This post identifies the behaviors that you believe might bring a spouse back, how many of those behaviors are based in enabling and codependence…

Enabling and Codependence

By Sarah P.

I do not know what it is about the past couple of months that has turned many normally grounded people into huge fools. But, I have seen it everywhere. I have seen well-meaning betrayed spouses/partners responding in the most inappropriate ways to wayward spouses/partners.

It seems that a wayward spouses egregious behavior is directly proportionate to a wayward spouse’s kindness and giving the benefit of the doubt. I have seen many people recently allow themselves to get played by a wayward partner, all the while being blind to the fact that they are playing right into the cheater’s plan. I believe betrayed spouses need to have boundaries.

I wanted to provide an example of what good boundaries look like and I found them in a Friend’s episode. Now, technically these characters were not married, but the themes Rachel brings up are universal. This clip also shows miscommunication or perhaps how Ross uses ambiguity to his advantage.

In this clip, Ross and Rachel had taken “a break” the evening before in order to figure out what they wanted from the relationship. But, it was not a break-up. In this episode, Ross slept with another woman just hours after talking to Rachel about getting some air, believing that the break was a reason to justify this. And of course, this backfires. The morning after Ross goes around trying to do damage control since others (except Rachel) found out. Ultimately Ross’s damage control fails, and Rachel finds out:


I wanted to point out a few things I liked about this clip.

The first thing I liked about it was that Rachel addressed it head on. When Ross did not get it, Rachel forced him to visual her with another man using graphic descriptions. The third thing I liked is that she did not let him off the hook even though he apologized.

Later in this episode, Rachel does not run back into the arms of Ross and instead has to let it process that he has been with another woman. She makes a clean break so that he can feel the full force of his actions.

Whether someone is married or not, the only power they have in a relationship is the power they give themselves. Their power comes from their choices, their boundaries, and how they decide to show up in the world. Everyone around them can betray them, try to victimize them or undermine them, or harm them. But, that person does not have to be victimized by setting clear boundaries and sticking to them. If your spouse has had an affair, your victimization (or not) is within your hands. You choose to be a victim.

We cannot choose what life throws at us, and life can throw a lot of unpleasantries at us.  But we can choose to suffer or not.

Meditate on that for a moment: there will always be suffering in life. Always. But, each of us must choose our response to suffering and each of us has the power of choice.

Enabling and Codependence

When an affair occurs, many people’s natural response to the suffering of an affair involves codependence. Yes, this topic again. But, it is such a prevalent reaction after an affair and yet it causes betrayed spouses to play “the double fool.”

I really like this definition of how codependence comes into play, which is provided by the contributor LordHasAPlan on the Surviving Infidelity (SI) site:

“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. 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 marriage so bad they were willing to negotiate with their WS to their own emotional and mental peril.

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… 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.” (1)

I really like this person’s viewpoint because I think they are spot-on in their thinking.

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Codependency Taken to the Extreme

I wanted to bring to light a scenario that I have observed ever since I was in college. Of course, when I was in college, I did not know anything about healthy relationships. I looked to my friends and if their relationship system appeared to work, then I would assume that it what it took to make a good relationship, never mind the fact that college relationships often lasted no more than two years. But, if someone was together for 6 months, that was a really long time in college terms, and that was a ‘serious’ relationship.

The system that worked in college was codependence.

It was the particular scenario where there was a small group of female best friends, but at least one of the best friends was always disappearing off the face of the earth. Just as mysteriously as she disappeared, she would often reappear several months later. And the conversation would always go like this:

“Jenny, we were like worried about you. We only left about 100 gazillion messages on your answering machine—where were you?”


“Debbie, like I saw you at the mall last weekends and even though I was waving and yelling your name you didn’t see me. Did I totally piss you off or something?”


“Kelly, where have you been? We knocked on your dorm room door for hours each day and you never answered. Everyone totally thought you had been kidnapped by aliens!”

And then Jenny, Debbie, or Kelly would answer something to the effect of:

“Well, you know that guy Mike who works at the pizza parlor? Well, we started this relationship and it was so intense—we just couldn’t stop staring into each other’s eyes. I even stopped skipping class to be with him but then he dumped me. I totally thought he was so into me!”


“Yeah sorry I didn’t answer the door. Do you remember Max from the football team? Well, he was totally my soulmate, ya know. Or at least I thought he was and we spent all of our waking hours together. But then I found out that he was actually with that cheerleader Lindsay when he was supposed to be at football practice!”


“You were at the mall? Are you sure about that? Well, I was at the mall with Adam and I didn’t see you there. Are you sure you didn’t mistake me for someone else?”

I saw a lot of college relationships like this and we all thought giving up our friends, disappearing for the sake of a guy, and devoting all of our time to said guy was what normal relationships were about.

In college, we also believed that physical chemistry (not the class but the heady sexual concoction of chemicals) was the most important thing in life and relationships. We judged our partners solely on whether or not he could cause butterflies in our stomachs and send a tingle through our toes.

But, what are those college-type relationships based upon? Well, they are based upon immaturity and codependence. In fact, I have come to think of codependence as a type of immaturity.

See also  Dealing With a Marital Rut

Fully actualized adults, per Maslow’s pyramid, is not a codependent adult. We cannot be fully actualized and autonomous beings while being codependent. Just like oil and water, the two do not mix.

What does this have to do with affair recovery?


You see, before there was the affair, there was marriage. A marriage may have been founded on this codependent thinking, which would say that we melt into our spouse. Even though the Bible talks about becoming one flesh, this is a figurative thing and NOT a literal thing.

When taken literally people will think that they are supposed to give up their identities as separate individuals. But when taken figuratively, it means that you should consider yourself like your spouse and never do anything to your spouse that you would not want to have done to you. If you think about it, this precludes affairs.  I cannot think of anyone out there who would want to be a betrayed spouse. Becoming one flesh means that if we don’t want it for ourselves, then we cannot do it to our spouse.

Becoming one flesh also refers to the marriage body. One needs to take care of the marriage body and treat it the same way that they would treat their own body. If someone has an affair, they are risking what could be a fatal blow to the marriage body.

Becoming one flesh is about commitment and about never harming a spouse in the way that you yourself would not want to be harmed.

