Having a codependent marriage is among the most cited causes of divorce. Despite being labeled as a relationship killer, not everyone actually understands what a codependent marriage implies.
The Mental Health America defines codependency as a learned behavior wherein a person has a tendency to form or maintain one-sided, abusive, or emotionally destructive relationships. It involves the attitude to put the needs of others before one’s own needs and the desire to accommodate others at the expense of discounting one’s own feelings.
This behavior is acquired through interactions with family members. As such, children who grew up with codependent parents or authority figures are more likely to develop the behavior themselves. Emotional neglect and abuse during childhood or adolescence also affect the tendency to enter codependent relationships. But research suggests that anyone can become codependent. Psychologists consider codependency as a maladaptive behavior since it involves feelings of insecurity, constant fear of rejection, over-attachment, and possessiveness among others.
Indications of a Codependent Marriage
According to Dr. Scott Wetzler, head of the Psychology division of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, a codependent relationship is characterized by an unhealthy clinginess where one person has no autonomy or self-sufficiency. In essence, it is a relationship where the fulfillment of one or both parties is dependent on the other. Since the first usage of the concept in the late 1970s, the term has been overused and often misunderstood.
Being needy does not automatically make you codependent. In fact, Dr. Tracy Prout explained that a small amount of codependency is normal. Here are some of the most common telltale patterns of a codependent relationship:
A marriage involves two individuals, but it does not mean that your spouse shall be the center of your universe. One sign that you are in a codependent marriage is if you have that feeling that you cannot exist without your spouse. Your existence and feeling of completeness relies on your partner’s existence.
Because of the attachment, a codependent has the desire to please his partner. It is deriving fulfillment from your partner’s validation and being unhappy when criticized by him. A codependent individual bases his self-worth on his partner’s view of him.
Codependents are caring individuals who disregard their partner’s shortcomings, which in the long run results to emotional abuse. They have no or poor delimitation of boundaries, making the relationship not conducive to mutual respect. When their partner is angry or exhibits unpleasant behavior, they put the blame on themselves. For them, they are the cause of their partner’s flaws.
In a codependent marriage, one person plays caregiver while the other is always at the receiving end. This kind of relationship is unhealthy as it disempowers both parties and prevents them from growing. After some time, it will get exhausting for both parties and may lead to feelings of resentment. Eventually, spouses will end up living separate and disconnected lives.
A codependent marriage is exemplified by the want to control one’s spouse and his behavior. The catch though is that the codependent cannot express his needs to the other person or if he does speak up, it is always accompanied by guilt afterwards. It is governed by the fear of losing one’s partner and of being alone. Hence, it involves the inability to trust the other person’s commitment to the marriage. In an attempt to protect the relationship, a codependent person is willing to sacrifice his own integrity and feelings.
Is a Codependent Marriage Hopeless?
Staying in a codependent marriage is not a pleasant experience. You feel unhappy but cannot quite identify the cause of the problems. There is discontent, emotional struggle, and marital resentment. And oftentimes these feelings are unexplained. But is divorce the only way out? Reversing codependency is a difficult process as the person involved is often blinded and unaware. However, psychologists opine that a codependent marriage is not hopeless. There is another remedy aside from breaking up such as therapy. Even if it does end in divorce, a codependent individual can still benefit from the positive effects of therapy.