Divorce is always hard, even if it goes relatively smoothly. You’re saying goodbye to the life you know with a partner you committed to — it’s bound to be challenging. But many divorces bring on another hurdle entirely: realizing your codependent tendencies and addressing them. Codependency can bring on a lot of issues on its own, but in the setting of a divorce or breakup, it can lead to many conflicts in need of addressing.
Codependency is often defined as one partner enabling another in toxic behaviors or relying heavily on them too heavily, however, both parties can participate in this behavior and be codependent on one another in different ways. While divorces can be big and scary life changes, they can also be an opportunity to forge your own path and rely on yourself for the things you need. This will require hard work, but it’ll be worth it in the long run when you create a life that makes you feel secure and happy.
Creating a Happy and Healthy Life Post-Divorce
1. Learning the Hard Skills
One of the biggest things — and the hardest things — that needs doing is learning to practically live your life without your former partner’s assistance. Codependency can take many forms, from financial dependency to life skills to household functions. Sometimes, it can feel like it’s impossible to function without your partner. Whatever it is you find you desperately need your partner to do, one of the first steps in freeing yourself is learning how to do those things on your own.
Sometimes, those dependencies are emotional, which can be harder to break. It can feel like a mountain of a task to strike out on your own — but Rome wasn’t built in a day. You can make small steps in your departure until suddenly you realize the world isn’t that scary on your own. In fact, it’s freeing.
2. Being Intentional About Your Support System
Codependency can often encourage heavy emotional dependency on one person, which can make it seem like you’re alone without them. But that’s far from the truth. While it may not feel the same at first, building a support system you can turn to when you need people to lift you up is essential in moving forward. It can be natural to want to turn to your partner whenever you have a problem, even when your problem concerns your relationship.
Take stock of what doesn’t work in your relationship and start thinking about what boundaries you should practice moving forward so you can curate an intentional, healthy social circle.
3. Knowing Your Worth
Being in a codependent relationship of any kind can often contribute to feelings of low self esteem and putting your needs aside in favor of others. When you’re used to depending on one person for many of your needs for a long period of time, they’re often responsible for validating your worth. This can contribute to feelings of worthlessness without them around, which may require you to build up your self-esteem in different ways.
It can sometimes be easy to feel like you only deserve to be with your current partner even if the relationship is toxic — that you’ll never find anything better. But it’s important to realize that you’re worthy. You have standards for a reason, and it’s better to make yourself happy than be in a relationship that isn’t serving you. You deserve a fulfilling relationship, or the freedom to find one — or not, whatever makes you happy.
4. Prioritizing Your Mental Health
Codependent relationships can often lead to leaning on one person for your mental health, which is unhealthy for all parties involved. Nobody is responsible for your mental health besides you, just like you aren’t responsible for anyone else’s mental health. Just like you look after your diet and exercise, it’s important to look after your mental health needs. And you can do that for yourself — when you do, it can be an empowering thing.
Practicing self-care, doing regular check-ins, and even seeking professional help can be a great addition to your life when times are tough. It’s a part of guiding yourself through the process.
5. Exploring New Avenues
Marriages of all kinds demand levels of sacrifice. This isn’t always a bad thing, but in particularly codependent relationships, there can be a sense of identity that gets lost on both ends. Codependent relationships frequently require you to give up passions, friends, and other sources of joy in your life. Perhaps you’ve given up things you’re passionate about or have let activities you love fall by the wayside through your devotion to your partner.
While divorce and letting go can be tough, it’s helpful to recognize the freeing qualities of letting go of codependent relationships. Start trying things you’ve always wanted to try that your partner never showed interest in. Invest time and energy into things you love, or even make an effort to discover your passions again. Explore your life in new ways that fulfill you.
Kiss Your Life Hello!
Stepping away from a codependent marriage will be difficult. It won’t always be fun, but it can help you find your true self again. No matter where you’re coming from, the road ahead is bright and filled with new opportunities.