As long as you are a free standing adult, even if compromised by disability or chronic ill health, you cannot outsource care of your soul or the core of your self to anyone else. Well you can, and we do but it is frequently disappointing, and ultimately harmful to your growth as a person. Yet I regularly meet folk who have come unstuck having got away for years with giving over some or all of their self-care to a group, a therapist, a member of the family, partner, sibling, even a child or a substance or activity. It always feels sticky to me – like there’s some deal under the table, a quid pro quo, that isn’t acknowledged until one has to extract oneself from the dependency. And then you wonder how did I do that for all those years. The answer is by occluding the person who has ultimate responsibility for your self, the one you’re born with and who will be extinguished at death. There is a great trap inherent in marriage or a life partnership when we hide our self in a relationship.
There are many escape routes (emotional affairs, work, the pub, women’s circles, polyamory) and many complaints that the relationship isn’t meeting our needs. (Try converting every complaint into a request in your relationship in order to get a bit closer to real self-care.) However, some of those wants/needs cannot and should not be met by our partner in an adult committed relationship. We meet needs of our children up to a point. Totally for a new born, up until the developmental stage of autonomy versus shame & doubt begins, between 18 months and 3 years of age.
Our duty as parents and guardians is to progressively en-courage them to be self responsible. Some adults enter a life partnership without having left home in this sense of self responsibility and self care. Not having experienced tough love, and expecting their partner to pick up their dirty washing from the bathroom floor where they left them. Or to monitor their drinking or their work hours or time with the kids. These folk often maintain a primary relationship with that first home, which feels like a competitor for their duties and commitments in their marriage.