by Sara K.
One of the most life-changing books I’ve ever read, Codependent No More, was recommended to both my husband and me, at the second session with our marriage counselor.
Codependency is the idea that you value the relationship with other people more than you value yourself. It is the quintessential doormat.
I was born a pleaser. My father was a very strict and demanding man. As one of six children, it kept me ‘under the radar’ to constantly try to assess what I could do for him or other people so that they would continue to like me – instead of belittle me.
It came as no surprise to me, after reading this book, that I was seeking approval and accolades from everyone but myself. It also came as no surprise after reading this book, that I married a man so intertwined with codependence that the very life we were living was wrought with lies to cover up the tremendous insecurity that we were hiding inside. We both had much work to do in order to stand on our own two feet.
My husband also from a large family, was a pleaser as well. He was born to a mother who really didn’t know how to express emotion, never hugged him, never said she was proud of him. This led to tremendous insecurity seeking approval wherever he could get it for the rest of his adult life.
My husband’s trips to strip clubs and a one night infidelity with a dancer, became his terrible secret. He was filled with self-loathing for what he had done, but was so terrified of the person he would be showing me if he just came clean. It took a found credit card bill to open up the floodgates to our truth. My husband’s first words (after tremendous tears and apologies) was, “Thank God you found out so it can finally stop.” This was what allowed me to stay.
After a few years of therapy and a really big admission that yes, we are worth the investment, we learned a lot about ourselves and learning to become both an independent person and married person.
When you are codependent, you are enmeshed in unhealthy, approval seeking life. You may stop doing things that are important to you, give up your passions and pretend to love his. You either become a fixer, always trying to take care of everyone else and anticipate their needs before your own or you become bored and depressed with your own path because it isn’t fulfilling your needs.
In my marriage, I had both. I would work my ass off trying to solicit great feedback and feelings from my husband only to have him depressed that I wasn’t actually fulfilling his needs at all. He couldn’t communicate his needs to me, because he had this terrible secret and I could not ask for what I needed because I felt undeserving. This cycle continued for nearly fifteen years.
Codependent relationships cause all sorts of problems
Codependency created such tremendous resentment between us that I was unsure we could ever survive. However, once we stripped the marriage clean and started fresh with honesty the communication flowed. It was hard and tremendously painful to hear many of the things my husband shared and wanted. But, it was even harder (if that makes any sense) for me to communicate what I wanted or needed.
Codependent relationships are a veritable petri dish for self-loathing, guilt, resentment, sometimes addiction and definitely a downward spiral. If you feel that you are finally out into the truth of your relationship and are dealing (or dealt) with your spouse’s affair or infidelity, even if the relationship did not hold up through the hurricane, please read through this checklist and see if you have fallen into the pattern. Until you change the behavior of codependency you will continue to bring that baggage with you into any relationship you find for yourself.
Learning that it was not only okay, but necessary, to walk around with pride in myself and put me back into the equation allowed me to care, love and spend time alone or with my husband- without guilt. Removing codependency from your relationship takes a lot of work, often with a therapist. But, reading Melody Beattie’s book is a great start…
Here’s a checklist from Codependent No More – does any of this sound like you or your spouse?
- Do you feel responsible for other people–their feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, wants, needs, well-being and destiny?
- Do you feel compelled to help people solve their problems or by trying to take care of their feelings?
- Do you find it easier to feel and express anger about injustices done to others than about injustices done to you?
- Do you feel safest and most comfortable when you are giving to others?
- Do you feel insecure and guilty when someone gives to you?
- Do you feel empty, bored and worthless if you don’t have someone else to take care of, a problem to solve, or a crisis to deal with?
- Are you often unable to stop talking, thinking and worrying about other people and their problems?
- Do you lose interest in your own life when you are in love?
- Do you stay in relationships that don’t work and tolerate abuse in order to keep people loving you?
- Do you leave bad relationships only to form new ones that don’t work, either?