But, becoming one flesh is not about codependence.

Melody Beattie is the expert on codependence. She has a master list on her website, but I have worked that list down to the essentials. (Please see the sources for her whole list.) I would like for you to go through this list of behaviors and figure out which ones applied to your marriage prior to the affair and which ones apply to your marriage post-affair. Please be brutally honest with yourself. Remember that while the river Nile leads somewhere, the river of Denial leads nowhere.

Here is the list of codependent behaviors according to Melody Beattie:

Codependent people…

  • “think and feel responsible for other people for other people’s feelings, actions, choices, wants, needs, well-being, lack of well-being, and ultimate destiny.
  • feel anxiety, pity, and guilt when other people have a problem.
  • feel compelled almost forced to help that person solve the problem, such as offering unwanted advice, giving a rapid-fire series of suggestions, or fixing feelings.
  • feel angry when their help isn’t effective.
  • anticipate other people’s needs.
  • wonders why others don’t do the same for them.
  • finds themselves saying yes when they mean no, doing things they don’t really want to be doing, doing more than their fair share of the work, and doing things other people are capable of doing for themselves.
  • do not know what they want and need or, if they do, tell themselves what they want and need is not important.
  • try to please others instead of themselves.
  • find it easier to feel and express anger about injustices done to others, rather than injustices done to themselves.
  • pick on themselves for everything, including the way they think, feel, look, act, and behave.
  • get angry, defensive, self-righteous, and indignant when others blame and criticize the codependents something codependents regularly do to themselves.
  • think they’re not quite good enough.
  • feel guilty about spending money on themselves or doing unnecessary or fun things for themselves.
  • have been victims of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, or alcoholism.
  • have a lot of “shoulds.”
  • feel a lot of guilt.
  • feel ashamed of who they are
  • ignore problems or pretend they aren’t happening.
  • pretend circumstances aren’t as bad as they are.
  • tell themselves things will be better tomorrow.
  • stay busy so they don’t have to think about things.

Codependents also…

  • get confused.
  • get depressed or sick.
  • go to doctors and get tranquilizers.
  • became workaholics.
  • spend money compulsively.
  • overeat.
  • pretend those things aren’t happening, either.
  • watch problems get worse.
  • believe lies.
  • lie to themselves.
  • wonder why they feel like they’re going crazy.

Finally, codependents…

  • feel terribly threatened by the loss of any thing or person they think provides their happiness.
  • didn’t feel love and approval from their parents.
  • don’t love themselves.
  • often seek love from people incapable of loving.
  • believe other people are never there for them.
  • equate love with pain.
  • feel they need people more than they want them.
  • try to prove they’re good enough to be loved.
  • don’t take time to see if other people are good for them.
  • worry whether other people love or like them.
  • don’t take time to figure out if they love or like other people.
  • center their lives around other people.
  • look to relationships to provide all their good feelings.
  • lose interest in their own lives when they love.
  • stay in relationships that don’t work.
  • tolerate abuse to keep people loving them.
  • feel trapped in relationships.
  • leave bad relationships and form new ones that don’t work either.
  • say they won’t tolerate certain behaviors from other people.
  • gradually increase their tolerance until they can tolerate and do things they said they never would.
  • let others hurt them.
  • keep letting people hurt them.
  • wonder why they hurt so badly.
  • complain, blame, and try to control while they continue to stand there.
  • finally get angry.
  • become totally intolerant.
  • feel very scared, hurt, and angry.
  • are afraid to make other people feel anger.
  • feel controlled by other people’s anger.
  • repress their angry feelings.
  • cry a lot, get depressed, overeat, get sick, do mean and nasty things to get even, act hostile, or have violent temper outbursts.
  • punish other people for making the codependents angry.
  • have been shamed for feeling angry.
  • have sex when they don’t want to.
  • have sex when they’d rather be held, nurtured, and loved.
  • try to have sex when they’re angry or hurt.
  • refuse to enjoy sex because they’re so angry at their partner.
  • are afraid of losing control.
  • have a difficult time asking for what they need in bed.
  • withdraw emotionally from their partner.
  • feel sexual revulsion toward their partner.
  • don’t talk about it.
  • force themselves to have sex, anyway.
  • reduce sex to a technical act.
  • be extremely responsible.
  • be extremely irresponsible.
  • become martyrs, sacrificing their happiness and that of others for causes that don’t require sacrifice.
  • have an overall passive response to codependency–crying, hurt, helplessness.
  • have and overall aggressive response to codependency–violence, anger, dominance.
  • combine passive and aggressive responses.
  • vacillate in decisions and emotions.
  • laugh when they feel like crying.
  • stay loyal to their compulsions and people even when it hurts.
  • be ashamed about family, personal, or relationship problems.
  • be confused about the nature of the problem.
  • cover up, lie, and protect the problem.
  • not seek help because they tell themselves the problem isn’t bad enough, or they aren’t important enough.
  • wonder why the problem doesn’t go away.” (2)

Wow, that is quite a list—and it is not even the full list! Since all of us are human, I think all of us can find ourselves participating in at least one of those unhealthy behaviors. But, are we really codependent? Not really.

We are codependent if these items on the list are ingrained thinking and behavior patterns. These are behaviors that we do most of the time and they cause problems in our lives. So people who are truly codependent live their lives according to these behaviors. It is not just a phase.

Still these non-functional behaviors come out during affair recovery

Sometimes others can see our behaviors more clearly than we can our own behaviors. I do not know anyone who really wants to come to the terms with the fact that unproductive behaviors drive them. What I mean is that it’s not necessarily a happy feeling when you realize unproductive behaviors drive you. I don’t know anyone who is walking around saying: “I am so happy that I discovered today I have had a martyr complex for the past 40 years. Whoopee!”

No, it does not quite happen that way, does it?

Not everyone is codependent, even though a lot of people are. Like everything, codependence is not a black/white and either/or thing.

Even if someone looks at the list and can see themselves in every single point, what matters is the frequency of such behaviors. If these behaviors have become part of your core personality, you are a codependent.

On the other hand, if you engage in these behaviors very infrequently, you may not be a codependent.

See also  What to Say When a Wayward Spouse Blames You for the Affair

The problem is that many codependents feel shame just by admitting they see those behaviors in themselves. And so, they will go right back into their cozy place of denial where they are perfect because the shame of such a realization is so terrible.

