What Is A Codependent Marriage?
What is codependency as it relates to marriage? Well, to keep it light, if you are dying but see someone else’s life pass before your eyes, you may be codependent. In other words, codependency is when you have lost sight of your own life as a result of your total focus on someone else. This may seem contradictory to the notion of caring for a spouse during marriage. The other half of codependency shows when someone cares too much about managing and controlling others, and loses sight of managing and controlling their own life and behavior. In both cases, there is imbalance and that is unhealthy.
Most true codependent behavior comes from low self-esteem, and often goes unrecognized in the person exhibiting the behavior. The behavior interferes with relationships. When this shows up in divorcing couples, it may sound something like this:
Spouse #1: “I have always handled the money, because he/she never paid attention and couldn’t do it.”
Spouse #2: “I always wanted to handle more of the money, but he/she would not let me.”
Spouse #1: “I was the only caretaker of our children, he/she could never do it right.”
Spouse #2: “He/she was so insistent about the right way to handle the kids that I stopped fighting just to keep the peace.”
All of these spouses may be codependent. All of these examples also speak loudly to a pattern where one person controls the other by deciding everything and the other person allows it to continue. This happens even though it is important for both partners to be part of the decision-making process in a healthy relationship.
The balance of shared power and opportunity for growth and decision making is part of a healthy relationship. When one person takes over and makes all the rules and runs the ship for any reason, whether or not out of a sense of having no other choice or because they just do not care what their partner thinks or does, and the other person allows it to happen just to keep the peace imbalance occurs. On the other hand, when two people are able to openly and freely discuss their goals and dreams and help each other to reach those goals, a healthy relationship results.
Recognizing relationship imbalance can help a couple take reasonable steps throughout their decision-making process. It is also key to a fair settlement agreement. The statistics show that if a couple reaches some kind of agreement that has not been carefully worked out to create balance they often end up in continued conflict.
When working through divorce, it is important to learn what truly belongs to each person. Not only the physical assets and debts, but also the emotional and spiritual components. If one person is too wishy-washy, or says they want to do whatever just to get through it, this is a time to slow down and reassess for balance. Or, if one person seems to be answering all the questions and directing the decision making, again, it is time to slow down and see what may be happening.
A good antenna for imbalance may catch much more subtle clues. Here’s where a good facilitator, mediator, or attorney can help sort out issues before a settlement agreement gets signed. It is always a fine balancing act. It’s important that each person come through the divorce with an equitable opportunity to make a new life as a single person. This benefits not only the adults involved but also the children, as they have the opportunity to watch each of their parents work through the divorce from a balanced place.
Codependent behavior can look at times like true love or sacrifice for another. However, if it is at the expense of one partner, and comes from a sense of low self-esteem, it should be questioned. Each adult should be responsible for their own decisions. A professional helping a couple who displays codependency will try to find a way to gently confront this issue.
The job of a good mediator or other legal professional is to ferret out necessary details to help balance the outcome of divorce. A peaceful, sustainable settlement is possible with the right experts leading the way.