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Is there neediness in your relationship?
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In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares some tips for identifying co-dependence in a relationship and how to have a healthy relationship where everyone thrives. - photo by Kim Giles
In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares some tips for identifying co-dependence in a relationship and how to have a healthy relationship where everyone thrives.

Question:

I loved your article last week and I get that Im expecting my husband to be responsible for my self-esteem, which isnt fair. But my husband works so much, and that really doesnt make me feel loved and important. He is so busy and focused on his career that I often feel at the end of his list. He loves what he does and is really good at it, and I get that, and want him to succeed, but I also think if I were important to him, I would feel more cared for than I do. He talks about his career constantly and its so exciting to him, it just makes me feel less important. I could be too needy, but arent my needs also important? Shouldnt we both be focused on taking care of each other first? Your last article made it sound like Im the bad one, for wanting to be treated better and have more of his attention, but isnt that what marriage is? Can you help me with this?

Answer:

First, no one is the bad one. Whenever there are problems in a relationship, there can be fear and fault on both sides, and it sounds like that is true for you here. He needs to work harder to make you feel loved and important but you also need to work on your fear of not being loved or important, which can make you feel needy because he cant fix that alone.

We believe if you have a deep subconscious fear of not being loved or important, nothing he does (no amount of attention he could give you) will fix it. In a healthy relationship, both partners work on their own fear issues and they also both work on being the cure to the others' fears. It takes both to have balance.

You also want to make sure you are allowing room for your spouse to be true to himself and do what he is passionate about, without making it mean he doesnt love you. That wouldnt be fair.

A healthy relationship is made of two people, who have fulfilled, happy, rich lives, with or without each other. You should want to be with him, but not need to be with him. If all your happiness is dependent on him, that is edging toward co-dependence. Co-dependency happens when too much of your happiness is dependent on another person being with you and happy. In this state, you begin to live for their happiness and can't be happy without them, which means you are not taking care of yourself and eventually this will catch up with you.

Jonathan Becker, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, Codependency can be defined as any relationship in which two people become so invested in each other that they cant function independently anymore."

Co-dependence often happens when one partner has low self-esteem, is a people pleaser, has trouble with boundaries and fears of abandonment. This is the kind of thing you want to watch out for.

There is an exercise we recommend to our life coaching clients, which could help you create a healthier balance in this relationship. Take a few minutes and imagine your life without your partner in it. How would your life be different? What kinds of things would you be doing for yourself? Would you start service projects, lessons, exercise more, eat better? What kind of joy-filled activities would you fill your life with to make yourself happy?

You should probably start doing some of those things right now.

You would have a healthier relationship if you started taking care of yourself and doing things that fill your bucket on your own. Obviously, this doesnt mean activities with the opposite sex or getting so busy you never see your spouse. It just means your spouse shouldnt be your whole world and the only thing you have going on.

Having said all that, if your spouse really works an unreasonable amount and is neglecting the family, then you should bring this up and talk to him about it. Just do it from a place of compassion, seeing him as the same as you, not from a place of judgment, casting him as the bad one. Make it a conversation where you ask him what you could do different, to make him feel more loved, and then ask him for what you need. We recommend having this conversation with your partner weekly. This shows that you are both willing to work on being better to each other and this alone would make you feel more important.

Also remember, each person has different needs, wants, talents and passions, and if we love someone, we must allow them room to use theirs and be everything they are capable of being. Your partner may have some unique knowledge, talents and skills that he must use to fill the measure of his creation. If he has to be less than that to make you happy, he could possibly feel resentful down the road.

Mark Galli said it best: To love with expectations is, in the end, an oppressive, driven thing, and people know when they receive it. To love as God loves us, in freedom with no strings attached, is a way to grant others a liberating gift.

In a healthy relationship you should want your partner in your life, but not need them, at least to the extent of being needy or overly reliant.

In your case, we dont think you are co-dependent, but we would recommend working on your own happiness and self-esteem, while at the same time, asking your spouse to spend more time with you.

Just make sure to tell him specifically what he needs to do to be successful at filling your bucket more. Set him up for success by telling him exactly what you need him to do different and how often. Then, make sure you appreciate it and make him feel successful when he does those things.

You can do this.
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