4 Tips to Become Co-Independent and Save Your Marriage

By:
Michael Tierney
Updated
August 17, 2022

Divorce is an undesirable result for any marriage, despite nearly half of all marriages ending in a divorce. Usually, a marriage only ends in divorce because of irreconcilable differences between you and your spouse. While some minor conflicts might seem impossible to resolve, you can deal with more than a few issues you and your spouse have.

Marriage can be challenging for you and your spouse, and nearly every couple experiences these highs and lows throughout the relationship. You may also rely on each other, which may end up straining the relationship. While your conflicts with your spouse might seem world-ending in the heat of the moment, taking a step back is often enough to promote potential reconciliation.

Marriage requires cooperation and dependence on one another to succeed. Unfortunately, that dependence can often lead to conflict in the relationship.

Solution There is a fine line between relying on your spouse and becoming codependent. When a relationship becomes too dependent, the best way to save the marriage is to find a way to minimize that dependence.

The best marriages involve co-independence that prevents you from becoming too reliant on your spouse or them becoming too dependent upon you. Becoming co-independent can be challenging and can become more of a complex process the longer that time passes. Thankfully, there are a few simple changes that can work wonders for saving your marriage.

What is Co-Independence?

The phrase "co-independence" might seem like an oxymoron since independence has you living life without another's help. While they might seem mutually exclusive, retaining independence while in a committed relationship is possible.

Solution Co-independent relationships refer to a romantic relationship in which both parties can pursue the lives they want with the moral support of their spouse rather than relying on them for more tangible resources. Remaining co-independent promotes one of the healthiest types of relationships, and those codependents may seem destined to fail.

A co-independent relationship gives you and your spouse the room to grow and make your own decisions. At the same time, it does not exclude you from giving your spouse support or your spouse giving you support. Codependency on your spouse makes it impossible for you or your spouse to have an identity outside of each other. This can cause underlying resentment between you and your spouse that causes enough conflict to lead to divorce. This makes codependent relationships one of the most treacherous marriages in existence.

A Happy Married Couple

Being co-independent requires you to be aware of your spouse's needs and your own. They are relationships built on a partnership that promotes growth outside the relationship. If you rely too heavily on the marriage to define you, it can lead to otherwise avoidable conflicts. A co-independent relationship involves supporting your spouse or your spouse supporting you when one of you decides to accomplish a specific goal. While this goal could alter the details of your life, it might be something you feel is important to your growth as a person.

Co-independence allows you to separate yourself from your spouse, so your identity is not defined by your marriage. The process of becoming co-independent is not a simple one if you are not accustomed to such a lifestyle.

However, it is possible to change the course of your relationship, so you are no longer codependent but, rather, independent from your spouse without separation. If you want to switch to a relationship of co-independence, there are a few tips you will need to follow. While such a change might prove difficult, you might find it is just the change you need to preserve your marriage.

#1: Communicate

Solution It is impossible to become co-independent if you cannot communicate with your spouse.

While your spouse might want some space for themselves, it is important to talk to them about what is on your mind. Communication helps to identify the problem of your dependent behavior, so you can begin to fix it. If you and your spouse do not communicate, you will have much more difficulty reconciling and preventing divorce. While communicating seems easy on the surface, it is one of the most difficult things to master.

Married Couple Communicating

Communication skills are extremely important to the subsequent steps as they will allow you to practice a give and take with your spouse. It is reasonable to want your spouse to respect your needs and understand your issues with some of their behaviors. Simultaneously, it allows you to extend that same courtesy to your spouse to maintain a fair relationship with them. After all, it is not fair to expect anything less than an equal exchange regarding communication.

Active communication skills can make all the difference in repairing your relationship with your spouse. Any dependent behavior you might have can be discussed when you and your spouse employ active communication techniques. This allows you both to uncover the underlying issues with an open mind so you can set out to adjust your behavior accordingly. The same applies to your spouse if they need to be informed of any behaviors. Once you can communicate effectively with your spouse, the real work of repairing your marriage can begin.

#2: Establish Boundaries

One of the first things you will need to do to transition to a co-independent relationship is to establish boundaries with your spouse.

Solution No matter who you are or how long you have known someone, you will always have boundaries you will not want another person to cross. The same applies to your spouse, who has certain limitations and desires that might conflict with some of your more dependent behaviors. Establishing boundaries is essential to creating a healthy relationship that allows you to grow together.

Married Couple Establishing Boundaries

One of the worst traits of a codependent spouse is that they tend to step over the boundaries of their spouses. While this is usually not intentional, it can alienate your spouse since they will feel as though they are not having their boundaries respected. Additionally, a codependent spouse needs boundaries to protect themselves from their spouse crossing any lines. Becoming co-independent allows you to stand up for yourself while ensuring you respect your spouse's boundaries.

