The term ‘codependent’ was originally coined to refer to relationships that involved chemical dependency (ie, the spouse of an alcoholic dealing with that person’s addiction in the relationship). Since then, the term has been expanded to include any relationship in which a unilateral power difference exists. When you have a spouse in need, it can be an exhausting and exhausting experience that is more like parenthood than a couple. In these relationships there is usually a very strong, independent and self-sufficient partner. That person knows what to do, how to do it, and where to go. Although all of these attributes seem to represent high self-esteem, the codependent partner suffers from low self-esteem.
It is this person who represents the codependent part. In every effort made to help the other partner, there is a feeling of guilt, a need for control, and a lack of trust in oneself and in others. One of the reasons a strong partner would choose a weak one is because she feels needed. When you’ve only known what it’s like to be a caretaker, nurturer, or in child “survival” mode, when you grow up, your idea of security comes in being able to fulfill that role in a relationship. What a codependent person quickly learns is this: Having a spouse in need can be downright exhausting.
Needy spouses have problems of their own. They tend to be weak, dependent, have low self-esteem, and constantly define their lives for the codependent partner. The needy partner is also the one who wants to always be physically close in the relationship (ie let’s shop together, watch TV together, go everywhere together, have the same friends, etc.) and doesn’t see their life as existing. without the other person. It is a clear example of entanglement where the relationship has structural closeness but lacks intimacy.
So what do you do when you realize you’re a person who needs to be needed but you’ve married someone who needs you too much? You have to set healthy boundaries. This is a BIG paradigm shift in a marriage. When two people are used to operating in certain roles, it takes a long time to switch out of those modes, but it can be done. To reestablish healthy boundaries, both partners must be willing to change the paradigm. Once you have that, here are 4 ways to reestablish healthy boundaries with a spouse in need:
1) Release the need to control your spouse. Let your spouse make their own decisions and trust that no matter what happens, the situation will work out. That doesn’t mean you relinquish all control or close your eyes to discussions and situations that matter. It simply means that you free yourself from the need to be the key person, the last word or the one responsible for making ALL the decisions.
2) Accept that you are enough exactly as you are and do your fair share (but no more than that). If you’re used to doing all the housework (and you do it in secret because you think you’re the only one who’s good at it), give it up. Give your spouse the space to make the bed, wash the dishes, take care of the kids, even if the end result isn’t as perfect as you’d like. Do enough and stop trying to overcompensate by doing everything.
3) Say what you feel as you feel it. One of the key issues for those experiencing codependency is the inability to communicate their emotions and feelings. This is where hiring a licensed and highly qualified therapist comes into play. A therapist can help a couple learn how to openly and honestly communicate their feelings in a safe and secure environment. To establish a healthy boundary with a needy spouse, you must learn how to communicate your needs and how to communicate when they are met and when they are not.
4) Be good at being alone. Alone doesn’t mean alone. One of the things a codependent partner fears most is not being needed. But the reason he or she fears this is not because that person wants to be needed 24/7. It is because that person fears that if they are not needed, then the other person will see that there is no value in being in the relationship and will walk away. That is a completely unfounded fear. At some point, you have to accept that you are good enough exactly the way you are. Get to the place where you can say, “If this person leaves me, I’ll be fine. If this person walks away, I’m still whole. No one has the ability to break my heart. Alone doesn’t mean I have to be alone as long as I like the company I keep.” ” is critical to establishing healthy boundaries with a partner in need. If you are always afraid that something will leave you, you will not establish the limits that allow you to say yes or no. You will say yes out of fear more than love and that is no way to live for anyone.
At the end of the day, we draw to us who we are. In relationships, we are mirrors of each other. Very rarely do you have a codependent partner without having a needy partner as a partner. The gift in every relationship is that you join with this person who has the greatest ability to help you heal and learn what you were born to heal and know. Do not see this as an obstacle, trial or tribulation. See this as an opportunity to learn, grow, and set healthy boundaries.