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Doc@DrIrene.com

How We Both Messed Up

How We Both Messed Up

February 15, 2000

Dear Dr. Irene,

I have waited to tell my story and I am so glad that I have because I have learned so much here.

Firstly, Codependency is a serious problem. Yes. It is not just some light definition of a victim.  Quite the contrary. The abuser is codependent too. Both partners are disconnected from the self; don't hear the self; don't respect the "directives" of the self...

I had the romantic courtship of a life time with my wonderful and handsome second husband and then we merged two families, five kids after one year. Wow! This was where my codependency frenzy began.

My husband became my identity. Ooops! Therefore, I set to changing him into the image I wanted of myself. Double ooops! Better manners, comb you hair differently, wear blue instead of black, organic coffee, lose weight, parent more effectively, etc., etc.

J tried so hard to please me - yet there was always more that I wanted, believe me!  Although, I have to say that he had some pretty serious withholding issues: no joint checking accounting (wouldn't do it), credit card for the Mrs. (no way), plans on the weekend with kids (almost never), vacation (forget it), a hobby (avoidance) leading all the way to full blown scary humiliating verbal abuse. Triple ooops!

I ask you doctor, which came first, the pain in the neck codependent or the pain in the neck abuser? How come the codependent is a "pain in the neck" and the abuser is not? Well, I just made you guys even. Were you being a bit codependently over-responsible?  I'll tell you they were happening simultaneously.  We were, what we were, when we found each other! Yes! Each of you stepped all over the other's boundaries and allowed your partner to trample over your own boundaries.

My depression and J's verbal abuse escalated to a restraining order and my moving out 2 weeks before Christmas.  My spirit had been completely broken down.  The last thing I ever wanted to do was leave him. Yes. I just couldn't stand his seething hate and anger at me anymore. Good! I was afraid for my life.  I thought that either he would kill me or I might wither and die on my own. No more ooops. This is a definite YUK.

After I left and started educating myself about verbal abuse, I tried to talk to J about it. I was not being heard. He felt very angry and defensive. Very common... Then, when some more time went by and I could talk to him about my codependency then - and only then - did I get his attention.  I did not minimize the hurt and fear that I experienced from his verbal abuse.  I just came clean with my very big share in the mess.  Codependency, also known as mother control (ugh!). Yes. Codependent victims are far from innocent. That's a big part of what this site is about. Note: Lack of innocence is not to be confused with blame! Assigning blame or guilt is nonproductive. Assigning responsibility for behavior works.

Now J and I are talking about how fearful we were. Good! Intimacy is about trusting each other with these vulnerable feelings - and never, ever using them against the other. How when we were together, we loved each other so much, we were always afraid the bottom was going to drop out.  We went to one therapist who told us our marriage needed God in it and that because we went to a J.P. (to marry) it shows we need more devotion (yikes!). Well, devotion never hurt, but you'd probably be in the same fix no matter who married you. I am a devout Christian.  We need some serious intervention and are still seeking it. Good.

We have a date to read this site together, order some books, and see my therapist - whom we both like - together.  We have come clean with each other, both of us, it was the only way. Yes.

I think that more men would see the light if more women would take their share of the responsibility.  Abusive relationships are not a one man or woman show. Correct. The sad part is that  victims, and who can blame them, too often get bent out of shape when asked to take responsibility for themselves. They are correct in saying that they are not responsible for the abuse - no matter what! - but, they are responsible for doing what they have to do to get out of the line of fire when they are being abused. 

Finally, leaving J was just the beginning of my getting help  with my codependency. Exactly. The benefits of leaving:

bulletBy the time abuse has escalated, both partners are too angry to work on themselves, and they are often stuck in an awful no-win, blame pattern they can't break out of. 
bulletOnce the victim has had enough and decides to leave, they give themselves the time and space to center, take responsibility, and work on recognizing and no longer accepting abuse. 
bulletOn the other hand, the abuser usually needs to be left to "hear" that their partner really, really means it! It's not trivial, its not "All in  your head." Once left, the abuser has the time and space to begin taking responsibility for his or her behavior. 
bulletLeaving often serves as a wake-up call to both partners in more or less "normal" cases. 
bulletWhen either party is too pathological, or the victim is too angry, or the abuser is too abusive or too antisocial, or even if there is too much water under the bridge, the couple cannot not create this healthier space - where each can fix themselves.  
bulletThe trick is for each individual to hold onto the "fix myself and only myself" frame of mind.

With or without J, it is the beginning of a journey for me.  I hope that we heal and end up together.  So do I. But I know, that no matter what, I am healing every day and will end up with myself!  Yes, you lucky person, you! Gee whiz I'll have to work on my own manners!  Gee whiz!  Lori :)

Dear Lori,

Good luck. You guys are on the right track. Your immediate job is not to allow abuse; his is to control his behavior no matter how "motherly" you are behaving. (He can tell you that you are being momish. Tell you respectfully.) Each will need to focus on where you individually mess up. In the long run each person's respective job is to become your best self, a person you know, love, and fully respect. (The opposite of codependent stuff.) Everything else flows from here.  Each of you will have set backs. I promise. That's OK. Just pick up, learn from your mistakes and keep on going!  

My very best wishes to you and yours, Dr. Irene

Ps: Keep us "posted!"

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