Hidden Dependency

Posted on August 20th, 2019

After his second divorce, Jack was puzzled. Two marriages to two very different women had ended up with the same result. What did his marriages have in common with each other?

On the surface, his wives and marriages were opposites. Arleen had always been ready to listen to his stories, take care of dinners and the apartment, go where he wanted to go, and do what he wanted to do. Rhoda did none of those things, and he found their roles reversed, so that he became an appendage to her life and her photography career.

But the marriages had two elements in common. The first was that both women ended up leaving him. The other common element was Jack. So what was it about him that made his marriages fail?

The answer came to him during a long night in his new, bare apartment, when he was feeling lonely and missing Rhoda. As difficult and demanding as she was, being with her had protected him from this loneliness, which now felt worse than it had in years. He wasn’t at all comfortable being alone with himself. He needed Rhoda, which made him realize for the first time how dependent he was. He was astonished to see this.

This dependency was the key to why his marriages had failed. This was not the universal interdependency of all relationships, the way we all depend on each other to make the demands of our lives easier. I depend on you to buy the food and you depend on me to cook it, and we thus reduce the time required of either of us. 

His dependency was not about tasks. It was an emotional dependency. When the attention of his wives was on him, when they were appreciating everything he did, he was fine. When that didn’t happen enough, he became difficult, trying to get attention that way. With Arleen, this led to prolonged arguing, a kind of attention in its own way. With Rhoda it led to a cold distance, which was worse.

As Jack began to see this plainly, his lifetime of emotional dependency disguised by self-centeredness came into view, unattractive even to him. He saw that it would doom any relationship. He had to change. As hard as it would be, as intimidated as he felt without his bravado, he had to become independent, to be comfortable on his own. He had to be lonely when he was lonely, rather than seeking out someone to help him hide from loneliness. He had to stop running away from himself, to learn to accept himself as he was. 

Tonight was a beginning, facing down the waves of loneliness as they came, accepting his feelings rather than running from them. Just seeing it that way made him feel a little stronger. But he had a long, long way to go with himself before he could even think of starting a relationship. For now, Jack had to get closer to Jack, a lot closer.

Posted in Individual Counseling

Please remember, this is a blog. It is not psychotherapy or treatment of any kind and is not a substitute for the individual treatment you can get from going to see a good therapist.