Kevin was looking for reasons to stay late at work to avoid going home. The previous night had so exhausted him that he relished the extra work assignments as excuses to steer clear of his wife of 9 years. The problem was that he missed his kids and wanted to be there to tug them into bed, but he couldn’t handle another four-hour discussion in the middle of the night with his wife.
Not that the four hours resolved anything…it didn’t, it just got worse. He was already drained and in bed for the night when she started talking. At first, he engaged, thinking that a bit of feedback could end the discussion, but it didn’t. She kept going. He tuned her out. She got cried. He got angry. Their noise woke up the kids. And then it was another hour before things settled. But nothing was resolved.
She said she wanted him to be happy and was worried that he wasn’t. She was afraid that he was going to leave her because he texted his assistant while at home about a work project. He showed her the trail of text messages, but she was not satisfied. She needed him to tell her she was beautiful, that she was the most important person, and he couldn’t live without her. The problem was that lately, he could see his life without her. The more he pulled away, the more needy, clingy, and stalkerish she became.
Kevin began to wonder if she was dependent on him. She no longer was independent. Even small decisions were done by a committee which included him, her mother, and even a couple of friends. He needed some alone time to rejuvenate, but she wouldn’t give it to him. It was as if she had to have someone around all the time. Here are other signs of a dependent person:
- No silence. There was a constant demand for conversation. Kevin’s wife asked, “What are you thinking,” nearly every day. When he would say, “Nothing,” she would get sad and mopey saying he was lying. She wanted conversation all the time when he was home. If he was quiet, she would say that he must be angry at her.
- No space. His wife wanted to be in the same physical space that Kevin was in. If he was in the garage, she would be there. If he went to the bathroom, she would be by the door. There was little privacy and a constant need for her to know where he always was even when she knew he was at work. His reassurance was not enough.
- No privacy. Kevin’s wife quizzed him about every text message or phone call that he would get when he was at home. He sometimes caught her hovering behind him when he was on his laptop looking at his computer screen.
- No decisions. Even small decisions needed Kevin’s input. The brand of diaper that they normally use was out of stock so his wife called him up to ask which one she should buy. When he said he didn’t care which brand, she interpreted it as him not caring about their child.
- Activities together. Kevin loved to go fishing and do outdoor activities but rarely had the opportunity to do it due to kid’s soccer games and other activities. One weekend, he was invited by a friend to go fishing. His wife was so upset by the idea of him going away for a weekend without her and the kids that she guilted him into taking everyone.
- Chores together. One night, Kevin decided to help his wife out by cleaning up the kitchen while she was putting the kids to bed. Instead of being thankful, she was upset. She would rather have him help with the kids and then they both clean the kitchen together. She hated the idea of splitting up tasks and would rather do things together.
- Leaving together. Kevin had an early meeting one morning and had to leave before the kids were ready for school. Not thinking anything of it, he said good-bye and left. Later that night, she confronted him about leaving early. She felt ignored and left out because he left before her and the kids. No amount of explanation helped the situation.
- Fear of loneliness. His wife’s fear of loneliness was his responsibility according to her. She would say, “I feel all alone,” and then expect him to do something to make her feel better. When he didn’t, she would become upset and say he didn’t care about her.
- Holds offenses. No matter how many times Kevin would apologize for an insensitive remark, his wife would hold onto it and remind him of it in a passive-aggressive way. She would say that nothing was bothering her one minute and then tell him that she is still struggling with his insensitivity another moment.
- Constant texting. One day, Kevin added up the text messages he got from his wife. There were 115. He could not possibly answer all the texts and frequently ignored them when he was at work. This frustrated her because she felt like she should be the most important thing in his life at every moment of every day.
- No confidence. Kevin felt drained from trying to boost up his wife’s confidence. He knew she was a talented artist and often would encourage her to show her work, but she would hide her art saying that it wasn’t good enough and people would laugh at her.
- Pessimistic outlook. Kevin was excited to come home and tell his wife about a new promotion opportunity. But instead of being excited, she told him that he probably won’t get the job and if he did, he won’t like it. She claimed that she was just trying to protect his feelings, so he won’t be so disappointed if it didn’t work out.
- Tolerant of abuse. Kevin overheard a phone conversation between his wife and mother. His mother-in-law was literally screaming at her telling her she would never amount to anything. When he confronted his wife, she minimized the comments saying that her mom’s behavior was OK because she was having a bad day.
Kevin had enough. He decided to leave his wife and tried to talk to her about it. She broke down hysterically crying saying that her life was over, and she could not live without him. Fearful of what she might do, he stayed. Finally, Kevin reached out to a therapist for help. It took some time but eventually, his wife realized her dependent behavior and actively worked to stop. This saved their marriage.