A few days ago I read a blog post at http://passiveaggressiveabuse.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/sounding-like-a-martyr/ by a woman who doesn’t know how to get out of her cycle of codependency. I desire SO much for women to experience freedom from this! I wanted to share my response to her questions about what it looks like to overcome codependency in a dysfunctional marriage. Below was my response. What are your thoughts?
This is soooo long, and I’m sorry :). The short answer is it looks (and feels) very confusing for a long time :(. I’ll answer your specific questions first then go into more detail afterwards. Yes, you might be saying the wrong things to him and in the wrong way. No, you’re probably not looking for the “wrong” outcome, but your expectations probably do contribute to your unhappiness. No, it’s not wrong to feel hurt by his responses…. now the long answers :).
I’ve been following your posts for a long time and I can’t count how many times you’ve said things like “I wanted to say/scream…,” “I thought….” or even described how you did finally get the courage up to say something and then he said something that shut you down, either by responding in a selfish, self-centered way, or uncaring way, or un-relevant way, or…. whatever way. You’re communication to him, because you are hurting, is meant to provoke a response from him, and you’re expectation/hope is that he HEAR you or understand you or receive some type of enlightenment. When codependents start learning about boundaries, or speaking up, or making choices for themselves, or confronting someone, we have fantasies about the outcomes. Fantasies that include it “working” to change the other person somehow, especially when it’s our spouse. Our first motivation is about THEM changing not US so that THEY can make US feel better and that’s backwards. And when it doesn’t work we’re more angry, hurt, and frustrated. We want them to feel bad about their behavior towards us, when really they haven’t got a clue about how we feel. We’ve kept in 95% of what we feel or think because of fear, then when we do finally say something, we can’t understand why they don’t GET IT for goodness sake! But they don’t get it because they haven’t been the one inside our heads for 20 years, only we have. And those times when we finally say something, we’re often passive aggressive ourselves, with crying, pouting, giving the silent treatment, begging, pleading, anger, treating them like their stupid, or who knows what else because codependents can’s say what they feel until their emotions are so strong that they overcome our fear and then we “punish” from those feelings. And it’s all in the hope they’ll SEE how their behavior has hurt and damaged us.
So, how does this cycle change? It starts with ME not HIM. 6 years ago when I started recovery (after 20 years of educating myself about codependency and adult child of alcoholism but never really working recovery because it was still his fault that I was codependent!), I decided that I WAS GOING TO CHANGE no matter what! I was JUST AS GUILTY AS HE WAS! I had just as must responsibility in our dysfunctional communication as he did. I was going to learn how to say what I felt and thought instead of keeping it in. I was going to say no, I don’t accept that from you. If I told him how I felt and thought and he said something I didn’t agree with or that hurt me, instead of trying to make him feel bad, I was going to say that it hurt me and why. I wasn’t going to let him shut me down just because he didn’t agree with me, or thought I was crazy and he had no issues. But I was going to learn how to do it without codependent “punishing behaviors” and I was going to learn how to not expect anything from him as a result of changing. I was no longer going to let him decide how this marriage was going down. And in it all, yes, I was going to stop expecting him to be or do anything other than who he was. I had to let go of my expectations of him, and grieve the loss of my ideal and deal with my hurt so I could heal. It was not his responsibility to heal me, it was mine. It was not his responsibility to make me feel better, it was mine. I had to become complete and whole apart from him so that I could choose my life for me.
I did this in the context of my marriage, and it was the messiest, most painful thing I’ve ever done. It boils down to detachment and removing the victim (the two most important chapters, in my opinion, of Codependent No More). In all of it, I couldn’t have done it without safe relationships, because he wasn’t safe for me, and we NEED relationship. I found those safe relationships with other women in Celebrate Recovery. And, for me, I couldn’t do it without God filling the hole in me, the one that had been there before my marriage and got bigger in it. I had to stop expecting my husband to fill it. He really couldn’t because he had a hole too. We were like two fleas without a dog, trying to get from each other what neither of us possessed, so we were sucking each other dry(er) and causing more damage.
You don’t give up wanting the things you listed, but you won’t get them until YOU change. You will spend your life as a wounded victim of your husband and nothing will change. Ever. As you change he will only have two options, either jump on board, or jump ship, because if you change, he can’t stay in the status quo. If one number in an equation changes, the answer changes. Period. For me, either way, I was still going to change. I told my husband early on that I had no idea if our marriage could be healed, if I could ever be in love with him again. In fact, I told him I thought it was impossible, but that if I didn’t do what I was doing, there was no hope for us. Zero. I let go of any expectations, and I kept doing the work to change me. He didn’t like it, it got worse before it got better between us, but I knew inside me that what I was doing was right.
There’s SO much more to say, and I feel like I didn’t say well what I wanted to, but I pray you understand what I’m trying to say and I’ll keep talking if you want me to. It’s taken 6 years of real recovery work to get where I am and to understand what I’ve needed to understand, and I’m still working it today. But Oh. My. Gosh. is it worth it. I have NEVER had the freedom to be me that I have today. I will be praying for you, and I am committed to posting on my blog as a result of this. It will take me years to document the lessons I’ve learned in this process and I want so much for women to experience freedom from their codependency.