People don't talk about co-dependency so much anymore. It's still an understood dysfunction of some relationships, but it is no longer the coin phrase for struggling couples who are most comfortable bringing out the worst in each other. I have spent a good part of the fourteen years that my husband and I have been together working on being dependable, allowing myself to depend on him, but moving beyond co-dependency.
What's the difference, you may ask? Well, it is healthy to open yourself up enough to trust and depend upon someone who is trustworthy and dependable. It is also incredibly important to be that dependable counter-part, but it is not healthy when everything that the other person does or feels becomes what you do and feel too...that is being co-dependent. When your mood depends on his mood, and when your day is only bad or good depending on how his day was...then you are co-dependent. I don't have to feel sad when he feels sad, or expect that when I am mad that he should project that same emotion. He is his own person and I am my own person. We have chosen to be a couple to go through life together, but I am starting to be okay with the independence that comes with that decision.
It is somewhat counter-intuitive to say that being married has made me more independent, but it absolutely has. I married the right guy. He has encouraged me to carve out my own space, to feel my own emotions, and he has gently taught me that it's okay if he is his own person too. What people think of him is his business, and what people think of me is their business. I have let go of the need to control any part of the relationships I have that are truly not mine to control. I have learned to set my boundaries, to identify my needs and clearly express them, and to accept that everyone else has a right to do the same thing.
What freedom! When seasonal living is the course of things, it is much easier to track growth. This time last year, when my husband was getting ready to leave our home for a few months to do his job, I was more than a little distressed. Better than the year before, but still physically agitated by his impending departure. I am sad that he has to go, don't get me wrong, but a lot has happened for me in the last year to better prepare me for what I need to do. I have more clearly defined what I need to feel fulfilled, and it is not solely dependent on my husband. That is the way things work best for me.
This is our marriage. It depends upon him leaving to earn his keep. It depends upon my strength to be here at the house and with the kids when he is gone, but I am much happier that I have abandoned co-dependent tendencies to expect that someone else has to see me as a victim in that. I am not a victim. This is the life we have chosen, and if there is something that does not completely work, I am in charge of changing it, or at least working through the emotions I need to so that I can better deal with it.
Sure, it helps that the kids are older and much easier than they were in years' past, but I am older and wiser now too. Life is good. This marriage, with all of its quirks, is good. I am not defined by my husband, nor is he defined by me, but our marriage depends upon our efforts to abandon co-dependency...together.