Beliefnet
The Celebrity Therapist

unnamedWe’ve all seen those photos on Facebook of a woman beaming as she holds up her hand to show off her engagement ring. Sometimes a happy partner crowds into the picture; sometimes it’s just the hand and the ring, a proud declaration: “We’re engaged!”

In fact, within hours and sometimes even minutes of their engagement, 38% of couples shared photos and details on social media, and 25% shared the next day, according to a survey of couples married in 2017 done by The Knot, a wedding planning website. And just one day after the actual wedding, 45% of couples shared wedding photos and details on social media, and 48% updated their relationship status to “married” on Facebook.

Why is announcing your marriage on social media necessary?

It’s as if the big, public party were not public enough. (The average wedding has 136 guests!) Everyone in the world has to know, and they have to know right now. The likes and hearts and congratulations come pouring in (who would respond to wedding photos with a crying or an angry emoji!?), and they bring with them validation of our choices and actions on a scale that was impossible before the age of social media.

That social validation is a big part of what drives marriage addicts. They have an insatiable need for acceptance and validation — things they never got that as they were growing up. As adults, they seek it through social conventions like marriage.

Societal expectation and need for validation

Although the age at which people first get married is creeping up (just over 29 for the bride and just under 31 for the groom, according to the survey), “married” is still the social default. It’s hard for anyone to defy social norms and deal with the endless question, “When are you getting married?” as they reach their 30s. But it’s especially hard for marriage addicts, who already have a deep need to fit in, be nurtured, and seek validation from others.

Why is the focus on the wedding instead of on marriage?

How many people do you know who fantasize about their wedding, or even the thought of getting married? Their priorities are way off. A wedding is just one day, but a marriage should be a lifetime. And when you’re thinking about a lifetime, you need to wait and make sure you’re getting it right.

So many clients I have worked with compare themselves unfavorably to their friends who are married. They spend all their time future-tripping about the spouse, the house, the children. They live in a fantasy future and are desperate to make it come true, by any means necessary.

Getting married for the right reasons is important

What social norms are you buying into that are keeping you frozen in the belief you must be married? Do you live in the illusion that other people must be happier than you because they are married and you’re not? When did getting a ring on your finger become more important than your self-respect?

What motivates you to step into what should be one of the biggest decisions of your life? When we aren’t honest about what motivates us, we end up settling for less — in marriage, and in everything else.

Sherry Gaba, LCSW is a Radio Host, Certified Transformation Coach and author of the award winning book The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery and Ecourse. You can take her quiz to find out if you are co-dependent or sign up for a 30 minute strategy session with Sherry. Check out Sherry’s new book The Marriage and Relationship Junkie: Kicking Your Obsession.

codependentCodependency is one of those words that is thrown around so often and in so many contexts these days that it seems to mean everything and nothing at all. We know codependent relationships are dysfunctional, but it seems that “codependent” has now become a synonym for “unhealthy relationship.” There are lots of kinds of unhealthy relationships, and codependency is one of them.

In a healthy relationship, both people depend on each other. That mutual dependence makes both people person feel safe, and that sense of security nurtures their resourcefulness and resilience. Since your partner is dependable, you can be more fearless, more self-sufficient. They celebrate the strength and independence in you, and you celebrate it in them.

In a codependent relationship, two people surrender their independence and instead develop an unhealthy dependence on each other that doesn’t allow either person to grow. One partner is unhealthily obsessed with the needs of the other partner, to the point of ignoring their own needs. Codependents look outside their true and authentic self to find happiness and fulfillment, believing it can never come from within.

Codependents lose themselves in the life of another person. They attach their core being to their codependent relationship. They depend on getting approval from their partner for their very identity. They derive their sense of purpose from making sacrifices to fulfill the needs of another. Sadly, that means they are looking to find happiness and fulfillment by propping up someone else—someone who is not propping them up. And that’s a recipe for disappointment.

Codependency can cause some people to become marriage and relationship junkies, but not all codependents are marriage addicts. Codependency can be a part of any relationship—even siblings, coworkers, parents, children, and friends.

When marriage junkies are in a codependent relationship, they are enmeshed and obsessed with taking care of a spouse or significant other. This obsession stems from their frantic need to be in a relationship and a constant fear of not being able to control the relationship. Making the other person totally dependent on them creates the illusion that they are in control: This person can never leave me, because I do everything for them and they’d fall apart if they left.

You know you are in a codependent relationship when you constantly feel insecure and a desperate need for certainty. You are filled with fear you will be abandoned, rejected, or the relationship won’t last. You are hyper-vigilant for signs your relationship is in trouble. You somehow believe that by sacrificing everything for your partner, you can control the relationship.

The goal is to make someone so dependent on you that they will never be able to leave. But this leads to an inauthentic relationship in which neither person is truly nurtured and nobody gets what they really need. Codependent may feel stable in the moment, but it’s not where true security lies.

If you think this describes you, there is an organization called Codependents Anonymous (CoDA.org) that may be helpful.

