There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to managing your life after going through a divorce — whether you’ve been married for one year or 20, divorce impacts all aspects of your life.
No matter what circumstances you’re under, the process of finalizing the divorce papers, moving into separate living spaces, and splitting up finances is challenging and tedious.
In 2019, there were around 750,000 divorces in the United States. It’s crucial to understand that divorce is more common than you may think — if you are currently experiencing a divorce, know that you’re not alone in how you feel.
Your emotions are at their peak, whether you’re feeling angry, sad or guilty. Understanding that your feelings are valid is essential to the healing process.
One reason why couples decide to go through with a divorce is due to codependency. We’ll get into what codependency is, the warning signs, and how you can move on from your divorce if your marriage was a codependent one.
What is Codependency in Marriage?
The definition of codependency has evolved over the years, and it can still be misunderstood. Essentially, codependency describes a learned behavior where one or both partners rely on the other for their emotional, financial, and mental wellbeing. It impacts one’s ability to foster healthy, nurturing and mutually satisfying relationships.
Initially, codependency was identified in couples where one partner struggled with a drug or alcohol addiction. This can still hold true, but codependency is not limited to couples struggling with substance disorders.
It’s vital to understand that codependency comes in different forms and severity. Codependence is not a personality trait. There are a lot of misconceptions out there and an equal amount of contributing factors that creates a codependent marriage. It’s crucial to approach discussions about codependency with compassion and without judgment.
So, what could a codependent marriage look like? What are some of the early signs of codependency?
Signs of a Codependent Marriage
It’s impossible to name one cause of codependency in a marriage. There isn’t usually one specific event that leads to codependency. Instead, it takes time, sometimes even years or decades, for a codependent relationship to establish itself.
Here are some of the signs someone who is in a codependent relationship will typically experience:
- Find little to no satisfaction in life outside of one’s partner
- Stay in the relationship despite being unhappy
- Do or say anything to please a partner
- Feel constant anxiety regarding the relationship
- Providing for a partner under any circumstances
- Feel guilty prioritizing their needs over a partner’s
- Ignore their own morals or values to agree with their partner
Codependent relationships are common and can be between platonic friends, family members and spouses. A basic codependency model is an alcoholic husband and an enabling wife, for example. It can be dangerous if a codependent relationship involves drugs or alcohol, and proper treatment should be sought after in these cases.
Codependent behavior varies from person to person, and it can be challenging to know if you have codependent relationships in your life. With these signs, you’ll be able to identify if you or your spouse was codependent.
Now that we’ve established the definition and warning signs of a codependent marriage, we must acknowledge the next steps of this endeavor. How can you recover from a divorce of a marriage where you were codependent?
It can be scary to embark on this journey of rediscovering yourself. Your goal should be to move forward after divorcing a codependent spouse or learn how you can reinvent yourself to be less codependent on others.
Tips for Moving On After Being Codependent
Moving on after a divorce can be a tumultuous time, especially if you still feel attached to your ex-spouse, if you have children, work a job or if the divorce was unwanted on your end. However, you can take steps to work through this time and come out the other side a better person, ready to engage in new relationships.
1. Consider Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).
When someone is in a codependent relationship, much of their behavior can be rooted in their childhood experiences. For example, someone who lived in a single-parent household may feel codependent on their husband, especially if they grew up without a father figure.
This is only one example, but it’s crucial to understand that our childhood plays a significant role in the way we perceive relationships. CBT with a licensed counselor can assist you in addressing any childhood trauma
2. Build Your Own Identity
It’s common for individuals to lose their sense of self when recently exiting a long or short-term codependent relationship. You may have felt entirely reliant on your partner, and without them in your life, you may not know where to turn.
The best outlet for this energy is to turn inward and reflect. What are your likes and dislikes? What does self-care look like for you? How can you make yourself happy? These are some questions to ask yourself if you’re looking to move on from a codependent marriage.
3. Set Strong Boundaries in Your Relationships
One of the issues with codependent relationships is that there are no clear-cut boundaries. Partners will take advantage of each other, get into meaningless arguments and sometimes not speak to each other to avoid the issue altogether. In all of your relationships, romantic or not, try setting boundaries more often and practice sticking to them. This will improve your self-esteem, build up your confidence and help you move on during this stressful time.
Be Gentle With Yourself
Going through a divorce is never easy. It’s essential to take care of yourself first and foremost and focus on the positive aspects of life. It’s all easier said than done, but working on self-improvement is one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself. Remember to be gentle with yourself through this process and understand that healing from a divorce takes some time.