sustain a healthy marriage

At the beginning of the pandemic, I heard jokes about how the birth rate would be at an all-time high. For many couples, this was an opportunity to spend time together that normally wasn’t afforded to us. What was fun and roses at first soon turned into annoyance and a deep desire to jump out the window to get some space. The walls seemed to get narrower with each passing day. I still think that there will be an increased birth rate- for people without children. For those of us with children, the coronavirus has truly tested the bonds of matrimony. Having a healthy marriage takes effort from both husband and wife. The pandemic has made that more difficult.

a healthy marriage needs love and work

Relationships need love and work to continue to flourish. The pandemic has put an increased strain on all of us. This strain cannot help but seep into your marriage. Having your children around you 24/7 with nowhere to go will make even the sanest of people go a little crazy. Having to take care of children and put work into your marriage while quarantined together? That’s a whole new ballgame.

I am happy to say that my husband and I have managed to not kill each other thus far. There are several reasons why we have stayed sane during this time and continue to have a healthy marriage:

tips and strategies to survive marriage

(1) You may not be able to go far, but you can still get some space

My husband started working from home at the beginning of the pandemic, as I’m sure many of you have done as well. Even though he is home, he doesn’t have to be around me all the time. He has an office where he stays during the day, so we aren’t together all the time. It’s nice to know that he is there if I need him, but Brielle and I typically keep to ourselves. Being around each other 24/7 isn’t healthy, and there is such a thing as too much time together!

(2) Divide responsibilities and take time for yourself

Whether you are a Stay-at-Home-Mom or a Working-at-Home Mom, the dynamics have changed because the kids are at home during the day. Take turns watching your kids with your spouse so that each of you can get your work done (whether that means job responsibilities or household responsibilities). At night, split up evening duties so you can each take a break. With all of us being in such close quarters, it is essential that we have time to ourselves. You can exercise, journal, meditate, or read a few pages of a book. Do something that is just for you. It will do wonders for your well-being to discuss with your spouse how you can each take a breather.

date night

(3) Have date nights

Remember those? With kids around, we often forget that before we had our children, it was just the two of us. Just because you can’t go to a movie or go bowling doesn’t mean that your marriage goes by the wayside. Plan a date night at home! Every Saturday evening, my husband and I rotate planning a date. One date was listening to music and relaxing, one time we did a logic puzzle together (yes, that is our idea of a good time-don’t judge). One night where we watched a movie together and snuggled on the couch. On another date night we used Alexa and did an Escape the Room Challenge . Think outside the box, and come up with ways to keep the romance alive.

(4) Talk

Now you might think this one is ridiculous because you’re around each other a lot more than usual, so of course you are talking. You might be talking about bills, work, and adult responsibilities, but are you talking about your feelings? Lean on each other during this stressful time. Keep the lines of communication open, and don’t be afraid to tell your partner if you are feeling overwhelmed, sad, or stressed. Keeping those feelings to yourself will cause resentment and tension in your marriage. Be honest with each other about how you are feeling, and don’t be afraid to ask for help (aka strategy #2).

Just as you need to talk about negative emotions, it is equally important that you talk about positive emotions. Acknowledge your partner’s efforts and vocalize your love and appreciation. Talk about lighter subjects too. Tell your spouse about the funny thing your kid did (or annoying thing, which is more probable under these circumstances). If you aren’t around each other all the time (aka strategy #1), there will always be things to share.

(5) A healthy marriage requires friendship

Even with kids around, you can spend time together cooking dinner. Share common interests (such as a board game you both enjoy) as well as supporting each other’s hobbies (listen to your spouse’s favorite band).

keep the spark alive (6) Keep the spark alive

I understand that during a pandemic most of us are living in sweatpants and haven’t put on makeup in months (or is that just me?). Just as you need to continue to have date nights, you need to put in the effort to bring sexy back. Wear a cute outfit, put on some music and slow dance, or take a few seconds to give your spouse a quick kiss in between wrangling your children. Just as friendship is essential for marriage, so is intimacy.

(7) Remember you are both on the same team

Children are great at manipulating their parents. Remember that you need to work together like a well-oiled machine to make life together work. Raising children is HARD. Life is HARD. Marriage is HARD. You need to work together to parent your kids. Being on the same page is important during a pandemic, as well as throughout your marriage. With tensions so high, it is easy for you to turn on one another. At the end of the day, remember that a win for either you or your spouse is a win for both of you. Talk through difficult issues (aka strategy #4), and try to understand and support each other through this stressful time. Conflict is inevitable, but how you resolve conflict can make all the difference.

(8) Forgiveness

This is something that is necessary in all relationships, but especially in your marriage. Stressful times can bring out the worst in all of us. We may say and do things that we regret. We need to have compassion for ourselves and each other during this pandemic. Remember you are a team (aka strategy #7), and that marriage is being there for one another during the best and worst of times.

