High-conflict divorces and codependency often go hand in hand. The dynamic is that one party is a taker or receiver and the other party, the codependent, is a giver. The imbalance is unhealthy and impossible to maintain, and over time, the marriage disintegrates. Understanding your part in the dissolution of the marriage is vital to heal and be able to engage in healthier relationships going forward.
High-Conflict Divorces and Codependency: an Impossible Imbalance
Codependency is a type of dysfunctional, subservient relationship where you support or enable your spouse at the expense of taking care of your own needs. The codependent feels powerful at first because you are needed to fix or help your spouse. Your spouse may be an addict or alcoholic, have a personality disorder or be abusive. Over time you get depleted and feel resentful because you are always giving and never receiving.
One of the key weaknesses codependents share is a lack of awareness about setting and upholding boundaries. All healthy relationships require healthy boundaries. Codependents typically are boundary oblivious as are their partners. A boundary is an emotional fence that states what is and is not allowable or acceptable. Setting a boundary is the first step – articulating where your line is and why. Upholding a boundary is the second and more difficult step. This requires that YOU, not your spouse change. You uphold your boundary by changing your behavior because he/she is not respecting it. This puts the power in your hands and you begin to take care of yourself – giving to yourself for a change rather than giving in to your spouse.
Check out Melanie Beattie’s books on codependency for more information; her bestselling book, Codependent No More, introduced the world to the term “codependency” in 1986.
Read the transcript of the video below.
Do you put your spouse’s needs before yours?
Do you smile when you’re angry?
Do you keep silent to keep the peace?
Do you give in and give up and get very little in return?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then you’re probably on the codependency spectrum and that’s what I’d like to speak to you about today.
My name is Karen McMahon. I am a recovering codependent, and I’m the founder of Journey Beyond Divorce.
Codependency is one of the key things that break certain marriages. So what is codependency?
It is a dysfunctional relationship where the codependent are caregivers above and beyond what is healthy, and we don’t take care of ourselves, but we go and bend over backwards for the other person.
And it’s unhealthy. It’s not an equal relationship, and it just ends up deteriorating over time.
Codependency isn’t something that happens in your marriage. It actually occurs in our family of origin.
It ends up being our earliest experience of intimate love. And so you may have come from a family with alcoholism and addiction or mental health issues, a parent with depression or a personality disorder, or a parent may have passed away.
In any of these cases, you’ve been called at an early age to kind of step up beyond your years and begin to take care — and that becomes that early pattern of intimate love.
Then as you go out into the world, you unconsciously are looking for that experience of love, and so you tend to connect with people who are receivers or even worse, takers.
And so it becomes this lopsided, uneven relationship.
To things that you can do…
One is to begin to notice. Notice how often you’re not even on your list or you set up something for yourself to do and then you put it aside for somebody else and begin to consciously take care of yourself.
Do it with small things at first. It might be giving yourself a little bit of time and space or doing something special for yourself.
The second thing is boundaries. Most of us who are codependent are fairly boundary oblivious.
We don’t know the definition of a boundary. We don’t know how to set it. We certainly don’t know how to uphold it.
And chances are, your spouse is also boundary oblivious, and so a great place to start is begin to notice where you feel, you’re dealing with unacceptable behaviour because that’ll show you where you want to set some boundaries.
Let’s take a basic one. Let’s take verbal abuse.
So my boundary is you’ve been speaking to me harshly, you curse at me, you put me down, and it’s unacceptable, and I will not put up with it anymore.
That’s the setting of the boundary – so then my spouse comes along, and he speaks to me harshly and critically and cusses at me, and what I used to do is keep telling him that he needed to change – that is not how you uphold a boundary.
The way you uphold the boundary is you change – and so in this case, you might say, “I told you that speaking to me that way is unacceptable,” and you leave his or her presence… so you may leave the room, you may get out of the car, you may go for a drive and leave the house, but you are upholding the boundary by choosing not to be abused by getting out of there — and so that’s one example.
I really encourage you to look up Melanie Bedi, who’s written many books on codependency.
And if you’re going through divorce and struggling with this issue and others, we have an online support community that’s second to none.
It gives you a community of peers that you can connect with. We support you in all of the emotions of hurt and pain, anger, resentment, fear, insecurity…and help you to navigate with the tools and strategies.
And the third thing we do is we provide you with dozens of experts that guide you through the legal, the financial, negotiating custody, co-parenting…figuring out…“Do I stay? Do I leave? Do I rent? Do I Buy?”…. And many many more.
So go to www.jbddivorcesupport.com and check it out.
We give you the first month free as a trial month because we’re so certain that it’s going to be right for you, we want you to get in there and see for yourself.
So I’ll see you over there, www.jbddivorcesupport.com. See you soon!
Karen McMahon founded Journey Beyond Divorce in 2010, after discovering that the pain of dissolving her marriage had been the very stimulus for her personal transformation. www.jbddiovrcesupport.com