My client was at her wits end because she and her husband were having things come between them. At first it started as arguments and him slowly pulling away. She tried to control the situation by trying to demand that they spend time together. That didn’t work. He even stopped telling her he loves her, which had her in a tailspin of panic. She felt abandoned by him and had a fear he was done with her. She had found herself with a ton of alone time, which she needed, but too much of it has her going crazy in her mind. She needed connection and he needed space. Every single word out of her husband’s mouth, every action gave her overthinking mind fuel that he was leaving her. Her emotions ranged from sadness, despair, lost, lonely, frustrated to angry and livid. She described a rollercoaster of emotions taking her over at any moment throughout her days.

I asked her if she had ever heard of codependent behaviors. What I know about codependency is that there is often an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity. Your mood, happiness and identity are defined by the other person. She said she has experienced all of those. She said she feels like everything she’s doing is for the purpose of him giving her attention. She was trying to do more so he’d care for her more. Nothing was working. She said just one look from him could set her mind off on a fear of abandonment attack, which sent her body into a full fight or flight freeze mode, reaching for comfort foods.

I asked her what she enjoyed doing that lights her up. She had stopped going out with her girlfriends when they first got married because her husband didn’t like her doing that. She had also stopped pursuing her goals because of her belief of what it meant to be a good wife. She dropped all of her passions to make the household perfect and take care of everyone else, including the animals.

When your partner senses you rely on them for your happiness, it can send them running. They want you happy, but they don’t want to be the only thing that makes you happy. They want to know you’re up to something and making something of your life. One man I interview said, “I want to know she has her own friends and that I’m not her everything. I want her to have her own life and share that with me. Then we have something to talk about.”

You cannot give to anyone else what you haven’t given to yourself. If you’re only focused on pleasing someone else, you give what you don’t have. You give from an emptiness. If you’re so desperate on the actions of others to make you happy, you have lost your way. It is absolutely necessary to cultivate a loving relationship with yourself first. I write about this in my book. Treat yourself well. Rest. Focus on your health and body. Forgive yourself for any past mistakes. You matter just as you are. Your needs matter. What lights you up matters. Do one thing that would make you feel good today.

Her assignment was to first start by saying, “I love you,” in the mirror. She had a hard time doing this, but kept to it for a full day when she would see a mirror. She was also to appreciate heartfelt gratitude to her husband that night for something that he provides her that makes a difference in her life. During dinner she told him thank you for working so hard to provide our beautiful home for us.

The very next morning she texted me that her husband told her he loves her before he left work. She was beyond relieved at the sudden shift.