Relying on your spouse to respect your boundaries without clarifying them and being unaware of when you violate theirs is not conducive to a healthy marriage. To become co-independent, clarifying your boundaries is an important first step that prepares you for further independence. But there is still more you must commit to before becoming co-independent.

#3: Engage in Activities You Enjoy

When you depend on your spouse for recreation at all hours, it can be overwhelming for them. While it is reasonable to want to spend quality time with your spouse, it is unrealistic to want them to spend all their time with you. It is also a major sign of codependence since you cannot relax without your spouse. Your spouse will want the time they can use to focus on their hobbies and interests, which they will be unable to do if they spend all their time with you. As the old saying goes, "familiarity breeds contempt," and spending all their free time with you brings extreme familiarity.

Solution The best way to ensure co-independence so your spouse is free to pursue their interests is to pursue some of your own. Getting to know your interests will allow you to find solace without being with your spouse all the time. Hobbies are psychologically proven to help you overcome codependent behavior through behavioral activation.

Couple Engaging in Enjoyable Activities

Behavioral activation is a component of a highly successful psychological treatment called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is generally used to treat depression but can also promote changes in behavior, including codependent tendencies.

Engaging in a hobby that you enjoy and, eventually, excel at helps promote confidence and growth that helps you overcome your dependency on your spouse. Codependence can often stem from insecurities or a lack of confidence, so finding a hobby you can grow and enjoy will help build that confidence. Confidence helps facilitate every other tip listed on this page, and the hobby you choose to engage in can be anything you desire. Baking, knitting, sports, and reading can all be viable options for learning to be at peace by yourself.

#4: Identify Your Future Ambitions

Part of what generates an overly dependent relationship is when you are not pursuing a specific goal. One demographic that tends to have an abundance of codependent relationships is those where one spouse is employed while the other is not. While you might be employed, you might not have had the opportunity to pursue the future career you want or advance a specific skill.

Solution If, for whatever reason, you are among those who have nothing to fill their days aside from remaining at home or waiting for your spouse to return, reevaluating your goals can be highly conducive to creating a co-independent relationship.

If your spouse is employed and spends most of their time out of the house, it could contribute to your dependence on them. This dependence is emotional and financial as you are 100% reliant on your spouse's income as opposed to any you would be generating together. This dependence can cause a completely different host of issues in your marriage. Namely, it can cause resentment and insecurity in your relationship. While we are not inferring this is the case in your marriage, it is something worth considering if you have found yourself arguing with your spouse about income and finances more than once.

Woman Identifying Future Ambitions

Co-independence means that you are both able to grow personally and professionally. When only one spouse is actively working, there is no professional growth, and the income of a single partner is expected to sustain you through any financial obligations. This dependence on your spouse's income can cause arguments if your spouse is not in a high-paying job. This can also lead to insecurity if you feel you are not contributing in a significant way, even if your spouse tells you otherwise. This can cause turmoil in the relationship where you latch onto your spouse harder.

There are plenty of people out there who are fulfilled by being a stay-at-home parent and contributing through household tasks. Others are more oriented toward a professional lifestyle where they can pursue a career and grow. Understanding what you want to do in your life and how to make it happen realistically is critical to co-independence. If you are the kind of person who wants a professional career, you should consider that and pursue the career you want. Once you have established your goals and dedicated yourself to finding a path to make that goal a reality, you will be one step closer to establishing a co-independent relationship.

Knowledge is Power

When divorce seems to be on the horizon, it is understandable that you might be eager to reconcile with your spouse. Most relationships with a dependent spouse result from insecurities you can overcome with time and patience.

Becoming co-independent with your spouse is possible if you are prepared to take the necessary steps.

A Happily Married Couple

Unfortunately, it is not always a successful endeavor, and you might be unable to reconcile with your spouse. While not every attempt is successful, it is important to try if you truly care about the marriage and want to preserve your relationship with your spouse. However, if your attempts to reconcile your differences prove unsuccessful, you might have to prepare for the unfortunate possibility of divorce.

As heartbreaking as the thought might be if divorce is imminent, it is important to prepare for what will come next. Divorce law is extremely complicated and often goes over the heads of the average citizen. Fortunately, the information surrounding divorce is more accessible than it was before. Once, it was the exclusive domain of certified professionals and law students.

Now, you can access much information with a few taps on a keyboard. While we understand you might not want to consider the possibility of divorce, knowing what information is available can be beneficial. Though we hope these tips can help you adjust your relationship and return stronger than ever, and we truly wish you the best of luck.

Written By:
Michael Tierney
Michael is a legal writer and graduate of WSU. Prior to becoming a legal writer, he had 6 years of experience as a legal assistant and office manager for a family law attorney. He's written about numerous legal subjects from helping spouses who are stuck in toxic situations to the intricacies of custody battles. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and building custom keyboards.

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