 

 

Keeping your marriage healthy is a challenge under normal circumstances. Now, more than ever, we need to appreciate and support the ones we love. This is essential in any relationship. Implement these suggestions, and there is hope that couples can come out of this pandemic with newfound love and respect for one another.

how to overcome codependency

If you missed my story of how I learned to break codependency and stop being codependent, you can read about it here. I also suggest reading the book Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie.

Codependency is not your fault. The good news is that the things we learned as children do not have to be repeated in adulthood. We can break being codependent and practice a healthier way of having relationships.

The first step is to take a step back from anything that is out of your control. Whether it is your mom, your sibling, your friend, your spouse, or even your child, there are certain things that are simply not within our power (or are right) to fix. This is difficult, but crucial.

Stop codependency by creating healthy boundaries 

Establish clear boundaries so that you can be supportive, loving, and encouraging, but not at the expense of your well-being or happiness. Others are entitled to make their own choices, regardless of whether you agree with those choices are not. Likewise, you get to take control of your happiness and make your own choices. 

Getting your power back and claiming responsibility for your well-being is not an easy task. It is something that is very much ingrained in our way of thinking and acting. I have to remind myself often that my husband’s sobriety is his responsibility. I am grateful that he has been sober for the last four years, but his sobriety is a choice that he has to make each day.

Healthy relationships require boundaries, which is foreign to many of us. Boundaries are essential so that you can stay in your lane, while clearly expressing what you need for your relationship. You are the only one that can determine which boundaries are needed for your well-being.

Make a list of boundaries, and decide which ones are requests and which ones are non-negotiable. Have an open and honest conversation about your boundaries and allow others to do the same. After all, boundaries are a two-way street.

If a boundary is crossed, then it’s your decision whether to discuss and reinstate the boundary, or if you need to walk away. You cannot force others to respect and provide what you need in a relationship, but you can respect yourself. It is also crucial to understand that you cannot save others, but you can save yourself. This is how you break being codependent.

practice self-care and focus on your needs

self care for codependency

Next, stop codependency by focusing on what you want and need to feel good about yourself, completely separate from anyone else. What brings YOU joy? What are YOUR hobbies? Who are YOU as a person? For me, starting this blog has been incredibly healing because it is something that I do that is separate from being a wife and a mom. It is something I am passionate about, and I feel good knowing that I am trying to help others and give support, without trying to change or fix anyone.

It’s a good idea to take time to write down your thoughts and feelings. Keeping a journal gives you an opportunity to focus on your feelings and brainstorm ideas. Speak to a therapist and read books about codependency to help you on your healing journey. Discover your own identity.

I cannot stress enough that Rome was not built in a day. It will take time to learn new patterns of behavior. It is important to show yourself love and compassion as you navigate the foreign territory of breaking codependent behavior.

Just as codependency is not healthy, the polar opposite isn’t either. Being completely independent doesn’t translate into having genuine relationships. If you aren’t allowing yourself to be vulnerable, then your relationships will lack true intimacy. It is important to have your own identity separate from the ones you love; however, putting up walls and not letting anyone in is the same wolf in sheep’s clothing. Love is about sharing the deepest parts of yourself with another, but not expecting someone to save you.

create interdependence and stop being codependent in your relationships

how to break being codependent

 

Interdependence is the goal of any healthy relationship. It allows us to love and support each other, while not expecting the other one to make us feel whole or to change who they are.

My husband and I are each whole on our own, and we have the choice to grow individually and as a couple. That means that if I am feeling sad and hurt, I first try to comfort myself and give myself what I need before I share my feelings with him. I give him the space to try to understand my perspective without forcing him to say or do anything.

Stop codependency by remembering that your happiness is up to you. Just as you can’t save or change anyone, it isn’t anyone’s responsibility to save or fix you. Work on yourself and allow others the opportunity to do the same. Remember to establish clear boundaries to break being codependent. This allows others to choose their own path and make their own choices, but you control what you do with that choice. You also get to choose your own path and healing journey.

Show love and kindness to yourself and your feelings. Your feelings, thoughts, hopes, and dreams are important and have value because they are yours. Respect and honor them even if others do not.

Interdependence is a foreign concept for many, but a way of living that is possible for all of us. Change can be scary, and there will be many hiccups along the way. The good news? You can learn to stop being codependent and get to be the hero of your own story.

How I Broke the Cycle of Codependency

Codependency is a huge buzzword nowadays. Everywhere you turn there are people preaching about how to break the cycle of codependency.

I agree that codependency isn’t healthy; I also understand why it is so easy to fall into that cycle, and why it is so difficult to overcome.

