I don't venture into JFO very often, but I popped in to read yesterday and saw that gmc94 had bumped up the "Codependency in a Marriage: A BS's common mistake" thread. I had forgotten all about posting on it back in early 2015, and was blown away when I read my response and realized just how far along I've come in my healing.
Thank you for bumping it up gmc94.
After checking with the mods to make sure it was okay, I am posting my response to that thread here, and thought I'd share what is different between then and now, and how I have come this far.
Member # 45817 Posted: 1:14 PM, April 4th (Saturday), 2015
THIS IS ME! Thank you for this post.
Given the devastation that is unleashed on our lives in the wake of discovering that our spouse was unfaithful, it’s not uncommon to find ourselves holding on and attempting to fix the WS or control the Marital outcome.
I can see that I have been trying to control the marital outcome since d-day. WH lost his job two months post-dday and we have been together 24/7 since which has only increased my codependency and attempts to keep him here. As for attempting to fix him, well that has been going on for most of our relationship. Logically I know that I cannot fix him or control the marital outcome yet emotionally I cannot let go. I need to work on this for sure.
Codependency, means making the relationship more important to you than you are to yourself. Are you making your relationship more important than yourself? I know I did, prior to the affair and increased that in the aftermath of D-Day. Please let me say this as clearly as possible. You cannot make the marriage work with someone else who’s not. The harder you try the worse it will become; you do it at the detriment to yourself, putting that dysfunctional relationship first. Many BS’s here wanted my marriage so bad they were willing to negotiate with thier WS to their own emotional and mental peril
I have made the relationship more important than myself for years. Just prior to his A I had finally let go of the codependency and was focusing on myself, working on making myself a better, stronger person...and it was during this time that he began his A and so on d-day all the old codependent behaviours came back with a vengeance. I am finding myself still stuck in my codependency and I know it has been at a great cost to myself and my mental health yet I cannot seem to find my way back to where I was before d-day. I am trying hard to find my way back but it has been so freakin' hard.
There are many reasons I have seen here on SI for the codependency within the marriage. One partner may have trouble controlling other impulses, or simply not show much interest in the partnership. It can be about controlling outcomes and assuming a motherly/fatherly role with the WS. It can be a historic need by the BS to work the partner’s problem or issue in an attempt to “fix” their problems. But other issues in a couple’s lives can foster codependence, too.
Trouble controlling impulses - that would be a massive yes for both WH and myself as we are both addicts (alcohol/gambling)
Controlling outcomes - again a massive yes on both of our parts.
Assuming a parental role - again another massive yes, moreso on my part. Not so much in the beginning of our relationship but most definitely after he lost his sight. It certainly didn't help that his mother had asked me to "take care of him" on her deathbed, since that definitely fed the codependency.
Codependency issues seem to gravitate around a few common things here on SI. The first being control. Many times the BS grabs control of the relationship and allows the WS to give less and unplug from the Marriage. They do this because they perceive the WS as out-of-control person or to have some flaw the WS refuses to address or BS is not allowing them the space to address. This dynamic allows the BS to get to be the person who is in control and thus be respected for being the responsible one or one who steps up. It allows the BS to be the better person, the smarter person, the person who’s recognized as having it all together. They’re defining themselves as strong enough to deal with it, when actually they need to realize that maybe they should be taking care of themselves instead of proving their strength. This dynamic also allows a WS to feel less than capable, if they have underlying self-esteem issues it creates a further expansion of the space by which they can spiral that place.
Wow, YES! I definitely took control and allowed WH to unplug from the marriage. I made sure the bills/mortgage were paid, did the groceries, cooked all the meals, made his coffee in the morning and his lunches, drove him to and from work, cleaned up the financial messes he made when he would go on his benders. I was looked at as the responsible one and I thrived on that. I had been so irresponsible for years that when people would tell me how responsible I was it just fed my codependency. All the while I didn't even notice that WH felt less than and that his self-esteem, which was incredibly poor to begin with, took a huge nosedive. How the hell could he possibly feel worthy when I stripped him the ability to take care of his own shit? It kills me to know what I have done to him and that I continue on in my codependent ways.
Ask yourself a few questions regarding your relationship, see if you believe your codependent to the WS or the idea of the marriage. Is this relationship more important to me than I am? While love does have a selfless element, we all want to make partner happy, do you see yourself as “the giver” and your WS “the taker”. If so you might be codependent. Giving a lot for that person because you love them is fine, but you shouldn’t be destroying yourself to give it. If I have to do that, something’s wrong.
