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At Wits End - Just Learning about codependency
July 10, 2009
2:14 pm
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oldhippie
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I'm a 50 year old IT professional who's hobby/passion is Grateful Dead-related music and the associated "party" lifestyle. Music and partying have been "what I do" in my spare time for over 30 years. I've always worked hard for a living, did my best to maintain a balance with family commitments (wife, two sons, parents), I drink on an infrequent basis, but I typically smoke pot on a daily basis (after work).

I love my wife dearly, and we've been together now for 17 years. I was very clear to her early in our relationship that music and partying were my primary means of entertainment, and something that gave me great joy, and at times, inspiration. That didn't seem to be a problem as we went to see local music on a weekly basis when we first started dating, and even went on the road together to see a number of Grateful Dead shows back in early/mid-90's. She is an adult child of an alcoholic and had a terrible childhood as the youngest of 5, being born when her mother was 45, after all of her siblings had moved out, and her Dad was in a downward spiral of alcoholism. She has had trouble with depression over the years, but seemed to have addressed the worst of it with medication over the past decade. We always seemed to get along great, with a considerable amount of common interests, although she more "tolerated" than enjoyed Grateful Dead music. We seldom fought and virtually never screamed at each other in anger.

My wife smoked with me on a daily basis for a majority of our 17 years together, but has never had anything that resembled a drinking problem. Sometimes she seemed to go a little overboard with smoking (which confused me), but there never seemed to be a major problem - until about a year ago. At that point my oldest son turned 21 and started to share my interest in music and partying. I was very clear to him that he had to be careful, be responsible for his behavior, and not use partying as an excuse for laziness or not living up to his potential. He seemed to "get it", as he supports himself, has a 3.3+ GPA, and will graduate from college next spring.

To me, I was sharing something beautiful with my son, something that had given me great joy over the past 30 years - but with a clear message of personal responsibility. To my wife, though, this seemed to be a tipping point. Her negative feedback about the audacity of my "partying with little children" has gotten steadily louder over the past year, to the point where our relationship is now in crisis, and my soul mate/best friend/lover now seems to have completely turned against me. Since last year I agreed to limit my son and I's music/party events to no more 1-2 per month (usually less), but that didn't seem to help. As of a few weeks ago after a major meltdown, I agreed to forego all music and partying events (not just with my son) for the foreseeable future to give us time to go to counseling and work things out on a rational basis. I also agreed to sell my ticket to an upcoming festival that I had been looking forward to attending with my son for almost a year now, and limit he and I's music/party interaction to an annual event on a long term basis, not just temporary basis. I viewed that as an opportunity to make sure I maintained a balanced relationship with my son, and that we did more than just listen to music and party when we got together.

Unfortunately none of my compromises seemed to have worked, and our relationship remains in crisis mode. Last week our therapist/marriage counselor suggested that our problem was that I was "addicted" to music/partying, and should read the book "Addictive Behavior". I agreed that I had a passion for music and partying, and that it could even be considered an obsession, but it was hard for me to accept the term "addicted" since to my knowledge I was doing something I truly enjoyed with no harm to myself or anyone else. Even so, I read the book with an open mind, considering that my marriage was in crisis, I still care deeply for my wife, and I have tremendous respect for our counselor.

Although I agree that my "passion" can be considered an addiction (similar to 10's of thousands of other Deadheads throughout the country), what peeked my interest was what I read in the book about the concept of codependency. Although I admit that my passion for music/partying fits the profile of an addict, my wife's behavior seems to be an absolute showcase of (advanced) codependency. This suddenly explained the fact that our issues weren't just discussion points to be worked out, but monumental/obsessive issues that seemingly have no resolution, regardless of how patient I am and how willing I am to try to change my behavior. I showed her the book, agreed with my addicted status, but brought the definition and symptoms of codependency to her attention. She cried as she read it, but agreed that she did in fact exhibit a majority of the symptoms of codependency - from her early days of dealing with her father, to dealing with her son from her first marriage, now with me. She is now completely obsessed with changing my behavior, is hypersensitive, and explodes in angry attacks at the most unexpected times.

That seemed like a major break through and we agreed to work together to change both of our behaviors to get out of this vicious cycle of anger, shame and resentment. I knew we had a long road ahead of us, but I felt extremely positive that we did in fact have a way forward - until last night. I came home from work looking forward to a long weekend and spending time with my wife, when out of nowhere I was verbally attacked as I walked in the door. She was absolutely livid that I would even consider sharing music/party activities with my son. This was after my recent agreement to curtail all music/party activities, and limit my music/partying interaction with my (22 year old) son to an annual event on longer term basis. Her issue was that she knew I didn't think it was wrong and if it wasn't for her I'd still be "running" to music/party events with my son a regular basis.

Our counselor is on vacation through next week, and even though I plan to uphold my end of the bargain we agreed to, I'm concerned that my wife's behavior is starting to border on mania. We have a couple of books to read, and she's starting to attend local Al-Anon meetings, but I would be interested in any other ideas people who have been down this road may have to help us start to move our relationship back in the right direction.

Thanks!

July 10, 2009
3:06 pm
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CAMER
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i think since both of you are working on yourselfs "individually" it will take time for things to mend.

Just stick with a program on getting help and getting better and out of the addictions and see what happens.

Does your wife willingly want to go to Al Anon meetings or was this suggested to her??

know you are not alone.

July 10, 2009
3:08 pm
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lovin life
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unfortunately (or fortunately!) this is just the beginning in the long road of revelation for her. finding out what's "wrong" will open the flood gates. and it will be a bumpy road. whether your marriage survives this will not be known for a long time, but ultimately it will all be as it should be. the most important thing is that you are both willing to learn who are you are and how you got to be that way. it's important that you continue to go to professional therapy, together and separately, and that she attend CODA meetings. you wouldn't be able to attend NA unless you determined you had a problem with pot and were attempting to give it up.

good luck to you and your wife on the journey toward enlightenment...

lovin life

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