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Help with dealing with codependent wife
June 28, 2007
1:52 pm
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onetwothree
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I'm sure this isn't an original topic, but here it goes.

Basically, my wife and I have been having marital problems lately -- well, they've been there all along, it's just that they've only recently built to the point where we can't ignore them.

Anyway, up until last year, we were both basically just "coasting" in the relationship. I certainly had my fair share of codependent behaviors (i.e. letting her emotional state determine mine), but I've really blocked myself off from that kind of thing in the last year. I've been getting counseling and medication for my problems, and in general growing up emotionally.

The problem is that, since I've been changing and getting treatment for my issues, and basically growing up -- that her codependent behaviour seems to be getting worse.

I could list things all day, but the basic characteristics are:

* puts no value on her own entertainment or enjoyment. by extension, she puts no value on my or our children's entertainment. the only entertaining things she feels good about are those that have an ulterior motive (i.e. educational games for the kids, going for a hike for "fun" (because it's exercise), etc).

* tries to take responsibility for my emotions. she once told me that she should determine whether or not she's being a good parent by whether or not i'm "happy". not "happy with her", but "happy". this has lead to disastrous problems with sex to the point where it just doesn't happen anymore, mostly because i'm sick of that pressure from her.

* tries to make me feel guilty for not taking responsibility for her functioning -- i.e. if something doesn't go as planned, if i'm not there through any fault of my own, her resulting problems become my fault, because she can't be expected to solve them herself on her own, or something like that.

I've tried to get her to get couselling, bought a book, sent her links, etc -- but she's in a state now where she doesn't listen to me and is basically shutting me out because "i'm imagining things" about her behaviour. She picked up on that stupid marriage builders site, and has been trying to do that (because the basic message of that site is that "if you change yourself, the other person will love you again" -- which feeds right into her problems).

Anyway, any advice on convincing her to get counseling or something or how to talk to her about it? Life is basically miserable now.

June 28, 2007
2:32 pm
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lettingo
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From what you have written you sound like you are both pretty codependant and focused on each other. You seem to focus on all the things she is doing wrong causing a poor relationship. This is codependancy. You are saying, everything would be fine if my wife would just stop doing this or that. Doesn't she have right to label enjoyment any way she wants? And your line "I tried to get her to conseling" is another codepancy trait, calling controlling. I would highly recomment you get the book..Codependant No More or maybe joing a CoDA goup. I believe everyone has a part in a relationship that isn't working. I hope you both get help but even if she doesn't, you can get into your own recovery and be able no matter what she does or says. Live and let live..

June 28, 2007
2:40 pm
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mj
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Hi 123!

Love your nick! I have been attending meetings of Codependents Anonymous for almost 3 years. The program has taught me that I can't change anyone but myself. It has taught me to focus on my part of the problem and work on the things I contribute in my relationships. You might give the meetings a try!

Part of codependency is about trying to change others. I am glad you have been in counseling for you. No one likes to have another try to control them. Codependent's are notorius for trying to fix others.

I have less problems with my husband then I did 4 years back. I have learned to empower myself with choices about my life. I am an equal to everyone. I have learned that I can ask for what I want and need and for me that's a big step. I may not always get my needs met by hubby but I have learned that they are still my needs and I don't have to rely on others.

When you put down her way of trying to help herself, do you think that is supportive of her rights to dignity?

Here is a list that has helped me.

Personal Bill of Rights

1. I have a lot of rights in my life beyond survival.

2. I have a right to discover and know my inner child.

3. I have a right to grieve over what I didn’t get that I needed or what I got that I didn’t need or want.

4. I have a right to follow my own values and standards.

5. I have a right to recognize and accept my own value system as appropriate.

6. I have a right to say no to anything when I feel I am not ready, it is unsafe, violates my values, or I don’t
feel like doing.

6a. I also have the right to try new things which may not be comfortable (and probably won’t be).

7. I have a right to dignity and respect.

8. I have a right to make decisions.

9. I have a right to determine and honor my own priorities.

10. I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others.

11. I have the right to terminate conversations with people who make me feel put down or humiliated, manipulated or controlled, or simply uncomfortable.

12. I have the right not to be responsible for others’ behavior, actions, feelings or problems.

13. I have a right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect.

14. I have a right to expect honesty from others.

15. I have a right to all of my feelings.

16. I have a right to be angry at someone I love.

17. I have a right to be uniquely me, without feeling I’m not good enough.

18. I have a right to feel scared and to say “I’m afraid.”

19. I have the right to learn to tolerate feelings of fear, guilt, and shame without necessarily believing them.

20. I have a right to make decisions based on my feelings, my judgment or any reason that I choose.

21. I have a right to change my mind at any time.

22. I have a right to be happy.

23. I have a right to stability—i.e. “roots” and stable healthy relationships of my choice.

24. I have the right to my own personal space and time needs.

25. I have the right to smile or cry without having to cover one with the other to protect someone’s feelings.

26. I have the right to be relaxed, playful, and frivolous.

26a I have the right to be sad and serious.

27. I have a right to be flexible and be comfortable with doing so.

28. I have a right to change and grow.

29. I have a right to be open to improving communication skills so that I may be understood.

30. I have a right to make friends and be comfortable around people.

31. I have a right to be in a non-abusive environment.

32. I have a right to be healthier than those around me.

33. I have a right to take care of myself, no matter what.

33a I have a right to learn how to do this no matter how old I am.

34. I have a right to grieve over actual or threatened losses.

35. I have the right to trust others who earn my trust.

36. I have the right to forgive others and to forgive myself.

37. I have the right to give and receive unconditional love.

—adapted from Healing the Child Within, Charles Whitfield, MD 115-7.

