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Is this co-dependency? How do I set boundaries with my DH?(13 Posts)
Some background first.
I am generally an optimistic, I look for ways to get round problems, I am good at synthesising information and coming up with action plans, am naturally a 'helper.' DH is a perfectionist and doesn't agree that sometimes "good enough is good enough." He is naturally more pessimistic than me, if he gets 99% excellent feedback he will focus on the 1% that wasn't excellent.
DH was made redundant in the first lockdown but thankfully found a new job fairly quickly, although it was a bit out of his comfort zone/field of expertise. Let's pretend it's a sales role for global markets.
Because DH is a perfectionist, and this area is new to him, he stresses and worries that he doesn't know what he's doing and that his work isn't good enough. Well I've seen and heard him WFH and he certainly seems impressive, but it breaks my heart that he feels so helpless. He has terribly low self-confidence and holds himself to the highest standards but he doesn't realise.
He works late most evenings on proposals and presentations for the next day but so many times he gives up and says he doesn't know what he's doing and he can't do it. I, naturally, swoop in, because it upsets me to see him so down, and I'm a natural helper(!) So (say) I'm there researching the market in a certain country and giving him ideas and coming up with strategies. I should say - that I know deep down he is perfectly capable of coming up with these ideas by himself but if I left him to it, it would first take a good hour of him head in hands, saying he doesn't know what he's doing and he hates this job, and it's so painful to see!
The thing is that he has now come to expect this help, and I'm starting to resent giving it - which is unfair of me as I know he is now leaning on me as his crutch. Last night we both finished work, had dinner, watched TV a bit then he said at 10:30 he needed to work on a new proposal. I'd already said I wanted to start going to bed at 11pm (as we are going to bed at 1am most nights and I hate it). He faffed around for a bit doing some other work then at half midnight said "ok let's work on X." I got a bit annoyed and said, well if you'd needed my help why couldn't you have prioritised that bit of your work first and done your faffing later? He replied, 'ok then go to bed, I'll do it myself!' to which I said, 'oh OK so I've waited up for two hours only to find you don't need me, I wish you'd told me this at half 10!'
He's a bit frosty with me this morning as I had a go at him.
If you've got this far, how do I curb my instinct to help, how to I withdraw my support and how do I set up boundaries without feeling like a cow?
I think you are going to have to have a proper conversation where you point out that you are happy to give a little help, but will not be staying up late to do so. If he wants help then he needs to plan his time and ask for help before whatever time you deem suitable. If you set a boundary of only helping get started, say 30 mins, then you can eventually stop helping altogether as he becomes more confident.
I think you just need to realise that instead of helping him you’re enabling him, and that doesn’t help him at all in the long run. He’ll never learn how to do his job while you’re doing it for him. Time to toughen up a bit and understand he needs to learn these skills himself. It isn’t mean to expect an adult to behave like an adult, he isn’t a child and this isn’t his homework 🤷🏻♀️
I wouldn't call this a co dependant relationship. Co dependency is normally characterised by one person totally needing the other person , while the "helping" person needs to be needed. Each satisfies a need in the other.
Your situation doesn't sound like that at all. Your DH is just going through a tough time with a new job which isn't in his normal field of expertise , and you've been helping him with it. And now he is liking that help and wanting it more.
In your situation I'd try to put some boundaries in place . Maybe say "Look I'm happy to help you with work, but not after 10pm, I'm getting too tired" and stick to it. You'll still be happy to help , but not all the time. I'm sure that as he gets more familiar with the job, he'll relax more. Good luck.
I think you’ve shown him that even someone who doesn’t work in this industry (presuming you don’t!) can do the job, so him continuing to say “I can’t do it” is just a mental block.
You need to stick to your own boundaries - if you want to go to bed at 11 and he’s leaving work until late, of course he has to do it himself. Similarly you’d be well within your rights to say, I’m happy to support you but I’m not doing it for you, like I used to do with the kids and their homework! As a PP said, you’re actually enabling his helplessness by doing to for him if he’s now come up expect help rather than be grateful for it.
You’ll have to toughen up a bit, he’s a grown up, if he doesn’t do it, what’s going to happen - natural consequences and all that! With kids’ homework I always said if they didn’t do it, I didn’t care, as it’s their teachers who would tell them off. As a result, no stress, no constant cajoling etc as they didn’t want to take the natural consequences at school. Same thing here - he won’t actually NOT do it, or people will be annoyed with him at work. He needs to learn to manage his time more efficiently. This last year has been a challenge for us all, he should be thankful he has a job at all.
Thank you so much everyone. I thought I was going to get torn apart for being so wet, or he’d get torn apart for being needy or selfish, when he is neither of those things.
You’ve all given me some excellent advice and I am going to start using those strategies this evening.
I work in finance so nothing to do with his job at all! If I could wave a magic wand it would be to give him a massive self confidence boost. He is capable and brilliant (I think!) and we’ve got into this situation where he thinks he needs to use me as a crutch. But he doesn’t.
I’m more than happy to say “ok you can have 30 mins to talk through some ideas but I’m not going to do it for you.” And yes I am going to say that after 10:30pm, I am not “available,” which is as much for my own mental health as it is anything else. I think that can be a happy medium until he gets more comfortable in the job. Which we are both very grateful for.
I wonder if part of his anxiety is a worry that he will be made redundant again.
Lockdown really does not help with this scenario. It’s not like I can pop out to a friend’s or we can be distracted by going to the pub or to the cinema. When you work from home, if you’re not working... well, you may as well be as there’s not much else to do in the freezing cold and lashing rain.
It sounds v unhealthy and, yes, co dependent.
Not getting enough sleep or having leisure time. getting sucked into his work and woes.
Would stop ‘helping’ him with work completely. Other than listening, for a reasonable amount of time. Get on with your job, stuff at home. Go to bed when you’re ready.
If the head in hands etc continues would suggest he seeks support, eg counselling. I have MH issues and have done this at times of work challenge, eg new job. Sounds like your H has some behaviours/thoughts/traits that put him at risk of MH issues, and that rather than highlighting concerns about him you’re enabling some of his dysfunctional ways of managing things.
I don't think this is co-dependency?
Why did you stay up until that time when you wanted to go to bed?
I work full time (employed) but my partner is self employed. We have been through the last minute help thing before - he has problems with organisation although is absolutely amazing at his job. I told him after several panics on his part that he needed to be more organised with his time and I will help but only at a pre-determined time where I can properly switch off from my actual job.
I also got him a wall planner and diary for his birthday years ago. We have had no issues since then. I know it's slightly different but it's that dependency on YOU and that is making him possibly doubt himself in his decision making.
And 10.30 is v late to be talking through work stuff if you want to go to bed at 11, your brain will be full of work crap - and not even your own job!
8pm would be more reasonable!
Honestly I think you were a bit of a martyr - if you wanted to go to bed at 11, you should have followed through and gone to bed, rather than waiting up to help him and letting him faff on while you kicked your heels.
My DH can be like this. I find it helps both his confidence and my sanity to resist the urge to fix things, and ask questions instead: talk me through what you're trying to do? What did you do last time? Etc. That gets him talking, then he either realises he knows the answers, or works out a plan. Every time he gains more confidence in his own, very considerable, abilities, and I get to take another step back.
Disclaimer: sometimes I'm tired and generally short on emotional bandwidth, so coaching mode goes out the window and I do just fix it!
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