My husband shared this article with me just last week. He knows that I have been struggling to find a balance in our marriage. What is healthy dependence on my husband, a dependency that leads to greater emotional stability, greater independence, and greater freedom for both of us to be unique individuals and yet still one unit moving toward a common set of goals?
According to the article, what I’m trying to learn and comprehend is called The Dependency Paradox. I think that the first step is a little humility: realizing that I am created to be dependent on someone, and accepting that as a fact that I am unable to change. Due to several factors including watching my parents’ marriage disastrously spiral to an end, having various people betray trust and prove unreliable throughout my life, and living for years as a single, independent adult (until I unexpectedly met and fell for my husband) – let’s just say I struggle with dependency. Healthy relationships do not run in my family, largely due to lots of dysfunction and legitimate mental illnesses and addictions. It’s hard to comprehend what you’ve largely never experienced or seen modeled.
But this idea of being not dependent on anyone seems to be a cultural thing for Americans, too. We certainly are more individualistic, putting more emphasis on personal freedoms and expression than most other cultures. There’s been a significant increase over the last twenty or so years in the conversation about codependency. There are numerous articles and books detailing how widespread it has become and how we need to learn to detach. This emphasis on curing codependency could cause you to think that being attached or dependent on anyone is bad for your emotional and mental health. That happened to me at first.
I think it’s important to distinguish what is normal dependency and interdependency versus unhealthy dependency (codependency) in any relationship. Codependents are heavily dependent on another persons dependence on them. They need to be needed by the other person, and cannot feel okay about themselves unless this happens. Martyr mentality is quite common. They sacrifice themselves, their wants, their needs and despise the other person for requiring it of them -but expect or demand the same in return. Codependent relationships are parasitic. In a normal dependent or interdependent relationship, there is an exchange of support, love, and understanding. The relationship strengthens the individuals and contributes to their individual growth. They maintain an identity apart from each other.
There are books and websites to get you started on understanding more about codependency in the new Resources section under “Self-Care.”
What I want to emphasize from this article is that they say a healthy dependency (in marriage) is one in which you support, compliment, challenge, and push each other, as well as safely pointing out your areas that need work. You become a true team, trustworthy teammates cheering and motivating each other towards the chosen goals. You stop seeing it as “me vs. you” which I think happens in a codependent relationship.
Let’s discuss: Have you struggled with accepting your dependency on your spouse? Do you agree or disagree with this article? Do you have any experience with codependency that is affecting your marriage?
(This is a great article which discusses codependency in a Christian and marital context, if you aren’t sure what codependency is or if it it affects you. Hint: if you have a history of addictions or unhealthy behaviors in your family or marriage, it may very well be there.)