeling of a partner, enables them to disown their feelings and stay in a bad mood longer, much like the quote from Wikipedia describes.
love. Or in his words, the ability to say something like: “Dear one, I see that you are suffering and I am there for you.” That is indeed helpful and healing, but it does not imply that the compassionate party takes on the suffering.
Rather, they are willing to be with their suffering beloved, not to disappear into the partner’s suffering and be overwhelmed by it.
The literal meaning of ‘compassion’ is to suffer together. But as Hahn suggests, one does not need to suffer in order to relieve the suffering of another.
On the contrary, some level of detachment is needed in order to be present to another’s pain.
For partner/s in a codependent marriage, it is crucial to understand that if one wants to try to relieve a partner’s pain, one needs to be somewhat outside of it.
Practice equanimity in relationships to restore calm
Two other important aspects of love mentioned in that book are Joy: True Love must be joyful and fun, most of the time.
And Equanimity, which Hahn describes as the ability to see the beloved as separate. Someone that can both come closer and be distant.
Someone with whom one shares deeply sometimes, and at a different time becomes distant. This is the complete opposite of codependency, where the partners must always be close.
Children learns the skills of navigating the balance of separateness and togetherness around the age of three.
The child holds onto mom, then goes to play on their own for a while, then goes back to mom for a few minutes and so on.
Gradually the distances between mom and the child grows and times apart lengthen. In the process, the child learns the skill of relating to another from a sense of a separate self. In Psychological lingo this is referred to as “Object constancy.”
The child learns to trust that mom is there and available for connection, even when she is not in direct proximity or even out of sight.
Both partners need to make promises and take the risk of trusting the other’s promises.
When one partner does not keep a promise, as inevitably will happen sometimes, it is essential to talk about it. Talking about it includes an apology for the failure on one side, and willingness to believe that the failure did not happen maliciously.
That is learning to forgive. This is of course not easy and takes practice.
If such a conversation does not happen, accounts are accumulated and eventually lead to coldness, distancing and a crisis in the relationship, making things worse in a codependent marriage.
When you notice your partner in a bad mood, the first step is to take a moment to be aware of it and maybe think what the root or cause might be.
Are they not feeling well physically?
Did something disappoint them?
Are they stressed about some future event?
Whatever it is, try to not take it personally as usually in a codependent marriage, a partner often turns tunnel-visioned.
Their mood is not your fault, nor your responsibility
It can be useful to acknowledge to yourself that you are not in a bad mood. Now you might be able to help.
Tell your partner that you noticed they are not well. Ask if they want a cup of tea or a back rub or to talk with you. You can gently guess what bothers them: “Do you have a headache?” “Are you concerned about it ?”
Try to be clear that these are true questions and not statements, because clearly, you do not really know what causes their feelings. Whatever help you offer, try to do that completely freely and willingly, so that no resentment is built up later.
Be ready to hear both yes and no
One of the unhealthy signs of codependency is to assume that you have to nurture, and protect your partner 24/7.
To escape the prison of a codependent marriage, it is advisable for a partner to stop spending all their energy in meeting their partner’s needs.
Be ready to accept that your offer of help might not be helpful and might not change your partner’s mood.
Try to limit your interaction to questions, neutral observations and offers of help. If you do make a suggestion, keep it simple and be ready to stop after the first one is rejected.
Remember, it is not your job to “fix” your partner’s mood.
Over time, such a practice will bring much more joy into your relationship and change a codependent marriage into a healthy partnership.
The rhythm of moving closer and apart might become as natural as breathing, and gratitude will accompany each time of meeting and coming close, feeling lucky for having this person in your life.
Rumi’s poem Bird Wings is a great description of that movement between intimacy and distance, openness and private time alone.
Your grief for what you’ve lost holds a mirror up
To where you’ve been bravely working.
Expecting the worst, you look and instead,
Here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.
Your hand opens and closes
And opens and closes.
If it were always a first
Or always stretched open,
You would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every small
Contracting and expanding— The two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rulik Perla brings to the therapy relationship a soulful dimension and a wealth of diverse life experiences that enables him to meet you where you are with a profound depth of being.
He is a trained musician and composer, a highly regarded software designer, an experienced sailor, a resident and student of many international cultures, a life-long and committed spiritual practitioner, and a loving, happy father and husband.