But, one of the worst part about codependents who refuse to see it in themselves is how they destroy their lives.

Cheating spouses and betrayed spouses alike can be codependents. Many times someone who is codependent at the core will have an affair if whomever they normally do the codependent dance with no longer meets that need. People who do this go towards what is familiar to them. The other person generally does the codependent dance better than the spouse.

Now, please do not misunderstand– not everyone who has an affair is a codependent. There are many types of people who have affairs and many types of affairs. People who most likely are caught in affairs can include: narcissists, sociopaths, people with borderline personality disorder, alcoholics, drug addicts, sex addicts, people who have experienced childhood dysfunction, people in the throes of midlife crises, and even the garden variety ‘Church-goer’ who everyone believes is the last person to have an affair.

Or, if you were alive during the 1970’s, you will remember the Armor Hot Dog song that explains all kinds of kids like Armor Hot Dogs. Well, all kinds of adults like to have affairs, but I believe people with disordered characters are the most likely.

Then, there are the type of affairs. Many people have written about different types of affairs, so this is not the scope of this post.

The scope of this post is identify the behaviors that you believe might bring a spouse back, how many of those behaviors are based in codependence, and how most of all, these behaviors do not work.

They say the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

How many betrayed spouses do this and why?

That’s when codependence came to mind. And then passive-aggressiveness also came to mind. I started researching people’s experiences with this and found another good example on the Divorce Buster’s website by a man who calls himself 4myFamily. He took the high road for many years, during his wife’s affair, since he had young children. He tried the loving-kindness route and tried to treat his wife better and better. Of course, this just led to him receiving the opposite behavior of what he expected. His wife just became more open about her affair and even more sexually withdrawn from him. After years of being the perfect doormat, by his own choice, he woke up and said this:

“My wife has been to one counseling session where she has admitted these behaviors but still denies them to me. She has asked me not to try to ‘fix’ her she is ‘happy’ as she is. She is ‘happy’ to stuff her anger inside her and never get so attached to someone so that she can never ever be hurt. My advice is if you think your spouse is in MLC please also research Passive Aggressive behavior. ‘Frequently, the victim of passive aggressive anger is unaware that he or she is on the receiving end of clandestine resentment. The victim of this resentment often reports feelings of anxiety, sadness, anger, and various psychosomatic symptoms. Because the victim is seen as frustrated and irritable, that person may be wrongly identified by others as the angrier partner. Meanwhile the passive-aggressive spouse tries to paint a self-portrait of a calm and relaxed person. If your spouse has an affair: The ultimate act of Passive Aggression is when they realise that you are no longer compliant to them so they then embark on an affair. There are always plenty of eager needy desperate people willing to tell them whatever they want to hear, to lead the cheer squad when they deliver their standard old passive aggressive speech about how great they are. If someone is sufficiently desperate for a partner they will simply turn a blind eye to the fact that the person that is telling them how wonderful, reliable and honest they are is doing so behind the back of the person that they are committed to and that trusts them not to. Passive aggressive people do not seek and find emotionally healthy people, they simply find the next needy co-dependent person that is open to their particular line of BS. If you do decide to try and save your marriage then so many of the good Divorce Busting tactics are similar to dealing with Passive Aggressive Behaviors.  My tactics/advice would be/are: Get a life, PA [physical affair] is covert abuse, realize this and do not allow yourself to be a victim. These people are nasty covert abusers… do not under any circumstance aid them in abusing you. You do not need to be in an abusive relationship. Do not under any circumstances enable your own abuse.

Do not always believe you are loved (at the moment). ‘The sad thing is, you can be made to believe that you are loved and adored by a person who is completely unable to form an emotional connection with anyone.’ Let them know unequivocally you know what their tactics are and that they will NOT work anymore. Be aware that ‘Due to their own lack of insight into their feelings the passive aggressive often feels that others misunderstand them or, are holding them to unreasonable standards if they are confronted about their behavior’. However, in my opinion they must hear an unpleasant truth rather than a pleasant lie, if they are to change. Do not under any circumstances let them play the victim. They and they alone are responsible for their actions subconscious or conscious. 

If they want to find another victim there is nothing you can do to stop it – stay detached, stay silent they only want to abuse you and hurt you in any way they can.

Do not fear separation it will be good for you if you recognize and want to stop enabling the covert abuse. If they wish to confront those issues be supportive BUT this is not your problem to fix, this is not your fault, stay detached. They are masters of covert, devious and dishonest behavior, this is a whole lifestyle for them…If they decide to stay as they are in the ‘safety’ of avoidance, once YOU recognize the damage they have done to YOU and your family through their years of P A covert abuse I think you will find it easy to move on with very little sadness. Remember this is not your fault.”


Yes indeed, this is what it looks like to wake up.



Finding Your Inner Bad-Ass

The other day it hit me like a ton of bricks that our usual social rules of being kind, cordial, and understanding cannot work in a situation where there is an affair. In fact, they actually work against us and drive our wayward spouses into the arms of the other person.

Once again, whether it is politically correct or not, I am going to say there is a difference between men and women in this respect. In the case of male betrayed spouses, these kind and understanding actions drive a wayward spouse into her lover’s arms at the speed of light. I do not know of any woman who becomes more attracted to her husband if said husband allows her to walk all over him.

While I do not read romance novels, I once took a course in writing them because this industry happens to be a billion dollar industry and I was at one time contacted by several agents in this field. I just could not do it because I could not relate to it and found no pleasure in following their very strict writing formula. I like too much nuance and playing with timelines. Yet, this is the industry that makes the most money for publishers.

Millions of women choose to spend their hard-earned money on romance novels and it’s always smart to look at what people do instead of what people say.

The very formulaic plot of the typical romance novel appeals to many women. The plots are always the same and the characters are always the same. The only difference is where/when they are set and the different character tropes.

For example, the Twilight series is a romance novel series. 50 Shades of Gray is also a romance novel series. (50 Shades of Gray greatly disturbs me but that is another topic.) The Highlander Series is a romance novel series. True Blood is a romance novel series. They say that Jane Austen was the first true romance writer and really distinguished this genre from others.