For many, codependency was normal for us growing up. If you had a parent or adult in your life that you took care of (as opposed to the other way around), you learned that your happiness and safety were dependent on the other person’s happiness. There were no boundaries and your feelings were ignored or not even verbalized. You learned that your well-being and safety was completely contingent on the well-being of someone else. When that person was happy, you felt loved and needed. By default, if the adult was upset, sick (mentally or physically), or unavailable to you, you felt worthless and unsafe.

caught in a cycle of codependency

I grew up having the belief system that it was my job to make my mother happy. I listened to her marital and life problems, tried to cheer her up, and felt good about myself when I felt she needed me. When she had nothing to do with me, I felt like a complete failure as a daughter and as a person. I tried to do everything possible to get her love and approval. As a result, I made myself completely available to her. I was so available that I spent two hours of my honeymoon trying to calm her down due to her recent breakup. Her feelings were always prioritized over mine, and I felt it was my job to make sure she was okay.

She relied on me to comfort her and be there for her, and I relied on her positive opinion of me to feel valued and loved. We were the definition of codependency.

Based on a belief system that was engrained into many of us, as adults we believe that our partner’s well-being and happiness is our responsibility. After all, that is all we know and were taught from a young age. It was only natural that my cycle of codependency with my mother translated into a codependent relationship with my spouse.

MY SPOUSE AND I WERE MUTUALLY DEPENDENT ON ONE ANOTHER

Spouse and I were mutually dependent on one another

When my husband started heavily drinking and then taking pills, I felt like it was my job to make him sober. I believed that it was up to me to figure out how to make him stop. When my efforts failed, I felt like a complete failure. Taking care of my husband and making him get clean was my responsibility. I believed I was a terrible wife unless he stopped.

My value as a person was completely defined by the well-being of those I loved. I thought it was my role as a wife and mother to completely devote myself and my happiness to them. This way of thinking made it so that other people were responsible for my own feelings of security and safety. This helped to perpetuate my cycle of codependency in my relationships. When the roller coaster of addiction took me for a ride, my feelings of self-worth plummeted or soared with it. It became my obsession to save my husband, which in turn, would save myself.

At a certain point I reached my own rock bottom. I saw how vicious the emotional cycle was of trying to make him better/save him. I realized that focusing all my efforts on him was a distraction so that I didn’t have to heal my own wounds and trauma. If I was focusing on someone/something that was out of my control, I didn’t have to fix what I had control over- myself.

how to break the cycle of codependency

I finally realized that my happiness was my responsibility, and I learned a lot about the codependency cycle. It was both terrifying and empowering to know that my happiness was my job, just as others are responsible for their own well-being and happiness. The book Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie was extremely helpful and enlightening.

It was up to my husband to get clean, and I couldn’t make him do that. I could support him and love him, but I could not fix him. Accepting that and focusing on myself was how I would break the cycle of codependency.  

I also established clear boundaries with my daughter. I’ve instilled in her that her job is to learn from her mistakes and take responsibility for her actions. I do not want her to feel responsible for others. My daughter knows that the decisions my husband and I make are our responsibility.

It is our job to take care of her, not the other way around.

Another thing that I reinforced is that it is imperative and healthy to feel and share your feelings with those you love and trust. I remind her that I can give suggestions on what she can do to feel better. Ultimately, she controls how she feels. I am open with her about my feelings and model tools that I use to feel better, but I don’t tell her about my adult problems.

When my daughter tries to get involved and tell me and my husband what to do, I remind her that she has control over her actions and not others. I explain that she should focus on being the best version of herself, as it is also each of our individual responsibility to do so.

being interdependent instead of codependent

Interdependent Instead of Codependent What I now strive for is interdependency. It is empowering to not allow others to make me feel whole and valued. I can be vulnerable and supportive with my husband, but ultimately, I control and am responsible for how I feel. My relationships are still valued, but I also value myself separately from my role as a wife and a mother.

The biggest hurdle for me was giving myself the space I needed to feel whatever I was feeling. I felt that I had to justify my feelings to my husband in order for my feelings to be valid. It is a work-in-progress to accept that my feelings are valid regardless of what he or anyone else thinks.

It took a lot of trial and error for me to apply my interdependence into all aspects of my marriage. Breaking the codependency cycle means reminding myself everyday to focus on myself and to give myself the love and care that I craved so desperately from others.

self-growth and mutual support is the key to happiness

I have learned the importance of each of us being responsible for our own growth, while supporting and encouraging each other. Sure, there are things that I wish my husband would do differently. It is not my job to change him or to fix him. He is not a project or a little boy. He deserves to be treated as a man who can make his own choices. I have set clear boundaries of what I cannot except. My husband is aware of my boundaries. My choices are to accept and love him as he is or walk away if any issue is a deal breaker.

I am the happiest I have been in a long time because I am now the source of my well-being. I am not a princess waiting to be rescued, nor am I a martyr trying to save everyone to the detriment of myself. Instead, I am focused on working on myself, and looking inward for love and compassion. That, in turn, allows me to be the best wife, mother, and person I can be.