Is dependency in a marriage healthy?
The word dependency has gotten a bad reputation. From addiction counselors and family therapists labeling it as “codependency” or “enmeshment”, to our society’s cultural value of self-sufficiency and independence, it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea of dependency being healthy in your relationship. But let me try to do just that, because after all, it is healthy!
We are all born dependent. No one can deny the fact that an infant is unable to meet their own needs; without their dependence on a caregiver, they would not survive. Toddlers are also dependent, as are preschoolers, school-aged children, and teenagers. We can even see how young adults are dependent, especially as they try to find their path in life and often lean on parents, friends, and teachers for guidance and other resources. Is there a magical age or milestone when we start to believe it’s no longer ok to depend on someone else? What about when you get married? Is it ok, healthy even, to depend on your husband or wife?
Absolutely! Dependency does not equate to weakness, helplessness, or disempowerment. In fact, when we are able to depend on our spouses, it often gives us strength and courage to approach whatever life throws at us. Knowing we can depend on our lover gives us the safety net to take risks - to do things that we might never have considered doing before. Being able to depend on our spouse speaks to a secure attachment with them; that safe and confident connection that says “even if you fail, you’re not alone because I’m right here with you”.
We’re given this model of dependency and secure attachment from our Creator. As St. Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Again, by having the secure confidence that we’re not alone, that we can lean on others - God, our spouse, friends - for strength and courage, we’re better equipped to go forward in life. This is healthy. We weren’t made to live alone and we weren’t made to have to handle everything on our own. We were made to depend on others in relationships; when we can’t do this, we struggle, both individually and as a society.
“Dependency does not eliminate humanity, dependency enriches humanity” - Kirsten Watson.
How does your ability to depend or not depend on others impact you and your relationships? I’d love to hear from you!