WH and I have both taken on the roles of "giver" and "taker" throughout our relationship. When I was full on in my gambling addiction he was definitely the "giver", he would work his ass off and I as the "taker" would spend his paycheques on my habit, with no regard for him or anyone else. Then when I got clean and his alcoholism spun out of control I became the "giver" and he became the "taker". What a mess, right? It makes me incredibly sad that we have both destroyed our own selves in the process of trying to give to the other. There is so much work we need to do on this.
Ask yourself , Am I the only one putting energy into this relationship? If so you are definitely codependent and setting yourself up to be abused emotionally. You cannot make the marriage work with someone else who’s not. You need and deserve a partner, which means they give to you as much as you give to them. There is no couple when only one person is putting forth any effort, it’s a mother/father relationship.
Most days it feels like I am the only one putting energy into the marriage and I know that as a result I have allowed myself to be emotionally abused, especially with the TT. The days where I see WH putting in effort give me hope, but those days haven't happened too often. It is so tiring to keep fighting for a marriage that I am not even sure WH wants. I am trying to find my strength again right now and release myself from this codependency. Baby steps right now is all I can manage, but at least I feel like I am trying to find myself again.
Co-dependent marriages are the most abusive form of marriages. They are based on need, but are not healthy. Each partner in the marriage tries to take advantage of his or her hold on the other partner. This can often deteriorate into the sort of marriage where the two partners can neither live together nor live apart. This is where BS’s need to be aware, and stop the marriage from sliding into co-dependency. The individual needs the confidence to become independent, to stand on his own feet. There is no harm in encouraging inter-dependence, but co-dependence in a marriage must be avoided at all costs.
I can see where we both have, at times, tried to take advantage of our hold on each other. It certainly feels right now that we are in a marriage where we cannot live together or apart. It really is a toxic situation to be in and incredibly draining emotionally. I know that I need to become independent again so I can see things more clearly. I know I need to focus on myself. It is easier to know what to do than to actually do it, but I know I have to start.
I still remember the absolute desperation of those early months after dday. The thought of being abandoned and not having control over anything put me into an emotional tailspin. I clung on to my relationship with BetterFuture13 as though my life depended on it. I tried anything and everything I could think of to get some control back, and my codependency worsened.
I really believed that I had conquered my codependency just prior to dday, but as it turns out I had just done superficial things to give myself the illusion of being better. I had started doing things for myself at that time, but hadn't dug into the roots of why I was codependent to begin with, so when dday hit I went right back to the same codependent behaviours (and then some).
I made all sorts of excuses as to why BetterFuture13 couldn't do x, y or z and I had to act like a parent instead of a wife. His disability. He worked too much and didn't have the time. He was too immature. He wasn't responsible enough. He wasn't insightful enough. And on and on. He didn't even need to make up excuses for himself, because I did it for him. I needed him to be "less than" so I could feel like I was "better than". So that I could feel worth.
In the three and a bit years since I responded to that post so much has changed.
Insights into myself, my thoughts and behaviours.
I am able to see the difference between living in denial and living in reality. I still check my thinking and ask myself "Are you looking at things how they ARE, or are you looking at them how you want them to be?". I have learned to be mindful and really pay attention to keep myself from slipping back into the denial I used to live in (that is so common with codependency).
I have seen and I own my role in creating/maintaining a parent/child relationship with BetterFuture13 for so many years. I have seen the impact it had on myself, him and our children.
I have watched BetterFuture13 step up as I stepped back. I see now that he was more capable, wiser, stronger and insightful than I thought or ever gave him credit for. It was scary stepping back and focusing on healing MYSELF, but I knew if I didn't I would lose myself completely. BetterFuture13 could have easily decided to walk when I started working on myself, and that was the risk I knew I would have to take, but he surprised me, and together we have created a much stronger partnership. We value and respect each other now.
Through all of this work and healing I have also discovered that my worth does not depend on what or how much I can do for others, or by making others "less than" - I now know that I have worth just by simply being me. Developing self-compassion and working through years of toxic shame was key for me.
I have become so much healthier mentally since I started the work to address my codependency (and other issues). It really feels like a weight has been lifted off of me and I feel free.
I feel like I am rambling at this point, so I'll stop here.
If you are just starting out on your own path to healing, please know that it takes time and perseverance, facing your fears and dealing with your own issues head-on. It's not easy, sometimes it's one step forward, two steps back, the key is to keep pushing forward. You are worth it!