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Many women love the typical romance novel formula. While some women prefer moody vampires with perfect hair, others prefer stoic cowboys, and still others prefer a broad-shouldered, hunky man in a kilt galloping on a horse across the Scottish highlands. Anyhow, the leading men are all the same no matter if they are an emo vampire, a Marlboro man, or a Duncan Macleod. And apparently this “emo-vampire” trope has had so much success the real Count Dracula cannot get dates. Here is a little comic-relief that makes fun of the emo-vampire trope if you care to watch it:



Now back to the psychology of it all

Notice that these men in romance novels always start out as bad boys, or as outsiders, or as the handsome and mysterious stranger with come-hither eyes. And these men are generally a real pain in the butt to the heroine in the story.

Often, these men are former womanizers and it is the heroine’s love that is able to get that man to channel his desire solely into her. But, his desire is fickle and powerful and it is never easy for the heroine. Underneath it all, he is always a bit more powerful than her and even the most feisty heroines cave into these male heroes who are strong. The romance novel contains the perfect dance of push and pull—will he or won’t he—will she do it or not—will they see it or not…?

Let us extrapolate this psychology onto affairs, specifically the case where the wife is the wayward spouse. If a wife is having an affair, it is because she has been swept off her feet into some kind of fantasy world that she is projecting onto the other man. We all know logically that the other man often does not have anything on the husband. It takes a pretty nasty guy to lure a wife away and I have found many men follow a ‘bro code.’ (I wish women would do that for each other but most do not.)

In the case of the female wayward spouse, the other man has often triggered in her this very primal thing that many women desire. And this primal thing is based on the woman desiring someone who is more powerful, who is unpredictable, and whom she cannot control. True masculinity is confidence, inner-strength, the ability to be in control of all situations, and the ability to protect what is his. But it is his inner-strength that carries him and this is the energy he exudes. This is the type of man portrayed in romance novels.

Quite often, a husband stops portraying these things because they have been “domesticated.” And that is an entirely different topic. It is also NOT the fault of the husband. Being a great dad, a great provider, and keeping a family together is about predictability.

The other man is unpredictable and seems powerful because he skirts the rules of society by poaching another man’s wife.

So, when a woman cheats on her husband, the last thing a husband should do is continue to play the role of the predictable breadwinner. While he needs to be there for the sake of the kids, he should bring his wife’s affair out in the open, he should make her feel ashamed, and he should consult an excellent father’s right’s attorney. Yes, you read that correctly: a man needs to consult a father’s right attorney if his wife is cheating. I am not easy on either gender when they cheat and when a woman cheats the last thing a husband should do is lie down and take such treatment from his wife. If he does lie down or play the good guy, she will lose more respect for him and this will drive her into the other man’s arms. Is this politically correct advice? Heck no.  But, it is how it is.

Then there is the female side…

Let’s contrast that with the typical heroine of romance novels. Sometimes she is a shrinking violet, but these days she is more often than not a feisty woman. The typical plot includes a spirited, self-sufficient heroine who doesn’t want a relationship, but who ends up falling for that bad-boy who was turned good-boy by her love alone.

Either way…

None of the characters written in the typical romance series are doormats. Readers do not want doormat characters who bend and cower at the first sign of trouble. If plots were like that, the whole romance book market would end in an instant. Once again, these novels are written because they appeal to the basic psychology of many people.

One of the reasons wayward spouses have affairs in real life is because there is some kind of intrigue behind it all. (This is NOT or ever an excuse for affairs.) But, if some of the appeal of the other person is wondering what might happen next, a betrayed spouse cannot be a doormat. This type of behavior drives the wayward spouse into the other person’s arms because as far as a wayward spouse is concerned, this is the signal that they can have their cake and eat it too.

Therefore, playing the nice guy or the ever-suffering wife will not bring a wayward spouse back home. We teach people how to treat us. If a betrayed spouse does not find his or her inner bad-ass and stand up, the marriage may as well be lost.

But as always, this seems like counterintuitive advice!

Most people believe they can only be in the power position if they compete against the other person and show how good of a spouse they are to the wayward spouse. This simply prolongs an affair because the wayward spouse feels very powerful since both the other person and the betrayed spouse are competing for his or her affections. It also makes the wayward spouse lose ALL respect for the betrayed spouse.

It teaches the wayward spouse they can have their cake and eat it too and it gives them a heady ego boost. A wayward spouse feels all-powerful and almost God-like when two people are fighting over him (or her). The betrayed spouse must remove himself or herself from the equation and stop allowing themselves to be in second place.

This is why I talked about codependence in the beginning of the post. It is important to be reminded of what codependence looks like and also be reminded that it tends to be a default position for a betrayed spouse.

But, if you are to win back your spouse and save your marriage, you cannot take the stance of being understanding, being kind, or anything else because this is a typical codependent response. But most of all, it will get you nowhere and make you feel abused and used.

You must do whatever it takes to become empowered and to find your inner-bad ass!

In Summary

Whenever a spouse has an affair, restoring a marriage relies heavily on how the betrayed spouse reacts to the situation. Even though it seems intuitive, if a betrayed spouse wants his or her marriage, he or she must find her inner assertive person. We teach people how to treat us. Most of all, life is full of times of suffering and this in unavoidable. At some point or another we have to choose whether or not we are going to continue to suffer for the actions of another. That is entirely up to us and only we can make that choice.

As always, never forget that you are not alone in this journey. There are many others on the same journey and many on this website who are passionate about helping you through your journey.

Do any of you have stories about finding your inner-bad ass?


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The Affair Recovery Movement
Guiding You Through the 5 Stages of Affair Recovery

A  member’s only area where the focus will be on recovering and healing from infidelity through interaction with us,  a supportive community, access to volumes of materials and resources, and guidance from those who have been down this road before.

We want to help you get to a better place. 



(1) Codependency in the Marriage: A Betrayed Spouses Common Mistakes. From

(2) Beattie, Melody. Excerpt from the book Codepedent No More From

(Photo: Jason Clapps)


    50 replies to "Playing the Double Fool: Mistaking Enabling and Codependence for Lovingkindness"

    • Shifting Impressions

      Another really good read by Melody Beattie is THE NEW CODEPENDENCY. I got so much out of that book as I really had a very limited understanding of the subject of codependency.

