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Co-dependent Relationship help.

Community Member
I'm an enabler. I cant rest until everyone around me is happy and it's very stressful. I realised recently that this was the principle cause for my panic attacks. I was 35 when I met my husband. We built a house together had a baby and he quit work to look after her while I kept working. He had dreams of working from home. We had a second daughter 16 months later. He often complained how difficult it was being home with the kids although he was constantly out of the house visiting friends with them. When they were toddlers he was frustrated he couldn't work on his projects so i organised family daycare 2 days a week. Then he got bigger projects and a friend offered to take them for another 2 days a week. In all this time i was working full time and paying for everything. He was having the parental payments put into his account for day to day expenses and I was also doing all the household tasks as well. When the kids had both started school I asked him to do a business plan and wanted him set a goal of 5 years and then if it wasn't working to go back to paid employment. He was heartbroken and said ultimatums were a sign I didn't believe in him. By the time my youngest was 10 years old my resentment about paying for everything and doing all the housework was extreme but I was also proud of the fact I kept everything running. Instead of getting praise for my efforts like I would if I were a single Mum with 3 kids, friends would not give me any emotional support saying I should leave. By this stage the thought of losing half of everything I paid for when I had no savings was too much so we went to counselling which helped a bit with the resentment but did little to change the situation as my husband cant see himself doing anything wrong. He works so hard, often 10 hours a day on his projects for little financial gain but feels he is doing his best and gets depressed about it. Now my youngest is 13. At the end of last year after finding I was paying almost $500 a month into his business petrol and phone bills, I said no more. He has not contributed any money to the family unit for 14 years and does not help around the house. I even do all the traditional male jobs like mowing and fixing things. Every week since then he has moaned about not having money. Today he asked me to help out with his monthly bills and I said no. IS IT POSSIBLE TO BREAK OUT OF A CO-DEPENDENT RELATIONSHIP WITHOUT BREAKING UP? I do love him. He is also a wonderful father who doesn't drink and is a kind person. he is just blinkered when it comes to his work.
2 Replies 2

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi lilykitten, welcome

No wonder you are on edge.

He does appear to lack empathy for you, taking you for granted. Ive been in such a position.

Counseling often doesnt work because they cant take sides. It really is your decision to stand your ground until he "gets it". If you dont then you'll end it one day anyway...its called "flogging a willing horse". He's had it good. Found ways to move from his chosen responsibility of homemaker to passions. Passions are usually hobbies and not specific income plans. Even Centrelink NEIS scheme has a business plan requirement. I had one when I started up my lawn mowing business in 1990.

Whatever his issues his biggest problem is not willing to act as a team. Income is a team effort. Financial responsibility is a team effort. He is being defensive because he knows you have every right to be fed up.

For your own mental well being tackle this issue calmly and decisively. No point arguing. No point yelling.

Set some boundaries.

I worked 3 jobs so my first wife could be the homemaker. We had two young girls. One job was in security-12 hour shift work. She reduced her responsibilities so much that I was also the cook and chief nappy changer. Eventually I insisted she get a job and I'd be the homemaker. She just refused.

It fell apart soon after. 11 years of hell.

Now I've remarried. Very happy with a lady that shares the load. She says "I'm not with you so you can make life easy for me"

Tony WK

Community Member

Hi Likykitten,.

I agree with all of Tony's advice, and I have a lot of respect for both of you, for providing for the people you love. You are both very capable people with a lot of generosity; its perfectly reasonable to have expected a fair contribution from loved ones. You both gave so much, and deserved to be appreciated, supported, and helped IMO.

Lily, I wanted to respond to your question, can you change the dynamic in your relationship without resorting to separation? I don't know the answer to that, but I can think of a few things to try at a least.

I would start with the day-to-day things that need to get done. Mowing the lawn, cooking, cleaning, caring for your children. For some reason your husband has given himself permission not to do those things, and this may have happened rather casually over time. Perhaps you are more capable and more pre-emptive? It could have happened that way do you think? If so, and he's not outright saying `no' to a fair division of labour, you have something to work with there. It may take a bit of time, with some sincere encouragement and gratitude on your part. He may not be quite as good as you at some things, but he will get better .

Regarding his business, which has technically amounted to only a hobby, that's very sad for him and both of you. I can understand your having patience with him, and hoping for the best. But I agree with you, after 14 years, its just not working out. It keeps him busy and preoccupied, but he needs to be encouraged to see this as secondary to earning a living, or honoring his agreement to be a home maker. It sounds like you've done your fair share of encouraging though. This might be the time to be a bit tougher, I think you've been more than reasonable.

In the end, you will need to work out whether your husband is either being selfish and unempathetic, or you've genuinely just slipped into habits that are not working, because you are so competent and gifted in so many areas,whereas he lacks confidence.

Each scenario would call for a different response from you, I believe. I really hope for the best for you, and hope you can somehow ease the burden. Your mental health is very important, you can burnout from this lifestyle, so please take care.