The purpose of the midlife and menopause journey is to birth our Soul – the uniquely creative way in which we have been gifted to find meaning, purpose and fulfillment and through which we are called to contribute to the betterment of our world. In the process of birthing our Soul, we are invited to heal and sometimes release any inner, as well as outer obstacles to enjoying the life of Soul. Our intimate relationships are not exempt from this invitation. It is not a coincidence that the Dark Night of the Relationship often surfaces during midlife and even becomes the catalyst through which real transformation can begin to take place. In today’s blog, we explore the co-dependency that needs to be unraveled and undone.
Damn, You Don’t Complete Me!
As I have mentioned before, many relationships entered into in our youth are established upon the illusion that the other person will complete us. We look to the other to fill the emptiness and longing we feel inside. Eventually, we realize that the other person is not completing us as disappointment and resentment rush in. Now we have entered the dark night of the relationship. We then begin to harbor blame, resentment and hatred against the other person for not being the fantasy we created in our mind. It is this resentment that will eventually destroy our relationships unless we do something about it.
The Only Person Who Can Complete You is YOU!
Doing something about the resentment, many discover all the ways in which they have been socialized to seek outside of themselves for love and completion, along with all the ways in which they believe that love is something that has to be earned or that can be denied them. What often arises out of these false perceptions is co-dependency. If you are the one who has given away your power, hoping in return for completion and love, the invitation is to take your power back. This means identifying all the ways in which you have remained silent, ignored or suppressed your needs or your truth, stayed in the background, forsaken your needs and tended to the needs of others at the expense of your own needs.
Welcome Perimenopause and Menopause
For women, compounding, hastening and perhaps even catalyzing this invitation to tend to ones own needs is the advent of menopause. When women become aware (consciously or unconsciously) that their time for childbearing has come to an end, they begin to see their lives through a dramatically different lens. During the vulnerable years of childbearing, and while the children are still tender, vulnerable little beings, a veil stands between a woman’s sight and truth. All of the woman’s energy and attention is directed at the survival of the children. Once the children become viable, and the woman knows she is done bearing children, the veil collapses. Every personal need, creative drive, personal desire, wish, hope and dream that was placed on the shelf for the sake of the needs of the children and family come tumbling down. And now, the woman’s inner drive is directed toward the rediscovery of her own truth, her own needs and the discovery of the vocation which will provide her fulfillment in the second half of her life. Wife/Mom suddenly becomes a different person and the husband/children are left to wonder, “What the heck just happened?” This is often when the threads of co-dependency begin to unravel and the rules of the household begin to change. (please note that men have their own version of this midlife transition – as I understand it, it is a departure from the role of provider to the role of enjoyer…sadly our culture and our current expectations of gender roles does not do a good job of supporting this transition either!)
Whether it is the man or the woman who has been the partner bargaining their own needs for the illusion of completion and love, the process is the same. Co-dependent behaviors are identified, and we begin the process of changing how we act and respond in our relationships. We begin by identifying our own truth, our own needs, our own dreams, hopes and desires. Then we begin to exercise these truths. We name and claim our needs to those around us. We set boundaries around our need for “ME” time. We learn to say no to those things not supportive of our needs and we begin to make time for those things that are life-giving for us. We stop rushing to the side of those around us every time they seem to be in distress, and we empower them to learn how to tend to their own needs. We stop doing for others what they are capable of doing for themselves.
A Rude Awakening
For those who have been trained by our co-dependency to expect us to take care of them or to forsake our own needs for theirs, this is a time of RUDE AWAKENING! We have trained our loved ones well, and now we are changing the rules. The first response is often bewilderment which then turns into rebellion and often outright war! “What do you mean you’re not going to make my breakfast?” “But you’ve always picked out my clothes for me.” “What good are art classes at your age?” “You want to go back to school….for what!?” “Why would you want time for yourself…don’t you love us?” For those who have been trained to forsake their own needs for the needs of those they love, this can be a difficult transition as the demons of guilt whisper, and sometimes scream in our ears, “You are abandoning your family….they need you….this is your job…..” In response to this, I will share with you a mantra that was once given to me by a great teacher:
The most loving thing you can do for those you love is to do what is most loving for yourself.
Every time you claim your own need, every time you set boundaries around your own time, every time you stop doing something for someone that they are capable of doing for themselves, you are teaching them how NOT to be co-dependent. You are modeling for them healthy, interdependent behavior. And you are empowering them to be GROWN UPS!
Lauri Lumby mentors individuals and couples in their journey of birthing their Soul, which includes navigating the difficult transition of the dark night of the relationship. To set up your own one-on-one session, call (920) 230-1313 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.