      I couldn’t agree with you more. As a betrayed spouse we have to become assertive and set boundaries. The only problem is that we are often so devastated after d-day we are in no shape to do so. I know I was in shock and utterly broken at first.

      • TryingHard

        SI. Yes it takes a few weeks and getting over the shock before one finds their assertiveness or inner bad ass. But once you find it recovery comes so much faster. Once you actually see the forest and not just the trees you become empowered.

        I believe most of the actions by BS are driven by fear. Fear fuels codependency. It takes real courage to face those fears and move forward regardless.

        Sometimes the only way to weather the storm is to go right into it head first.

    • TheFirstWife

      This article or post is so long and convoluted I don’t believe I even understand the message. It talks about co-dependency and passive-aggressive behavior and so much stuff I cannot even process it all.

      Can someone please explain the point in 3 sentences or less?

      • TryingHard

        LOL TFW I feel the same. It was A LOT to take in at one sitting. And no I don’t think the whole thing can be broken down in three sentences 🙂

        • TheFirstWife

          Thanks. Glad to see it is not just me. Lol

    • Alice

      This article had many long winded topics rolled into one. I’m not sure I can do three sentences but I think the idea of it is:

      When your spouse cheats don’t treat them like a timid squirrel.

      We’re often afraid that if we push them too hard they will run for the hills. Instead we try to tip toe around them, as not to upset them. Then we bow to their every whim in order to win them back.

      What you’re supposed to do is say: looky here squirrel, you fucked up royally and it’s up to YOU to fix it. YOU make the counselling appointment. YOU be sweet to me. YOU worry MY feelings. YOU cater to MY whims. If your ass can’t do that to MY satisfaction, then IM GONE.

      Hope that makes some kind of sense.

      • TryingHard

        Alice– you are my sister from another mother!!!

      • Sarah P.


        You nailed it!! I would have said that myself if I were among fellow females (in-person) discussing this topic. But, I try to be a little bit more demure in my writing and ALWAYS welcome others saying what I secretly want to say anyways. So, thank you. 😉

    • TheFirstWife

      Thank you Alice – can you explain the tie in to the co-dependence aspect of the article?

      I think initially the shock of finding out about the A and all throws you for a loop.

      And I don’t necessarily think you can be or should always be forceful. It doesn’t always work. In my case I put my foot down about 3 weeks after DDay1. Her or me.

      He chose me. But put littke into our M. He was mean and nasty and disrespectful b/c I was standing in his way. (Isn’t hindsight wonderful ?).

      Then a month or so later the A resumed (unbeknownst to me). By DDay2 a few months later I told him to leave. I had enough.

      But my thought was if we can R I don’t want to add to the issues by saying or doing anything more to damage the R. So I ignored things he said out of anger and kept my wits about me.

      Very controlled and made perfect decisions for my situation.

      But I was never co-dependent. That is what I don’t quite understand in this article.

    • Alice

      I think the co dependency part was pointing out that sometimes we think we’re being nice/kind to help the marriage when we’re really being a doormat.

      My parents marriage is a good example – no affair but my dad was a control freak with a short fuse. My mom stuffed down her own needs more and more and glossed over my dads shitty behaviour for the sake of a ‘happy’ marriage.

      In reality, she was basically emotionally abused but was too scared he’d leave to stand up for herself.

      (Does that make any sense???)

      I’m not sure if im qualified to advise you about your particular situation. Maybe Linda or Sarah can offer advice.

    • Alice

      I want to add my own two cents on co dependency. Our society still really expects married women to be subservient to their husbands.

      I read a Dear Abby column a few months back where a wife wrote that her husband made a point to
      ogle and flirt with young women right in front of her. It upset her and she asked him to stop it but he refused.

      The public comments were filled with things like:

      The wife better stop being so insecure or her husband will leave her.

      The wife better stop being a nag or her husband will leave her.

      The wife better start working on her appearance more or her husband will leave her.

      My husband does that too but *I* don’t let it bother me. The wife needs to let things go.

      Not ONE person said: the husband is being disrespectful. He needs to consider his wife’s feelings and start valuing her more.

      We need to change the narrative. The husband needs to be responsible for his own actions NOT his wife.

      • TryingHard

        Hi Alice– I don’t know if those examples are instances of women acting co dependent or not. I’m only familiar with very basic understanding of co dependent. All I know is when someone abuses their spouse the spouse is a lot of the time judged as co dependent or even complicit in the abuse. Rightly or wrongly. I’m not a therapist or a sociologist so not sure.

        What I do know is those examples are about the double standards to which society holds men an women. If a man cheats well the wif is judged as having done something anything to proverbially drive the husband into the arms of another woman.

        If the wife cheats she is judged as morally unscrupulous. The man is pitied and called a pathetic cuckhold.

        I see it all the time. A woman gets upset her husband is flirting and she’s judged insecure, jealous, trying to “pussy whip” her husband. I’ve certainly never heard of a man “dick whipping” a female.

        People say that crap as a way of puffing their own chests to brag that infidelity or cheating could never happen to them. People are weird like that.

        Definitely females are held to much stricter standards than males. And it’s worse in some cultures than others.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Alice,

        You bring up some good points. We need to change the narrative and put the problem back where it belongs, which just squarely on the man in the case you described above. If the man is ogling in front of his wife and if he knows this bothers her and if he refuses to stop, that is being extremely disrespectful to his wife. He is disrespecting his wife.

        By the way, all of those reader comments that you mentioned are basically identical to many common reactions from others when a man has an affair. For example, let’s imagine Joe Clean is a well-loved minister in his town. Well, one day it comes out that Joe Clean has been having a physical affair with Olga the Organist. In this situation, most people’s gut reaction is to put it back on the wife and it is very common to hear a version of what you described. In this case it would be:

        -Mrs. Clean needs to work on her appearance because otherwise Mr. Clean wouldn’t have entertained the company of another woman

        -Mrs. Clean (probably) nagged her husband to death and so he wanted to leave her (for Olga the Organist)

        -Maybe Joe Clean had an affair because Mrs. Clean is insecure and not confident like Olga the Organist

        And a million different other things that make the betrayed spouse the problem– not the adulterer.

