I have a confession: I am in a completely codependent relationship.  

After a rough shift at work that started with getting chewed out by a patient’s angry family member and ended with the unexpected death of a thirty-year-old man (a husband and father of two), who was killed in a car wreck, I drove home feeling sad, angry and exhausted.   

As I drove home, I knew this codependent relationship I had would make me feel all the things I wanted to feel after a day like that.  I knew I could depend on this relationship to make me feel loved, important and like I was the only one that mattered in the world.  

Unlocking the front door to our house, I pushed it open, dropped my bag, kicked off my shoes and headed straight for the guest room.  I knelt down, unlatched her crate and Lady came bolting out, clobbering me with puppy kisses.  In that moment, I felt all the feels I wanted to feel. I felt like everything in the world was ok.  I felt loved, important and like I was the only human in the world that mattered.

I felt all those good feels from my relationship with my dog.  

Yes, I am a crazy dog mom. I am obsessed with my pup and I can’t help myself.  

All joking aside, the reason I tell this ridiculous, allegorical story is to shed light on the how destructive codependency in relationships can be.  And the scary part is that all too often marriages fall prey to it.  

Codependency in the clinical setting is often used to describe the relationship between two individuals in the context of an addiction (alcohol, drugs, sex, etc.).  The individual caught in addiction is dependent on the other to supply resources such as food, money or shelter while the individual supplying the resources is dependent upon the addict to supply them with emotional or psychological support which can include the feelings of being needed and valued.

It’s easy to identify codependency and its unhealthiness in the realm of addiction.  But, even when there is no addiction at play, codependency can still creep into a relationship. Because of the very foundation of marriage, the act of two individuals coming together as one, codependency can creep in and manifest itself in such a relationship without much awareness.

Marriage is two individuals engaging in a loving, selfless, and growing relationship, at its healthiest and its best.  At its worst and unhealthiest, marriage is a relationship between two people that are codependent, enmeshed and thus lost their individual and unique identities.

Here are a few things to be on the lookout for when you find yourself wondering if codependency is playing a role in your marriage.

  1.     Continually seeking your spouse’s approval for your thoughts and actions.
  2.     Inability to make decisions without your spouse’s opinion.
  3.     Difficulty identifying and communicating your feelings and desires.
  4.     Poor self-esteem and reliance upon your spouse’s validation.
  5.     Your spouse’s mood has a tremendous effect on your own mood.
  6.     Taking responsibility for your spouse’s feelings and actions.

 

One of the most effective preventative measures and powerful anecdotes to codependency is the practice of self-discovery.

Pursue the best and healthiest version of yourself. 

Marriage is a bizarre relationship where two individuals become one.  But in that oneness, it does not mean that the two lose their individual selves.  

As you continue to grow in self-awareness and learn your tendencies, preferences and patterns, you will be better able to bring your best self into your marriage.  Not a convoluted, unsure and unclear self that can easily fall into codependency.  

To be in a marriage that is healthy and thriving requires self-awareness.  Codependency is sneaky and destructive. Whether you find yourself in a codependent marriage or want to avoid its pitfalls in every other relationship you have, the pursuit of self-awareness can be the first step to combat codependency.