Encourage him to demonstrate independence and responsibility for his emotional needs.

Divorcing a Needy Husband

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

Being married to a needy man can cause you to feel smothered and drained. When you decide to end the marriage, things may get worse before they get better because the stress of you leaving can increase his dependency. Don’t give in to his neediness and derail the divorce. Encourage him to take responsibility for his own needs.

1. Grieve the Relationship

It’s normal for you both to grieve the marriage, to need to cry and to want someone to comfort you. Your needy husband might drain your emotional resources, however. Make sure you accept your pain and allow time for your own grieving as you cope with your normal responsibilities, such as getting your child to school or day care and getting to work, suggests therapist Heather Edwards in “Difficult Divorce? 6 Ways to Get Unstuck” for Psychology Today. Enlist support from friends or a therapist to deal with your loss and grief.

2. Deal with Your Fears

Fears are a normal part of moving into the unknown, and fears of being engulfed by your husband’s neediness can cause you to withdraw emotionally, notes therapist Margaret Paul in “Emotional Dependency, Needing Space” for the Huffington Post. Set boundaries with him so he knows your limits, such as not texting you multiple times a day or begging to sustain the marriage. Tell him what you need most, such as time to cope with the divorce or to see him take responsibility for his life.

3. Caring for You and Your Child

Your child will have issues with the divorce, so make sure you attend to her needs. Do things together that are fun while encouraging your husband to spend time with your child as well. If his attentions toward her become smothering, explain to him that he needs to lighten up or he may cause the child to withdraw, suggests psychologist Joseph M. Carver in “Husband Dependent upon Wife.” If things become too difficult or draining, consider family counseling.

4. Your Relationship with Your Ex

When you and your husband separate, he may become angry, anguished and desperate to get you back, suggests therapist and coach Jack Ito in “How to Be Less Needy in Relationships.” Remind yourself that you could never love him enough to fill the empty spaces inside him. Let him know that you aren’t responsible for his emotional balance. Work with him so he remains a healthy part of your child's life, treating him with respect and compassion but refusing to enable his dependency on you.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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