        So, the common denominator in these scenarios is that no one is putting it squarely back on the husband/wayward spouse. And yes that narrative has to change!! The wayward spouse, whether male or female, MUST be responsible for his or her choices.

    • TheFirstWife

      I think my confusion here is this.

      during the A and A fog, the CS KNOWS the A is wrong but engages anyway. My H was not hiding it well that he was in contact with OW.

      I finally told him to go be with her if that is what he wanted.

      But the A fog took over. He WS in deep.

      Nothing I could do to get him to stop.

      So was I being co-dependent by staying married and trying to have patience with him during that time?

      Eventually I stopped being nice and patient but according to this article when I could not get him to respect boundaries and end A and work in us – this article seems to imply I was weak and not standing up to him.

      Nothing could be further than the truth SS I called him on his lying etc. but I was still trying to keep the M intact.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi TFW,

        You are not a codependent and I do not believe any regular commenters are codependent. I try to be pretty direct so if I thought you were a codependent, or if any one else was, I would have mentioned it.

        Also, codependency is truly a lifestyle in that these behaviors on the list take over every aspect of a person’s life. This type of person would always engage in unhealthy behaviors regardless of whether or not their life was going well or not.

        Everyone at some point in time, especially under stress or in periods of depression, can engage in behaviors from that list. But, these behaviors stop after a crisis is over and a person goes back to being themselves.

        You are right this article is long and convoluted, so I am going to give some specific examples. All of these are real examples that I have either read about or heard from people I know. I never repeat anything someone tells me in confidence whether they are a friend or someone I am mentoring. So here is what codependency looks like in the real world:

        1) Victoria has been married to Bruce for 30 years. During those 30 years, Bruce has lied to Victoria when he does the taxes. Even though Bruce is a known liar and someone who scams the system, Victoria believes Bruce when he says he is paying taxes on time and doing it according to the laws. Victoria always chews Bruce out when she finds out he has done something not honest and believes he will changes when he promises to change. It never happens. After Victoria’s kids are grown, she divorces Bruce due to his lying and fraudulent behavior and due to the poor treatment of her and the kids. After the divorce is finalized, the IRS contacts Victoria at her new address. It seemed Bruce had filed fraudulent taxes using her social security number and forged signature for five years. Because she cannot prove this, she has to pay the IRS a significant amount of money. Victoria’s kids ask her to bring this to the police and/or the attention of the IRS. Victoria refuses to do this and digs her heels in when her kids offer to help serve as witnesses. Even though she is barely making ends meet, she goes on a payment plan with the IRS and refuses to confront Bruce about his actions. When her children ask her why, she tells them it is being unchristian to confront him.

        That is what codependence looks like. Instead of Victoria asking for her basic rights as a human being, she is willing to pay a bill that she did not create. Deep down she does not believe she deserves better and she reasons that perhaps Bruce behaved the way he did because of something she did. (Victoria is actually a very moral person in her own behavior.) Even though divorced, Victoria still somehow feels responsible for ‘mothering’ her ex-husband. Victoria stuffs the problem down but the stress comes out and she over-eats to soothe herself. When her children ask to help, she freezes them out.

        Now, let’s contrast this with a NON-codependent person. Someone who is not codependent would get a consultation with a tax attorney immediately and retain that person. Then she would go through the IRS records and document everything that she sees. She would find a way to prove that her signature was fraudulent and not hers. She would sue her ex-husband for criminal activity.

        Now, to be fair, someone who is NOT codependent would not trust a spouse who is a known liar to do their taxes. She would watch her spouse like a hawk and make plans to leave the marriage, knowing that this person is NOT spouse material. (That is unless someone is a glutton for punishment.

        2) Katrine and Christof (a couple who lives in France and are French citizens) have been married for 20 years. Katrine knew Christof had a roving eye when they were dating and that made her jealous. She also listened to Christof talk endlessly about an ex-girlfriend he never forgot. Katrine felt that if she married Christof and they had a baby, that he would love her and forget about his ex. And so they got married, had a baby, and Katrine became depressed because Christof kept talking about his ex. Then, one day, Katrine broke into Christof’s email account and saw that he had been having an email correspondence in English with his ex. Since Katrine did not know English, she assumed that Christof had struck up an online affair. So, Katrine fired off a vicious email in French to Christof’s ex and threatened her. Katrine was surprised to receive an email back from Christof’s ex in French saying that she was NOT interested in Christof and that she had asked him to STOP contacting her. Then Christof’s ex told Katrine that she felt sorry for her and that she would probably be better off being with someone who was not hung up on an ex. Katrine blew up at Christof and asked why he had contacted his ex in the first place and if the ex-lover was telling the truth or if there was an affair. He confirmed there was not affair– that it was one-sided on his part– and that he would not try to contact his ex. Then Katrine suggested they have another baby. And they did. And the same process happened all over again. Christof contacted his ex, his ex told him she was NOT interested and was happily married, and Katrine found out again. And so they had another baby. By last count, this process had occurred several more times and they were up to six children. Christof’s ex actually blocked his email and so Christof started calling his ex’s parents. His ex’s parents blocked his calls and his emails. Christof could not get the hint that it had been over years ago with the ex and Katrine could not get the hint that Christof would always find a reason to be hung up on the ex, no matter what Katrine did.

        Yes, these are real people and yes it happened just as stated. Katrine and Christof’s relationship epitomizes the codependent dance. One desperately wants the one who doesn’t want her and she keeps having babies with him because then maybe he will want her. And he stays there for who-knows-why but enthusiastically has babies each time she wants one. She gets her identity from him but he cannot be alone and needs her because loneliness seems worse.

        The “ex” in all of this is not a codependent. The ‘ex’ learned early on that something was very ‘off’ about Christof and that is why the ‘ex’ left in the first place. What is even more lame is that Christof had a romantic relationship with said ‘ex’ for only about one month. The ex found out that he was not a healthy person and broke it off. And that caused him to chase the ex. And the more the ex ignores him, the more intense he gets, even though he knew this ‘ex’ 25 years ago and is a married man with 6 kids.

        That, my friends, is the epitome of codependence.

