Marriage is at it’s best an experience of loving interdependence. Even though I talk a lot about being responsible for your own experience, I never advocate for super stoic independence and not having any reliance on our partner. Human beings are creatures of connection. We do need each other. We need connection and a sense of belonging with other humans. And yet, one of the very biggest things I see that drag relationships down, and ultimately lead us away from the connection we want, is emotional over-dependence on the other person (I often refer to this as emotional delegation or outsourcing your emotions to your partner). Most people don’t recognize how deeply dependent they become on their partner's behavior, how at the effect of the other person they are, and how deeply disempowering this is. To have a marriage we LOVE being in, most of us need to learn to depend a lot more on ourselves for our own emotional needs. We need to amp up what I call our “emotional agency” so we can take back the capacity to guide our own emotional experience. If you have some room for growth here, you may not know it. In fact, one of the clearest sign that this is where some of your work is (i.e. an arena in which you stand to gain SO much more of a sense of empowerment and fulfillment in your marriage) is if you’re resentful of your partner often, and/or you think he’s the one that’s got to do a whole lot of changing in order for you to be happy. This may look like thinking:
He needs to respond differently to you
He needs to stop being defensive,
If only he’d stop spending so much time on his iphone
He should be more willing to resolve issues from the past,
He needs to be more affectionate or warm, or pay you more attention.
If only he’d kiss me with more passion more often…(ETC)
These are signs you’re more dependent than you may ultimately want to be. NOT because it's “BAD” to be dependent...it just leaves you way more powerless over how you feel than necessary, and way less able to experience the connected supportiveness you truly want.
If any of these are tendencies for you, it doesn’t mean there's something wrong with you, your marriage, or that you’re doomed to be overly dependent forever. Not at all. It simply means you’re a human living in a society that TAUGHT you to be emotionally dependent on your significant other; taught you to believe that to feel good in your marriage, your partner needs to DO very specific things. Ironically, at the same time, society was extolling the virtues of over-independence into your sensitive ears...
That’s a very confusing message to grow up with! It leaves us with frustration and disappointment on one hand (because your man will--I guarantee it-- often NOT do what you want or expect!), and shame on the other (because we feel bad for being “codependent” and emotional when he’s not being just who we want him to be). None of this helps us get any closer to having the marriage we want in our heart of hearts: one that’s genuinely loving, deeply honoring of exactly who both partners authentically are, trusting and supportive, light and laughter-filled, and deeply fulfilling. So first things first: Give yourself so much grace for falling into the habit of delegating your emotions to your man. I myself still do it sometimes! It’s a HUMAN thing in this modern world. Forgive yourself for it and move on. No biggy! Then simply decide you will learn how to INsource your emotions, become the sovereign agent of them. Because when you step into emotional agency, when you start to learn to meet these needs for yourself so much more, a bit of magic happens: You create an environment where your man is, ironically, much more likely to naturally be more of the man you want him to. But it won’t even matter, because you’ll have gotten yourself to a place where you always know how to feel satisfied, comforted, safe, valued, and loved. And once you get there, with that dependence gone, you will finally get to just truly enjoy this man you’ve chosen as your partner... and you, too, will become so enjoyable to him…So you naturally lift each other up. Suddenly you are lovingly, sovereignly, intimately, interdependent. And that is one of the BEST feelings you will ever know.