Sherry Gaba, LCSW is a Radio Host, Certified Transformation Coach and author of the award winning book The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery and Ecourse. You can take her quiz to find out if you are co-dependent or sign up for a 30 minute strategy session with Sherry. Check out Sherry’s new book The Marriage and Relationship Junkie: Kicking Your Obsession.

badBreaking up for some people is like withdrawing from drugs. Withdrawal from love is one of the most painful withdrawals because there is a unique connection between the person affected and his or her need for love as a child. During withdrawal people psychologically go back in time and feel all the losses they felt as a child. The more neglected they were as children, the more they suffer in the process of withdrawal. I call this age regression.

Furthermore, like drugs, the symptoms of withdrawal are also physical. Lovers experience depression, headaches, anxiety and even flu like symptoms.

People have many theories about how to treat withdrawal. There is the moderation theory like they practice for food addiction, but in most cases complete abstinence works better. In Love Addicts Anonymous, for instance, lovers engage in what they call “no contact.” This works well unless you are one of those who carry a torch year after year. Such people need more help turning the memory of their love into a sentimental feeling rather than a painful addiction.

It is also important to note that in most cases one cannot go through withdrawal without help. Studies support the idea that one must reach out for help from peers as well and professionals. This is discussed in Patrick Carne’s book about sex addiction, “Don’t Call it Love.” He insists that a twelve step program works better. I agree. During my early recovery reaching out for help was the most important step I took after admitting that I was in withdrawal from romantic love.

If you have a hard time letting go, consider the following.

(1) Admit you have a problem. Admit this to yourself and to someone else. Face the fact that you are part of the problem and that you are not just a victim.

(2) Reach out for help from a support group or therapist. It is not enough to ask your friends what to do. This is serious and you need a lot of support to get through the emotional and physical withdrawal.

(3) If you have no children, initiate “no contact.”

(4) Distract yourself with activities. Do something fun and hang out with friends who understand. Start a new hobby or go on a vacation.

(5) Treat your anxiety and depression in a way suited to you. This means consulting a professional and considering medication on a short term basis. If this is not right for you, practice positive thinking and be optimistic about the future.

(6) Give yourself time to heal. Whether your withdrawal is short or long things will get better in time. This would also be a good time to build up your confidence and self-esteem. Some people blame themselves for the end of the relationship and this only prolongs withdrawal. Most of all, be optimistic and know that there will be a brighter tomorrow.

Sherry Gaba, LCSW is a Radio Host, Certified Transformation Coach and author of the award winning book The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery and Ecourse. You can take her quiz to find out if you are co-dependent or sign up for a 30 minute strategy session with Sherry. Check out Sherry’s new book The Marriage and Relationship Junkie: Kicking Your Obsession.

buddha-56673_960_720In a previous blog, I explained that codependent marriage junkies try to make their partner totally dependent on them, so they will never be able to leave. This kind of codependency is the result of a childhood that was full of unmet needs. The codependent believes that if they sacrifice enough, their partner will give them everything they didn’t get when they were growing up.

Codependent adults grew up in families where there was not a lot of nurturing. It’s more common in children of alcoholics, drug addicts and abusers, but lack of nurturing can occur in all kinds of families in many different ways. The children learn that what the parents need and want is more important than what the children need and want. When the children demand care, the parents either don’t respond, or respond by telling them they are selfish or undeserving, or with verbal or even physical attacks. As a result, the children feel guilty asking for care.

Typically, these kinds of needy parents express love for their children only when the children are taking care of the parents. The message is that to be loved, to be a good person, you must take care of others and ask nothing in return. The codependent learns that the way to get love it to rescue others as they always tried to rescue their parents.

When children aren’t nurtured or cherished as individuals, they feel abandoned, helpless, isolation, and hopeless. Their true self isn’t seen, or isn’t valued. While a healthy, nurtured child becomes confident and proud of who they are, the neglected child becomes ashamed of who they truly are. Their true self—with all its needs and desires and dreams—is buried.

A neglected child feels they will never be “good enough,” and so they project a false self—the person they think they must become in order to get what they need. They become further and further removed from their true self and more convinced that if they can just give up enough of themselves, they will finally be loved. Codependency thrives in this shame-filled, inauthentic, desperate space.

At the bottom of codependency is extreme giving to others to get love and acceptance, to feel needed. Codependents expect others will be grateful for all this selflessness, and if others are not, they feel resentful and unappreciated. Rather than leaving the relationship, they just try harder. This cycle of shame and effort and codependence feeds the marriage addiction.

At the core of this negation of self is fear. Codependents are afraid they will be “exposed,” that people will see how unlovable they really are and abandon them. They’re afraid to make a mistake, afraid to be less than perfect, afraid they’ll never be enough. They’re also afraid to be alone, and need constant affirmation and companionship. They need to be needed, because they believe that someone will stay with them only if that person is dependent on them.

If you think this describes you, there is an organization called Codependents Anonymous (CoDA.org) that may be helpful.

Sherry Gaba, LCSW is a Radio Host, Certified Transformation Coach and author of the award winning book The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery and Ecourse. You can take her quiz to find out if you are co-dependent or sign up for a 30 minute strategy session with Sherry. Check out Sherry’s new book The Marriage and Relationship Junkie: Kicking Your Obsession.