        So, back to how this applies to affairs. Of course there will be what look like codependent behaviors during the shock phase. That is normal. But, someone who is codependent will know that the person is having an affair and will beg him (or her) to choose them. The betrayed spouse will make no demands on the wayward spouse. They will try to pretend like everything is normal and try to be the perfect wife or husband, all the while the affair is out in the open. The betrayed spouse will have her identity to wrapped up in the marriage that she believes she is nothing without this person. She will have always drawn her identity from her spouse.

        But, when there is an affair, this is going to backfire. The wayward spouse is going to see that his wife is bending over backwards to please him while making no demands of him. And if she is a codependent, she will be able to do this for years, in essence creating no change.

        Her staying is not about trying to preserve a family for the sake of the children. It’s about staying because her spouse defines her and she feels like a non-entity without her spouse.
        In some generations (like my grandparent’s generation– the silent generation) it was normal for a woman to “stand by her man” and everyone pretty much pretended an affair was not happening. Sure, they would gossip about it, but affairs were the elephants in the room no one confronted. So that was a societal norm at the time.

        However, even though this was a norm, it was never healthy. That’s why I love Melody Beattie’s work. She explains this better than I ever could explain it. It really takes an entire book to explain it and she does it best.

        In essence, I wrote this article because I know there are people out there who will come across it and who might be struggling with how to re-act to their spouse’s affair. This article is for those people who may not yet have found this site. Of course, it is also for regulars because it gives a lot of food for thought. This is an article where it might take several reads and it’s one where I expect people will mull it over (even me!)

        So, that is my equally long-winded response that hopefully puts codependence in context. Codependence is basically an unhealthy dynamic that is all pervasive in a person’s life and leads to life circumstances that cause harm to the person and the person in this dynamic is called the codependent. Again, I do not see any regular readers/commenters who fit this description.

    • TryingHard

      TFW. For what it’s worth, no I do not believe you are co dependent. nir have you ever acted co dependently

      • TheFirstWife

        Thank you TH.

        I guess the article is not clear to me.

    • Shifting Impressions

      “Codependency is about normal behaviors taken too far. It’s about crossing lines.”

      A quote from the book A NEW CODEPENDENCY by Melody Beatte.

      Recently, I realised I knew very little about codependency and read this book. I found it extremely interesting and enlightening. It’s a complex subject to be sure.

      I’m with TH I don’t believe you are codependent either.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Shifting,
        What were the best things you learned from the book? I have not read it. She would be awesome to interview one day.

        Do you have any examples you can think of that illustrate what a codependent would do versus what a non-codependent would do in an affair situation? Does she touch on this in her book?

        Sounds like a must read so thank you for the recommendation!

        • Shifting Impressions

          the book is written something like twenty years after CODEPENDENT NO MORE. So a more current or updated version. It is just so full of information, I wouldn’t know where to begin.

          I believe our sense of self is severely tested when we discover that our partner has betrayed us. While our CS is still in the affair fog they will manipulate and make everything about them. If we have codependent tendencies it will be that much harder to fight the battle ahead of us.

          We need all the strength and self care we can muster to get through this betrayal without getting caught into the trap of self blame etc. We have to hold our CS responsible for their poor choices….not the other way around.

          Infidelity isn’t really addressed if I remember correctly but many of the principles are definitely applicable.

          • Sarah P.

            Thanks for the recommendation. I ended up ordering it since I read the first one several years ago. I think I can boil down codependence down to it’s essence in infidelity based on what you said.

            A wayward spouse will always try to blame a betrayed spouse for the wayward spouse’s choices. While all betrayed spouses will secretly wonder if they are good enough, a codependent betrayed spouse will blame herself as the cause of her husband’s affair. A person who is NOT codependent will come out of the shock and ultimately put the blame back on the wayward spouse.

            Even years later, a codependent betrayed spouse will believe she caused the affair and there is no changing her mind about it. And this plays into the wayward spouse’s hands because he doesn’t want to take responsibility and he also believes she is responsible. And there is no real recovery there.

            Again, a very complex topic. But, the difference between a codependent and a “non” is that a codependent will blame herself for all problems in life and will have poor boundaries. This will be a style of relating to people whether or not a codependent is in a crisis or not and will take her identity from others.

            The “non” codependent will understand where she begins and ends. She will know which problems she caused and those her spouse caused. Most of all, a “non” will NOT take the blame for someone else’s poor choices– and will certainly not take any responsibility for her partner’s poor choice to have an affair.

            Whether or not a betrayed spouse chooses to stay or not (after an affair) has nothing to do with codependence. Mostly, codependents will stay in a marriage because they do not have a strong identity. But, a non codependent will stay in a marriage because they want to keep their family together and they take their vows seriously. So, both codependents and NON codependents stay– they just have very different motivations. And choosing to stay in a marriage does not make someone a codependent.

            In the end, someone who has a life-long pattern of codependent behaviors and engages in these unhealthy behaviors all the time is probably a codependent. And it is not a good thing because the codependent gets the short end of the stick in life.

            That is as best as I can summarize it. I am going to start reading the new book.

            • SeekingSerenity

              @Sarah P. The other scenario that I have not seen addressed or provided in these examples is a codependent spouse who is also the CS. Once the affair fog passes, they (rightfully) take the blame for the affair but they stay out of a need to fix and heal the hurt they have caused their spouse (whether their spouse wants to heal and recover or just live in the grief and victim state) and everything that is not right in their marriage.

              While an affair is never a good or helpful choice, a codependent who cheated trying to fill an unmet need in themselves who then ends the affair, recommits, starts doing the work on themselves and their marriage, and stays (faithfully) may also end up in the same place you discuss in your article as a BS who makes themselves a codependent/doormat. It is a difficult position to be in the be the CS or the BS/recovering codependent working on setting healthy boundaries and behaving with self-worth and confidence but also accepting responsibility or blame where it is due from a spouse who is stuck and not ending the marriage but not doing any of the repair or personal growth work.

    • TheFirstWife

      Isn’t co-dependency happening before during & after the A?

      I guess this is where I am having a lack of clarity on this article.

      Is this article saying you are co-dependent during the A only? My thought would be – possibly – who isn’t?

      • Sarah P.

        Hi TFW,

        Yes codependent behavior can take over during the affair due to fear. And even if it seems helpful it generally is not because the wayward spouse often gets too confident and refuses to break off the affair.