We all are created equal. Maybe this list will help you see that your wife has the right to seek help in her own time and own way. By the way, I love the marriage builder site. It helped me figure out what my hubby and I had in common for activities that we enjoyed doing together. It has lots of really great exercises to do together in solving problems. Good luck to you both!

June 28, 2007
4:11 pm
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turnabout
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I had to laugh when I finished reading your post, not AT you, but b/c I relate. There is an irony in trying to fix someone else's codependency. Do you see it? Your question ending the post wrapped it all up in a nice little bow...

"Anyway, any advice on convincing her to get counseling or something or how to talk to her about it? Life is basically miserable now."

Quick answer: You don't convince her. You surrender any and all hope of "fixing" her. You let go.

Even though you want her to help herself, the one sure sign that you're engaging in codep behavior yourself is that you are invested in "fixing" someone or getting them to "fix" themselves. If you're trying to get someone else to change in order to make YOUR life easier, happier, better in some way, then you are acting out of codependence.

I admit to beating my own head against that very same brick wall in just the last few months, all the while being completely ignorant that I was doing it. I'm ONLY just now realizing it.

So, instead of suggesting things to do to convince HER to act differently (which would be completely useless to you anyway), I want to ask... what if you can't ever convince her? What if she never comes around to seeing her self-sabotage? What if she NEVER changes? What are you going to do? What if you never get what you want? How are you going to deal with that?

June 28, 2007
4:21 pm
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bevdee
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Turn -

"There is an irony in trying to fix someone else's codependency." I see it. I've done it.

I got angry with my sister when she relapsed from rehab because I needed her to get better so we could recover together. Pretty jacked up.

June 28, 2007
5:06 pm
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turnabout
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Yeah, bevdee. Codependency is essentially selfishness disguised as self-sacrifice and concern.

I don't even know how to describe what I'm learning now about myself in relationship with my ex-boyfriend over the last 3 months. We were supposed to remain friends, and he alluded to certain things he imagined being the same between us, but when it came down to making those things real, he was absent. I wanted to believe what he SAID he wanted, so I kept reaching out to him, albeit less and less, but his actions just never matched up.

A couple of weeks ago he claimed that my "reaching out" to him was actually pushing him away b/c I'd made it so that he couldn't ever do anything right.

I read once that when you argue against someone's excuses for why they aren't doing what they are CLEARLY capable of doing, you are actually indulging them in their excuses... validating them, and that's what I was doing. I was trying to make him change his behavior by making him "see" the flimsiness of his excuses. But if they really are flimsy, do they merit being argued against?

And why do I think he needs to change his behavior? Sure, he is self-sabotaging as I see it, but why I've wanted it to change was so that I could hold onto a feeling of being valued by him. So that I could maintain the sense of importance he managed to establish much earlier in the relationship. I wanted him to change his attitude so that I could feel free to love him in the way that I wanted.

Pushing him away? Not intentionally, of course, but very possibly after all. It's quite a humbling realization.

June 28, 2007
5:15 pm
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bevdee
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Turnabout-

What about gratititude and getting the credit? I wanted that.

June 28, 2007
5:21 pm
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turnabout
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From your sister, you mean? or from your family for your own recovery?

June 28, 2007
5:25 pm
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bevdee
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From my sister, and from an old old boyfriend that I tried to "help".

June 28, 2007
5:28 pm
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lettingo
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bevdee: I love this:
"Codependency is essentially selfishness disguised as self-sacrifice and concern"

June 28, 2007
5:37 pm
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turnabout
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They say when you are doing it truly unselfishly, then the help you give is its own reward.

Like, if you're being nice expecting gratitude, that isn't very nice... it isn't very genuine.

When you were being helpful with them, was there the appealing idea in the back of your head that they were going to be sooo grateful and were going to love you sooo much for doing this for them? Then, yeah... that's a selfish motivation. Doesn't mean you weren't helpful to them or that you didn't deserve their gratitude, but deep down, what you were doing for them was really for yourself if that was the case.

June 28, 2007
5:39 pm
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lettingo
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The word for this is actually called "manipulation". I think codependant people do it without even knowing it. I have totally been there many times myself and I still have to constantly check my "motives". Remember, "expectations leads to resentments"

June 28, 2007
5:41 pm
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turnabout
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Exactly!

June 28, 2007
5:49 pm
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nappy
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You both may be codependent but I'm sure that when you went into this relationship with your wife, you had all kind of expectations on how the marriage should be and how your wife should be also.

Unfulfilled expectations always cause problems.

You want to change your wife, you wants to wave a magic wand but you know what? It just don't work out that way.

Needs must be communicated. Expectations are rarely ever communicated. Needs can be cussed and discussed. You must give careful thought to what needs must be fulfilled for you to know you have a healthly love relationship.

If your life is more on the side of
misery, pain, resentment, regret then it is time for you and her to take a step back and see if this is the relationship for you both.
There is no need in hanging on to something that is not good for either one of you.

I see it like this, Life already has enough drama in it, why bring on more.
Life is precious, that just what I think and going through the same things over and over again is really a waste of time in life.
Nappy!

June 28, 2007
5:49 pm
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bevdee
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"bevdee: I love this: "Codependency is essentially selfishness disguised as self-sacrifice and concern" "

I agree with that.

Self-sufficiency is the tough one.

June 29, 2007
10:23 am
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taj64
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You gave her the information, what more can you do, not much. It is up to her to decide whether or not. And if she picked up on the marriage builders site then she must at least be thinking of wanting her marriage better. DOn't be so down on her for that even if you do not believe in their concept. I think the concept is that you have to love yourself above all and has to come from within. It is possible that the marriage could be stronger if she gets some self esteem but that cannot be the only reason to do it; it has to be for her and her life.

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