        But being a codependent is a lifelong thing and it is someone’s way of showing up in the world whether things are good or bad. Generally someone who is codependent often has a life long story of victimization by everyone they meet. This is due to lack of boundaries and over-trust.

        Again, no one here who comments.

        But I know that there are a lot of people who read the website but never comment so maybe this article is helpful for those purposes as well as for people who come across the website who are looking for info on codependency. The Melody Beattie books are great– really recommend them.

        • SeekingSerenity

          Would you read both of Melodie Beattie’s books or start with the newer one (an update?)?

          • Shifting Impressions

            I would start with the newer one if were you.

    • Hopeful

      In a way I think this is tricky. I can go through those lists and think of when either me or my husband has exhibited those behaviors. But never regularly. My therapist said to me that they were surprised I was not codependent but in the end when someone lies to your face when directly asked questions, lies, hides things from their spouse it is not that but their issues and problems. In the end my therapist said I was taking care of myself and my kids the best I could. And beyond hiring a private investigator I did ask critical questions and pushed to work on our marriage. So I can see where this can seem cloudy. But in the end I refuse to take the blame for not leaving or being more of a super sleuth when I asked direct questions and focused on our marriage. Also things are not black and white. For us things would improve for a period of time. Now I know it was because his affairs were sporadic. When someone has no contact it is hard to figure out. When someone does not love the ow it is hard to figure out.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Hopeful,
        I remember talking about this before with you a while back. That is, you are NOT the codependent, but your husband might be. You were not doing the codependent dance with him and never have. It seems you have always been the independent and self reliant one. Definitely not codependent.

    • TryingHard

      So this discussion reminds me. When I read about Narcissists I would be all “…CRAP I’M A NARCISSIST…” Then I’d read about personality disorder and I would be all “….CRAP I HAVE A PERSONALITY DISORDER!!!” The I read about co dependency and I was all “….CRAP I’M A CO DEPENDENT!!!!”

      And with all those self diagnosis off I’d go to my therapist and tell her what I thought I had. Needless to say she would laugh and say NO. It’s easy to read those books or articles and assume those traits. Plus the ones listed were extensive. Who on earth doesn’t fit at least some of them?

      So now instead of self diagnosing my neurosis I read about supermodels and think “DANG I’M A SUPERMODEL!!!” Much more fun.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Trying,
        I am glad you said that because that is what I was thinking. I do the very same thing. I can come across an article on something that has nothing to do with me and I will be going down the diagnosis list and questioning if I do that or not. I even do this about medical things. “If you are a man and you have the signs of …” and I will look and half way through the list I will be like .. “hey wait a second. I am not a man!! At least I think I’m not a man… maybe I should check my pants one more time.”

        Now I mean all of that as a joke of course.

        But I think this actually means someone is normal. By the way, a real narcissist will never in a million years look at the narcissist list and think about it. And if they do think about it, they will think it applies to the person who went “no contact” otherwise know as the prior victim of the narc who woke up and cut communication.

        As I said in another comment, I do not believe regular commenters are codependents. If I thought anyone was, I would say it. As far as I can tell everyone here is a normal, moral person who was showing up in life consciously trying to do their best. Then one day, BAM, they got hit by the realization that their spouse had an affair. And no betrayed spouse ever caused or created the affair, no matter who they are. But among the regular commenters I see the best of people (yes all of you) who were consciously living life in moral ways and then one day while you were minding your own business got ripped apart by a tsunami that someone else created. So no, I don’t see codependent here and staying with a partner and going through recovery together is NOT a sign of codependency.

        Next time maybe I will take a cue from you and write something about being a supermodel. Then we can all be walking around knowing we are super models and smirking around our spouses. Then they will wonder what the big secret is and it will be good for them.

      • blueskyabove

        Lol! That was great!

    • blueskyabove

      Just to be clear, my comment was for Tryinghard. Best use of positive thinking I’ve read in a long time!

      • TryingHard

        Thanks Bluesjy. Glad I could make you laugh.

        Seriously I think I drive my therapists crazy coming up with all my self diagnosis every week when I’d be reading a new book!! Kinda like checking Web MD when you’re sick ???? Or maybe I’m just really susceptible to suggestion. Regardless I’m sticking with the super model books for now.

        • blueskyabove


          That’s the power of suggestion…and it’s fierce! Don’t kid yourself. Those who ‘know’ absolutely know it. As one example: Why do you think there are so many pharmaceutical ads? About something you’ve never even heard of? Suddenly, it’s the latest ailment! Next thing you know, either you or someone you know has the systems. They’re relying on your susceptibility. They’re hoping you overlook the side effects…even if includes your possible demise. And that’s just one minuscule example.

          ps, I saw an ad today about diarrhea and upset stomach. Among the side effects to their remedy beside constipation and headache was upset stomach! Geez! You can’t make this stuff up ’cause no one would believe you!

          • TryingHard

            Of course there is!!!

            • Sarah P.


              The power of suggestion is extremely influential. It is responsible for both the placebo and the nocebo affect. The nocebo affect is the most interesting of all because it actually causes physical harm when there was none. For example, one time I read a study where some researchers were studying the power of suggestion. They paid volunteers to participate in a pain study. (This was a long, long time ago because these studies would be unethical today.) Anyhow, the researchers told the person they were going to briefly touch the volunteer’s backs with a burning cigarette to measure pain response. And of course the researchers told the participant they would get gauze to cover the blisters. Well, the researchers touched these people’s backs with a pencil eraser. And the volunteers cried in pain, believing they were being burned. The most interesting part was that many got actual burn blisters on their back. This study has stuck out in my mind because of what it demonstrated. People who were not being harmed at all (but who believed they were being burned) actually registered pain and manifested burn blisters on their bodies. If we think about the implications of these things, they are enormous!

    • RH

      I just found this article now, I am wondering if i am a codependent.
      I know that my husband has an affair, I only stayed because I am still studying and needed his support. I plan to act like I still care for him and I will leave after I will get my degree. I have 3 years remaining

      So I am a codependent? Since I tolerate his behavior of having an affair? And always saying Yes to his request even I know I totally disagree just to avoid having an argument. Coz I still need his financial support.

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